Evolving Expectations: What's Web 2.0?

There’s lots of buzz about Web 2.0. But what does it mean? For starters, it means consumers are expecting more from the Web sites they use.

January 1, 2007

By now, you’ve probably heard about Web 2.0. Newspapers are writing articles about it, tech companies are using the term to market their products, and Web surfers are testing it out firsthand.

However, there’s some confusion about what Web 2.0 really means — confusion that stems from the fact that the term is widely overused.

Here, I’ll explain what the buzz is really about and how new technologies are changing consumers’ experiences at real estate Web sites. The more you know, the better you’ll be able to adapt to the new technology and meet your prospects’ evolving expectations on the Web.

Delivering Information in New Ways

As the name implies, Web 2.0 is the second generation of online tools and services. The term relates to a number of new technologies that go far beyond what the Web used to allow — technologies that allow consumers to have a far more interactive experience, actually shaping the Web sites they use.

Before going into more detail about what Web 2.0 is, let’s talk about what Web 2.0 isn’t. The biggest misunderstanding is that it’s any Web site that allows users to post comments, says Mark Lesswing, NAR’s chief technology officer.

“Online bulletin boards and forums have long supported these kind of posting capabilities,” he says. “What’s new is how the information is passed around.”

Blogs that distribute new postings via Really Simple Syndication, or RSS, are prime examples of Web 2.0 technology, Lesswing says. In real estate, you can use RSS to automatically update clients about your latest blog entries or freshest listings.

You also can use RSS to keep yourself informed. All you have to do is subscribe to informative blogs — ActiveRain Real Estate Network, for example — and you’ll get the news delivered straight to your computer desktop.

If It’s a Mash-Up, It’s Web 2.0

Another technology at the center of Web 2.0: Mash-ups, or content that’s created by combining information from two or more sources. There are lots of great uses for this in real estate. One of the latest examples is “heat maps” on sites such as Trulia.com and Zillow.com that color-code the priciest and most popular communities.

To create the maps, geographical data is merged with home sales figures or the number of searches performed by home buyers in each area. “This is certainly a new and innovative improvement to the early Web,” Lesswing says.

Other Good Examples

Here are some other instances of Web 2.0 that will give you a clearer idea of what the term encompasses:

  • Democratic rankings. At the popular Web siteDigg.com, visitors decide what articles appear on the home page. Users submit articles that they think would be interesting to the online community, and other visitors who read the content can choose to “digg it” or “bury it.” The more times an article is “dugg,” the more prominent it becomes on the Web site. RealEstateVoices.com is a real estate version the same concept. The site, run by a real estate referral company Homethinking LLC, includes stories submitted by practitioners or consumers.
  • Magic maps. Google Maps is among a handful of online mapping sites that use a technology referred to as AJAX. You can click on a map with your cursor and instantly zoom or refocus without the Web page ever having to refresh. The technology reads your every move and makes immediate adjustments. AJAX also is used in online search sites, such as Google Suggest, and holds much potential for speeding up property searches on real estate Web sites.

How Does Web 2.0 Affect You?

So now that consumers are becoming accustomed to these new interactive online technologies, are you going to have to upgrade your site? Before making any decisions, you must consider all of the implications. For now, boost your familiarity of Web 2.0 technologies by testing it out on Web sites.

Also, consider the potential implications. For example, by allowing users to have more control on your Web site, you must give up some control. Are you ready to do that?

Especially with so many companies marketing their products under the Web 2.0 banner, be careful about spending your hard-earned dollars on the “latest and greatest” solution until you’ve done the research and you’re confident it will boost your business.

Michael Russer, a.k.a. Mr. Internet®, is CEO of Russer Communications. He is a leading speaker and author in the real estate industry and has been writing about Internet marketing and virtual outsourcing since the dawn of the commercial Internet.