The Notion Of Web 2.0

Web 2.0 sounds very ornate, trendy and made-for-marketing. For me it was also scandalous and sometimes silly, especially when it is mentioned along with everything today! How can someone version the Web? Why? The Web is not owned by any one, how can it be tagged like applications? So here starts one more quest! Using the Googles, Flickrs, *.us, … and countless more applications, I had to identify the root. What identifies Web 2.0? How is it different from Web 1.0?

After some Googling (big surprise!) around for some explanations, I found lot of them and got trapped in the confusion of informaiton overload. Some filtering later, I got handles to some doors opening up to the Web 2.0, some nice back-dated articles and essays.

What is Web 2.0 afterall?

The first of the articles was O’Reilly’s What Is Web 2.0. And it straightaway hits you in the head.

Could it be that the dot-com collapse marked some kind of turning point for the web, such that a call to action such as “Web 2.0” might make sense? We agreed that it did, and so the Web 2.0 Conference was born.

Acknowledging the wide array of (mis?)understandings of Web 2.0 in the world, it tries to form sense by giving examples of Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 counterparts. Like others, I am still not in agreement of all, so here my picks:

  • personal websites to blogs
  • domain name speculation to search engine optimization
  • screen scraping to web services
  • directories (‘taxonomy’) to tagging (folksonomy)
  • stickiness to syndication

While he article is definitely worth reading in its entirety, here is what I got from it. It ends up laying down seven principles that should govern and identify the qualification of Web 2.0.

  • The Web as a Platform
  • Harnessing collective intelligence
  • Data is the Next Intel Inside
  • End of Software Release Cycle
  • Lightweight Programming Models
  • Software above the Level of a Single Device
  • Rich User Experiences

The Web as a Platform

The use of the web as a platform highlights the transition from applications to services and from data to content. The platform also serves in reaching out to everyone, even the long tail, rather than a specific target. As the article mentions,

The Web 2.0 lesson: leverage customer-self service and algorithmic data management to reach out to the entire web, to the edges and not just the center, to the long tail and not just the head.

Harnessing Collective Intelligence

The collective intelligence enriches the content, through discovery and through continous interaction. The web, as a platform, enables this. The responsibility of discovering the content is not owned by an single entity. The discovery happens through individuals. An individual is allowed to participate and is acknowledged in preparing the ultimate database of information. The web is not only about publishing, it is also about participation. This is why we have seen Wikipedia and Slashdot. This is the reason weblogs are so powerful in reaching out to each other.

Data is Next Intel Inside

At the core of a majority of the businesses today is content, which comes from data. Data is an important factor today. However, only data is not enough. Lot of competitors license data from the same source and still differ in the quality and quantity of content that is offered. The competitive edge is gained by providing services on the data and continuously improve it by harnessing collective intelligence.

The race is on to own certain classes of core data: location, identity, calendaring of public events, product identifiers and namespaces. In many cases, where there is significant cost to create the data, there may be an opportunity for an Intel Inside style play, with a single source for the data. In others, the winner will be the company that first reaches critical mass via user aggregation, and turns that aggregated data into a system service.

End of the Software Release Cycle

It sounds like software releases and hence evolution is not required. However, it means the exact opposite. To be able to offer competitive services, softwares have to be maintained on day-to-day basis. The services and data have to be improved continuously to be able to reflect the most recent and accurate developments.

I like another aspect that this article brings forth:

Users must be treated as co-developers.

Isn’t this the effect of the open source movement! Well, the user need not be literally a developer, but someone who is heeded to when the feature set or behaviour of the software is being designed. More and more services are being released as beta and opened up so that the users can provide feedback and voice their considerations. This is great, a huge field of testers is available, which can sometimes result into good brainstorming sessions.

Lightweight Programming Models

I am not sure if I can consider this as a core element, however it is pretty effective. A lightweight programming model appeals to more developers and removes the hurdles of learning curves. Google’s programming model has resulted into interesting applications like

Another aspect of lightweight programming model is that it is hackable and easily customized for a different purpose. This results in more usage and more popularity. Following points are highlighted:

  • Support lightweight programming model
  • Think syndication, not coordination
  • Design for hackability and remixability

Software Above the Level Of a Single Device

Softwares should not be built for a specific single device, they should be portable across multiple devices (computers, handheld devices). Not only softwares, but even services. A service which sends updates via email will be used more if it also sends updates via SMS.

In fact, I would extend the portability across delivery channels. That is where the podcasting and VOIP comes from. This is scalability across the boundaries of hardware and software specifications, which translates into availability for the maximum number of users.

Rich User Experiences

As much as AJAX is considered to be a necessary element of the Web 2.0, I believe it is just a means to the aim of enhancing usability for the user. The rich user experience is so that the user can use without delays, long waits or hassles of working with multiple entities.

I would also consider portals and Portlets as a key element of the concept of Web 2.0. Portals allow the user to personalize data, use multiple services through single interface. It provides the concept of a dashboard to the user, using which the user can access different types of information with utmost ease.

However, if the rich user interfaces should not result in increased restrictions on the user. The rich user interfaces should not be targeted at specific users, but should consider the lowest common denominator. I consider it to be a case more of usability than richness of the user interface.

A More Definitive Explanation

While the O’Reilly’s artice cleared mist around the concept of Web 2.0, Adaptive Path’s Brandon Schauer provides a more definitive explanation.

Brandon differentiates between the Foundation Attributes and Experience Attributes. The Foundation Attributes are significant but not sufficient and were present in the pre-Web 2.0 era too. However, these attributes are more available and accessible when combined with the Experience Attributes. Here is the abstract:

Foundation Attributes

  • User-contributed Value
  • The Long Tail
  • Network Effect

Experience Attributes

  • Decentralization
  • Co-creation
  • Remixability
  • Emergent Systems

My Notion of Web 2.0

I read some more about Web 2.0, its concept, its evolution and its necessity today. I don’t know whether my notion is something that is in line with the thousands out there. But here it is.

Web 2.0 is the output of an effort to pick out the best of the Internet and the survivors of the dotcom bubble-burst. The realization is to provide better, uninterrupted service to the users. This not only includes better competency and quality but also attention to the users and proividing what they want.

The weblogs and social bookmarking services offer something that other media giants could not – a voice to the individual user, which magnifies into collective intelligence and contributes to the overall knowledge and information. The Web 2.0 is not about any technology or design, it is about an approach to provide more control and choice to the user, to make the web more usable and more effective in the everyday life.

I am not sure if Web 2.0 is competing with the desktop, I personally don’t think it can happen. The web is an extension of the desktop and should be used so, but elevating the quality in web can result in better collaboration between the two.

Some more interesting articles on Web 2.0:

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Copyright Abhijit Nadgouda.


4 Responses to “The Notion Of Web 2.0”

  1. lawrence Says:

    Hi, Abhijit, you have definitely added delicious value to the on-going debate over the meaning of Web 2.0. Bravo!

  2. Rashmi Says:

    Its just another thing. You keep doing the same things again and again and you figure out a better way of doing it. Web 2.0 is just Web better done. There will be Web 3.0 : where there wont be a concept of Desktop and separate concept of Web. More like WebDesk.

    What I am really interested in is how it impacts business and how business is done.

  3. Abhijit Nadgouda Says:

    Yes. we will slowly see the impact of Web 2.0 in enterprises and businesses. The big internet players have already started adopting it. How SOA and Web 2.0 play together will affect its acceptance.

    Webdesk is almost happening with projects like Bubbles.

  4. Abhijit Nadgouda @ iface » Should The Web REST Its Case? Says:

    […] With the emergence of Web 2.0, there was search for an easier and open paradigm for using Web, which was found in REST. I am with REST for now. However I am not sure if REST will be over simplification for some problems. Only time will tell! […]

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