Web 2.0

The internet is booming again, but this time it's very different. PC Pro brings you up to speed with the Global web 2.0 phenomenon.

The days of merely browsing the internet are over. In today's Web 2.0 era, web users aren't merely expected to soak in whatever's put in front of them, but to contribute and shape content themselves. Whether it be writing a compelling blog, recording an unmissable podcast or sharing photos and videos with the world, the demand for "user-generated content" has never been greater.

How do you get involved? This feature will provide you with all the information and advice you need to become a fully paid-up member of the Web 2.0 generation. We'll offer practical guidance on how to get started with the six key technologies, with step-by-step walkthroughs in every section to show you exactly how it's done.

The good news is you no longer need to master HTML to make your web presence felt; most of the internet services we cover in this feature require little more than form filling from your browser. Yet, even though it's relatively simple to create a blog or social-networking profile, it's much harder to create enthralling content that people will want to visit time and again - especially as there are millions of others all clambering for attention. Therefore, our experts not only guide you through setup, but offer hints and tips on how to best exploit each technology.

That's not to say technical expertise has suddenly been made redundant. With the world and his grandmother able to build a serviceable website on MySpace, the cutting-edge designer needs to go a step further, implementing powerful new technologies such as AJAX.

But before you embark on your Web 2.0 work, shouldn't we explain what the term actually means? If only. Defining exactly what distinguishes a Web 2.0 site from its forebears is like trying to evaluate Pi - there's no complete answer. A recent series of interviews in The Guardian, with more than a dozen "Web 2.0 entrepreneurs", produced more than a dozen different answers to the simple question "What is Web 2.0?".

Wikipedia (a Web 2.0 site in its own right) takes a stab at the following definition: "the supposed second generation of internet-based services - such as social networking sites, wikis, communication tools and folksonomies - that emphasise online collaboration and sharing among users." It's the best answer we've come across, and it was arrived at by dozens of different web users collaborating. It's proof that Web 2.0 really works.

Blogging

10,000 new blogs are created every day. we show you how to build and promote professional-looking site

Of all of the Web 2.0 mediums, blogging has certainly made the biggest impact. Anyone fit to put finger to keyboard can set up, access and update a blog. The only thing needed to make it a success is a bit of care and something interesting to say.

Putting an exact figure on the number of blogs in the "blogosphere" (and that's the last time we'll be using the word) is nearly impossible, as a blog can be almost anything. Accounts on Blogger obviously qualify, but then so could regularly updated forum posts, diary pages and news websites written from a first-person perspective. And, a blog doesn't have to be written - with YouTube offering free, unlimited bandwidth and compatibility with almost all kinds of footage, starting a video blog could hardly be easier. Or, if you have a digital stills camera or camera phone, you could start a photoblog or moblog.

One certainty is that bloggingis absurdlypopular. Technorati (www.technorati.com), the blog-tracking service, is currently watching more than 59 million blogs, with 1.3 million new posts (or blog entries) every day. Blogging may not be "taking over the world", as one national newspaper recently claimed, but it's clearly a force to be reckoned with.

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