As you probably know, the first release of anything usually sucks.

Be it software application, computer game or hardware, it's always worth waiting for the second release, so that the early adopters, God bless'em, can flush out all the bugs.

The web can be regarded as a giant distributed software application and it too is in transition from what the digirati are calling Web 1.0 to Web 2.0.

Web 2.0 is the tag given to the new model for on-ine business success. It's part hype and part observation on what the new and happening websites seem to have in common.

They all seem to offer a service people want and provide easy ways for others to build on top of them.

Google Earth is a good example: not only is it user friendly enough for my mother to use but it has what is known as an application programmers' interface (API), for me and my geek friends to build our own web sites drawing on Google Earth's own raw data.

There are several other emerging technologies that any aspiring Web 2.0 company needs to embrace along with API. Web services, RSS feeds, AJEX and Ruby-on-Rails, are all so Web 2.0.

The term "Web 2.0" has clearly taken hold, with more than 9.5 million citations in Google. But there's still a huge amount of disagreement about just what Web 2.0 means, with some people decrying it as a meaningless marketing buzzword, and others accepting it as the conventional new wisdom.

Certainly if you've got a new online business idea and you are looking for venture capital you'd better familiarise yourself with all the Web 2.0 jargon.

This might look a bit familiar to anyone who lived through the dotcom hype and crash. Netscape was the standard bearer for Web 1.0 and Google is most certainly the standard bearer for Web 2.0, if only because their respective flotations were defining events for each era.

Netscape gave away browsers for free and hoped you'd buy its other "packaged" products. Google, by contrast, began its life as a native web application, never sold or packaged, but delivered as a service, with customers paying, directly or indirectly, for the use of that service.

Google's fellows are other internet applications like eBay, Amazon, Napster, and Yahoo - these are all Web 2.0 companies.

Another common Web 2.0 theory is that the greatest internet success stories don't advertise their products. Their adoption is driven by "viral marketing" - that is, recommendations propagating directly from one user to another.

You can almost make the case that if a site or product relies on advertising to get the word out, it isn't Web 2.0.

Only time will tell if the Web 2.0 movement is indeed just the new dotcom. But the evidence suggests that unlike dotcom, the Web 2.0 bubble will not burst, if only because second releases are always better than the first.

* Chris is managing director of internet consultancy WebXpress. This and other unedited articles can be found at Email