In the opening talk of the first web 2.0 conference, Tim
O’Reily and John Battelle summarized key principles of web 2.0 applications:
1. Web as platform, reach out to the entire web not just the
2. Harnessing collective intelligence, turning the web into
a kind of global brain.
3. Data is the next Intel inside.
4. End of Software release cycle, i.e. Operations must
become a core competency and Users must be treated as co-developers, in a
reflection of open source development practices.
5. Lightweight programming models to build loosely coupled
systems and allow syndication.
6. Software above the level of a single device i.e. not
limited to any specific platform, technology and devices.
7. Rich user experience i.e. enabling user to use web as a
medium to collaborate, classify and editing etc.
1. The Web As A Platform / Environment
In which the Web is seen as a programming platform upon
which developers create software applications. The main catalyst for this is
Application Programming Interfaces, or APIs, allowing communication between two
or more software applications.
Web 2.0 Developer’s Tool Box:
Ajax - Google Maps
RSS – BBC News
Wikis – Wikipedia
Weblogs – MySpace, Blogger
Others - Podcasting, Instant Messaging and Virtual Worlds
2. Harnessing Collective Intelligence, Turning The Web
Into A Kind Of Global Brain
The central principle behind the success of the giants born
in the Web 1.0 era who have survived to lead the Web 2.0 era appears to be
this, that they have embraced the power of the web to harness collective
Hyper linking is the foundation of the web. As users add new
content, and new sites, it is bound in to the structure of the web by other
users discovering the content and linking to it. Much as synapses form in the
brain, with associations becoming stronger through repetition or intensity, the
web of connections grows organically as an output of the collective activity of
all web users.
Yahoo!, the first great internet success story, was born as
a catalog, or directory of links, an aggregation of the best work of thousands,
then millions of web users. While Yahoo! has since moved into the business of
creating many types of content, its role as a portal to the collective work of
the net's users remains the core of its value.
Google's breakthrough in search, which quickly made it the
undisputed search market leader, was PageRank, a method of using the link
structure of the web rather than just the characteristics of documents to
provide better search results.
eBay's product is the collective activity of all its users;
like the web itself, eBay grows organically in response to user activity, and
the company's role is as an enabler of a context in which that user activity
can happen. What's more, eBay's competitive advantage comes almost entirely
from the critical mass of buyers and sellers, which makes any new entrant
offering similar services significantly less attractive.
Amazon sells the same products as competitors such as
Barnesandnoble.com, and they receive the same product descriptions, cover
images, and editorial content from their vendors. But Amazon has made a science
of user engagement. They have an order of magnitude more user reviews,
invitations to participate in varied ways on virtually every page--and even
more importantly, they use user activity to produce better search results.
While a Barnesandnoble.com search is likely to lead with the company's own
products, or sponsored results, Amazon always leads with "most
popular", a real-time computation based not only on sales but other
factors that Amazon insiders call the "flow" around products. With an
order of magnitude more user participation, it's no surprise that Amazon's
sales also outpace competitors.
3. Data is the Next Intel Inside
Every significant internet application to date has been
backed by a specialized database: Google's web crawl, Yahoo!'s directory (and
web crawl), Amazon's database of products, eBay's database of products and
sellers, MapQuest's map databases, Napster's distributed song database. As Hal
Varian remarked in a personal conversation last year, "SQL is the new
HTML." Database management is a core competency of Web 2.0 companies, so
much so that we have sometimes referred to these applications as "infoware" rather
than merely software.
4. End of Software release cycle
One of the defining characteristics of internet era software
is that it is delivered as a service, not as a product. This fact leads to a
number of fundamental changes in the business model of such a company:
Operations must become a core competency. Google's or
Yahoo!'s expertise in product development must be matched by an expertise in
daily operations. So fundamental is the shift from software as artifact to
software as service that the software will cease to perform unless it is
maintained on a daily basis. Google must continuously crawl the web and update
its indices, continuously filter out link spam and other attempts to influence
its results, continuously and dynamically respond to hundreds of millions of
asynchronous user queries, simultaneously matching them with context-appropriate
Users must be treated as co-developers, in a reflection of
open source development practices (even if the software in question is unlikely
to be released under an open source license.) The open source dictum,
"release early and release often" in fact has morphed into an even
more radical position, "the perpetual beta," in which the product is
developed in the open, with new features slipstreamed in on a monthly, weekly,
or even daily basis. It's no accident that services such as Gmail, Google Maps,
Flickr, del.icio.us, and the like may be expected to bear a "Beta"
logo for years at a time.
5. Lightweight programming models
Once the idea of web services became au courant, large
companies jumped into the fray with a complex web services stack designed to
create highly reliable programming environments for distributed applications.
But much as the web succeeded precisely because it overthrew
much of hypertext theory, substituting a simple pragmatism for ideal design,
RSS has become perhaps the single most widely deployed web service because of
its simplicity, while the complex corporate web services stacks have yet to
achieve wide deployment.
Similarly, Amazon.com's web services are provided in two
forms: one adhering to the formalisms of the SOAP (Simple Object Access
Protocol) web services stack, the other simply providing XML data over HTTP, in
a lightweight approach sometimes referred to as REST (Representational State
Transfer). While high value B2B connections (like those between Amazon and
retail partners like ToysRUs) use the SOAP stack, Amazon reports that 95% of
the usage is of the lightweight REST service.
6. Software above the level of a single device
One other feature of Web 2.0 that deserves mention is the
fact that it's no longer limited to the PC platform. In his parting advice to
Microsoft, long time Microsoft developer Dave Stutz pointed out that
"Useful software written above the level
of the single device will command high margins for a long time to
Of course, any web application can be seen as software above
the level of a single device. After all, even the simplest web application
involves at least two computers: the one hosting the web server and the one
hosting the browser. And as we've discussed, the development of the web as
platform extends this idea to synthetic applications composed of services
provided by multiple computers.
But as with many areas of Web 2.0, where the
"2.0-ness" is not something new, but rather a fuller realization of
the true potential of the web platform, this phrase gives us a key insight into
how to design applications and services for the new platform.
To date, iTunes is the best exemplar of this principle. This
application seamlessly reaches from the handheld device to a massive web
back-end, with the PC acting as a local cache and control station. There have
been many previous attempts to bring web content to portable devices, but the
iPod/iTunes combination is one of the first such applications designed from the
ground up to span multiple devices. TiVo is another good example.
7. Rich User Experiences
As early as Pei Wei's Viola browser in 1992,
the web was being used to deliver "applets" and other kinds of active
content within the web browser. Java's introduction in 1995 was framed around
lightweight ways to provide client side programmability and richer user
experiences. Several years ago, Macromedia coined the term "Rich Internet
Applications" (which has also been picked up by open source Flash
competitor Laszlo Systems) to highlight the capabilities of Flash to deliver
not just multimedia content but also GUI-style application experiences.
However, the potential of the web to deliver full scale
applications didn't hit the mainstream till Google introduced Gmail, quickly
followed by Google Maps, web based applications with rich user interfaces and
PC-equivalent interactivity. The collection of technologies used by Google was christened AJAX.
New Exemplars of Web 2.0
New companies and services embracing the principles of Web 2.0.
These companies are by no means an exhaustive list, but are leading the pack.
They provide popular software and services that have proved their worth among
Flickr is a
fast-growing photosharing service that provides an collaborative user interface
as well as a powerful API to it's content. (Recently acquired by Yahoo!)
Del.icio.us is a
popular social bookmarking service. Joshua Schacter, the founder, characterizes
his service as a way to remember things. (Recently acquired by Yahoo!)
Jotspot - the
Application Wiki, which allows users to create and share wiki-like web pages.
JotLive - a live group note-taking application.
several services: Basecamp - a project collaboration tool and Backpack - a
collaborative tool to create sharable web pages.
Digg is a content
aggregation service. It provides a mechanism for its many users to
"digg" a piece of content, and aggregates them like votes to bubble
up the most popular content to its widely-viewed pages. In this way Digg culls
the actions of its users to provide value.
Writely is a web-based
service that allows for the creation and sharing of documents in a
sophisticated word-processor-like interface.
Feedburner is an
RSS publishing service. Sites can direct their readers to a feed at Feedburner
instead of hosting it themselves, taking advantage of Feedburner's advanced
tracking capabilities to provide insight into who is reading your feed.