The other day while I was doing research at a local college library, I opened Gmail to send myself some useful links when a Google Talk window popped open. It was my wife (the only one I IM regularly with). "You There?"
It shocked me for a second, even though it shouldn't have. There I was on a different computer in a location I never visit, and my presence was detected (by the one person I don't mind being detected by).
It was at that moment, that I had my Web 2.0 epiphany. I realized the power of web-based tools as I never had before. In her piece on the ABCs of Web 2.0, Esther Schindler has an addendum to the article about an exchange with Tim O'Reilly, the man credited with coining the term. He says that for him, Google is the "pre-eminent Web 2.0 application." That is, it embodies the entire idea of a seamless desktop, that you can access your personal stuff wherever you are.
Intellectually and in practice, I've known that all along of course. I move back and forth between my desktop and my laptop computers on a daily basis, and I use GMail as my go-between. I've used Yahoo or GMail or the Comcast web interface for years to get my email when I'm not home, but as someone who works at home most of the time, this simple act of being found when I wasn't at one of my own computers really opened my eyes to the true power of Web 2.0.
Sure, there's more to the Web 2.0 concept than simply desktop functionality on the web (as Schindler points out in her article), but it's a big part of the picture and in one simple action, an IM window popping open, I experienced the beauty of the notion.