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Myths and Realities of Web 2.0
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by Saripalli Koti Reddy
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Introduction

The bursting of the dot-com bubble in the fall of 2001 marked a turning point for the web. Many people concluded that the web was overhyped, when in fact bubbles and consequent shakeouts appear to be a common feature of all technological revolutions.

History of Web 2.0

The concept of "Web 2.0" began with a conference brainstorming session between O'Reilly and MediaLive International. Dale Dougherty, web pioneer and O'Reilly VP, noted that far from having "crashed", the web was more important than ever, with exciting new applications and sites popping up with surprising regularity. What's more, the companies that had survived the collapse seemed to have some things in common. 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.

In the year and a half since, 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 new conventional wisdom.

Web 2.0 is about making global information available to local social contexts and giving people the flexibility to find, organize, share and create information in a locally meaningful fashion that is globally accessible. This article is an attempt to clarify just what we mean by Web 2.0.

Web 2.0, a phrase coined by O’Reilly Media in 2004, refers to a proposed second generation of Internet based services such as social networking sites, wikis, communication tools, and folksonomies that emphasize online collaboration and sharing among users. O'Reilly Media, in collaboration with MediaLive International, used the phrase as a title for a series of conferences, and since 2004 it has become a popular phrase among technical and marketing communities. Web 2.0 hints at an improved form of the World Wide Web.

Details of Webcon Conferences

The first Web 2.0 conference was held October 5th to 7th, 2004 at the Hotel Nikko in San Francisco, and is believed to be the point at which the term Web 2.0 came into popular usage.

Speakers at Web 2.0 Conference 2.0, 2004

Jeff Bezos, Amazon.Com.

Mark Cuban, HDNet.

John Doerr, Venture Capitalist for Compaq, Netscape, Symantec, Sun Micro Systems, Amazon.com.

Mary Meeker, Wall Street securities analyst known as “Queen of the Net”

Craig Newmark, CraigsList founder and vocal advocate of keeping the internet free.

Marc Andreessen, Cofounder of Netscape Communications Corporation and Co-Author of Mosaic , the first widely used web browser.

George Conrades, Amamai.Com.

James Currier, CEO Tickle.

Cory Doctorow,  Co-Editor of blog Boing Boing.

Bill Gross, CEO - Business Incubator Idealab

Bill Gurley

William H. Janeway,

Brewster Kahle, Creator of "Universal Access to all Knowledge" slogan.

Lawrence Lessig, Professor of law at Stanford Law School.

Udi Manber, Achiever of Presidential Young Investigator

John McKinley, U.S. Senator from the state of Alabama.

Halsey Minor,  Founder of CNET.

Louis Monier, Founder of AltaVista.

Richard F. Rashid

Martin Nisenholtz

Mike Ramsay

Dan Rosensweig, COO of Yahoo! Inc.

David L. Sifry, Founder of StreamCastNetworks, Inc specialized in Peer-to-Peer software.

Michael Weiss

Jake Winebaum

Jerry Yang, Co-Founder of Yahoo! Inc.

The Web 2.0 Conference (2005) was a conference held in 2005 about the transition from the world wide web, or Web 1.0, to the emerging Web 2.0.

Speakers at WebCon 2.0, 2005

Stewart Butterfield, Yahoo! Inc.

Mark Cuban, HDNet

Bran Ferren, Applied Minds, Inc.

Bram Cohen, BitTorrent

Yusuf Mehdi, Microsoft, Inc.

Tim O'Reilly, O'Reilly Media, Inc.

Greg Ballard, Glu Mobile

Mena Trott, Six Apart

Joe Kraus, JotSpot

Jonathan F. Miller, AOL

Vinod Khosla, Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers

Kim Polese, SpikeSource

Barry Diller, IAC/InterActiveCorp

Raph Koster, Sony Online Entertainment

Mary Meeker, Morgan Stanley

Terry Semel, Yahoo!

The third Web 2.0 conference was held November 7th to 9th, 2006 at the Palace Hotel  in San Francisco, and focuses on utilizing the Web As A Platform and save the dates for next year; October 17th – 19th 2007at the Palace Hotel.

10 excellent definitions that I've come across for Web 2.0

John Battelle (talking about upcoming conferences): "eTech is where the seeds of new and interesting technologies are first discovered, whilst Web 2.0 is where they take root in the soil of business."

Kingsley Idehen: "...a Point of Presence on the Web for exposing of invoking Web Services and/or Syndicating or Subscribing to XML based content."

Wirearchy: "According to the experts, Web 2.0 is on its way to the workplace soon – it's an infrastructure that's decentralized and more open than that which exists today."

Jon Udell (as quoted in a classic essay by Tim O'Reilly): "Don't think of the Web as a client-server system that simply delivers web pages to web servers. Think of it as a distributed services architecture, with the URL as a first generation "API" for calling those services."

The World 2 Come (talking about the Web 2.0 Conference in October 04): "The conference will debut with the theme of 'The Web as Platform,' exploring how the Web has developed into a robust platform for innovation across many media and devices - from mobile to television, telephone to search."

Deep Green Crystals: "The next generation of web applications will leverage the shared infrastructure of the web 1.0 companies like EBay, Paypal, Google, Amazon, and Yahoo, not just the "bare bones transit" infrastructure that was there when we started..."

Jeff Bezos: "web 2.0...is about making the Internet useful for computers."

computeruser.com: "Yesterday’s challenge of producing elegant and database-driven Web sites is being replaced by the need to create Web 2.0 'points of presence'"

Adam Rifkin: "They don't see that the power of Weblications is that "simplicity and flexibility beat optimization and power in a world where connectivity is key", as Adam Bosworth put it."

Mitch Kapor: "The web browser and the infrastructure of the World Wide Web is on the cusp of bettering its aging cousin, the desktop-based graphical user interface for common PC applications."

Keywords from those 10 quotes

Point of Presence; Web Services; Syndication; decentralization; open; distributed services architecture; API; The Web as Platform; innovation; media and devices; infrastructure; utility/usefulness; simplicity and flexibility; connectivity; web browser.

My Definition

So what's my definition of Web 2.0? Well I prefer the succinct "The Web as Platform", because I can then fill in the blanks depending on who I'm talking to. For corporate people, the Web is a platform for business. For marketers, the Web is a platform for communications. For journalists, the Web is a platform for new media. For geeks, the Web is a platform for software development. And so on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The above picture shows the time bar of Web 2.0 and the appearance of all buzz words which are assigned to web 2.0. Also with the added dependencies between the buzz words.

Web 2.0 Meme Map

The above picture shows a "meme map" of Web 2.0 that was developed at a brainstorming session, a conference at O'Reilly Media. It's very much a work in progress, but shows the many ideas that radiate out from the Web 2.0 core.

Web 2.0 Key Principles

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 center.

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 intelligence:

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 advertisements.

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 come."

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 the delivery of such applets. JavaScript and then DHTML were introduced as 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 the competition.

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.

37Signals provides 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.

References
Conclusion

It is important to recognize, however, "Web 2.0" is not anything other than the evolving Web as it exists today. It is the same Web that we've had all along. But the problems, issues, and technologies we're dealing with are in many ways different, and so using the term "Web 2.0" is a  recognition that the Web is in a constant state of change, and that we have entered a new era of networked participation.

 

 

 


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