The term Web 2.0 was coined in 2004 to describe a new generation of tools for the internet that enable greater interactivity among users.
Examples of Web 2.0 applications include wikis, which are collaborative websites, of which Wikipedia is one of the best known, blogs like blogger that allow users to post their own commentary online, and social networking sites, such as Facebook and professional networking site LinkedIn that allow users to connect to others anywhere in the world.
Web 2.0 applications make the internet a much more engaging place and are a marked improvement from the early days of static brochureware, where the content was largely an electronic version of printed documents that are rarely changed or updated.
Creating a website based on Web 2.0 tools can be a developer’s dream - or a nightmare, owing to the need to make sure that the functionality is as dynamic as is required and because of the number of components that are required. For a small web design agency, assembling all the tools needed in the first place is in itself a challenge.
This is where programmes such as Microsoft’s WebSpark will be extremely useful for small, micro agencies trying to compete on a level playing field with their larger counterparts.
Under this programme, Microsoft released a new Web Platform Installer 2.0 in September 2009, which gives micro web design agencies access to a range of tools that allow them to more efficiently and quickly build fully functional Web 2.0 environments.
Included in the programme are the framework, web server, database and other tools that are needed to simplify the installation of Microsoft web development platform tools and build web applications.
As well as this, the programme provides access to a wide range of web applications designed to help build dynamic, interactive websites through the Windows Web Application Gallery 2.0. This allows designers and developers to work with the latest tools without having to worry about the cost.
Included in these are DotNetNuke, which is an open source framework for building powerful websites on Microsoft’s ASP.Net, Umbraco, a content management system for creating more accessible websites with integrated .Net controls and Joomla!, which is an open source content management system.
Other useful tools included are mojoPortal, which is a framework designed for ASP.Net 3.5 that features tools for adding blogs, forums, an event calendar, newsletters, maps and e-commerce applications to websites, nopCommerce for creating fully customisable shopping cart, Moodle, a tool for creating dynamic e-learning courses online and Kentico, which is especially designed for Web 2.0 development of online stores, intranets and social networks on the ASP .Net platform.
In total, the number of web applications available has risen to 840,000 in the space of just nine months and the international community is catered for by the fact that applications are available in nine languages.
Faced with stiff competition and often lacking the resources available to their larger counterparts, micro web design agencies will find a programme such as this of enormous benefit, having at their fingertips a treasure trove of tools, backed up with the online support and access to partners that they need to compete effectively.