Web 2.0 Meets the Cloud

Many have asked, “What’s the difference between Web 2.0 and the Cloud?”  Tim O’Reilly, credited with the Web 2.0, wrote about the difference in his O’Reilly Radar blog back in 2008. http://radar.oreilly.com/2008/10/web-20-and-cloud-computing.html   He defined the types of cloud computer and I like number 3 on his list,

Cloud-based end-user applications.  Any web application is a cloud application in the sense that it resides in the cloud.  Google, Amazon, Facebook, twitter,  flickr, and virtually every other Web 2.0 application is a cloud application in this sense. However, it seems to me that people use the term “cloud” more specifically in describing web applications that were formerly delivered locally on a PC, like spreadsheets, word processing, databases, and even email.  Thus even though they may reside on the same server farm, people tend to think of gmail or Google docs and spreadsheets as “cloud applications” in a way that they don’t think of Google search or Google maps.

This common usage points up a meaningful difference:  people tend to think differently about cloud applications when they host individual user data.  The prospect of “my” data disappearing or being unavailable is far more alarming than, for example, the disappearance of a service that merely hosts an aggregated view of data that is available elsewhere (say Yahoo! search or Microsoft live maps.)  And that, of course, points us squarely back into the center of the Web 2.0 proposition:  that users add value to the application by their use of it.  Take that away, and you’re a step back in the direction of commodity computing.  (O’Reilly, October 2008)

That was 2008.  What is the difference between Web 2.0 and the Cloud in 2013?  I have my opinion, but what’s yours?  Is it important to know the difference or care?

Nancy Wozniak, Learning Architect and ePortfolio Program Manager Stony Brook University