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You Know You're Web 2.0 When...

"Long Live Web 2.0, Whatever the Name"

Yes, the title of this piece is sure to be a bit provocative as the term Web 2.0 bottoms out with a vengeance in the infamous trough of disillusionment.  Those in the know realize it's no longer cool to say Web 2.0 in many technology circles.  Even the IT columnist blowhard John C. Dvorak lined up this week to take the obligatory swipe at Web 2.0, possibly to coincide with O'Reilly's latest talk about it at the sold-out Emerging Technology conference this week (best quote: Web 2.0 represents "people inside the machine".)   And Gibu Thomas just made a great set of observations about what people in general think about Web 2.0 taken from a group podcast made at the recent Naked Conversations launch partyUpshot: Most people actually equate Web 2.0 with an Ajax browsing experience.

Strikingly, all this hand-waving and gnashing of teeth is over a whole lot of nothing.  I personally, though well known as a proponent of Web 2.0, am
completely ambivalent about the term itself.  Like anything, it's what's actually happening that really matters and it just turns out that the term Web 2.0 is the best and most articulate vision of what we're seeing unfolding on the Web today.  And though some folks see many of the smaller startups as doomed to failure in a crowded market, it's much more about the bigger story of the billion people on the Web today and what they're doing.  Because they aren't going away.

I look around at terrifically exciting technologies like
Ruby on Rails (lightweight programming models), the community created tag clouds that are available on more and more sites (harnessing collective intelligence and folksonomies), pervasive syndication and Web servicing of content via RSS (small pieces, loosely joined and Web as Platform), and yes, even rich, immersive, roaming software (Ajax and RIAs).  These are all indicators of a larger trend:  The emergence of a social software super platform that rapidly evolves as reflection of its combined users and their information.

Web 2.0 as the Social Software Super Platform

Now, John Dvorak was right in one sense in his article.  That most people don't care about Web 2.0 and they never will, they just want to get things done. And a big piece of Web 2.0 is using the Web to do things yourself.  In this respect, I certainly agree.  The part where he's wrong is that the supply side of the equation has to know what the pieces of Web 2.0 are in order to create great online social software.  Web 2.0 really is design patterns and business models for the next generation of the Web.  Saying that Web 2.0 is purely about self-service is laughably naive, incomplete, and wrong-headed.  However, I do agree with John that a lot of this is "old wine in new bottles."  I've written extensively about this, probably the best in The Timeless Way of Building Software; what's old is new again though with a different twist and a whole lot more scale.

Anyway, you're probably here to see how you know that you're Web 2.0.  Here are some ways.  And of course, you're always more than welcome to add all the ones I missed at the bottom.

You Know You're Web 2.0 When...

  • You can easily comment on, or preferably, actually change the content that you find on a Web site.
  • You can label your information with tags and use them to find that information again.
  • Your Web page doesn't reload even once as you get a whole lotta work done.
  • You are actively aware of other users' recent activity on a site.
  • It's possible for you to easily share with others the information you're contributing on the Web site.
  • You can syndicate your information on a Web site elsewhere on the Internet through a feed like RSS or Atom.
  • You can pick and choose the pieces of a Web site that you like and then add that functionality to your own site.

  • There are easy ways to find out what content is the most popular or interesting at the moment.
  • You heard about a new Web site because a friend enthusiastically recommended it to you out of the blue.
  • There happens to be a mind boggling amount information and a lot of people on a site, yet it seems easy to find what you want and communicate with others.
  • Everything you ever added to a given Web site can be removed easily at your whim.
  • The Web site actively encourages you to share and reuse its information and its services with others.  And it even provides a license to do so.

And of course there's a lot more and I can easily see how it might seem like people are throwing in the kitchen sink when they use the Web 2.0 umbrella term.  But the ideas really are linked together (again see the aforementioned Timeless Way of Building Software) and reinforce each other, often critically.  The good news is still that people don't have to understand much of this to use it, but we do, and must, in order to build it.  Start studying...

So, long live Web 2.0, whatever the name.  Or, can we just build some great software with these ideas without arguing about the term?

posted Wednesday, 8 March 2006

More Stories By RIA News Desk

Ever since Google popularized a smarter, more responsive and interactive Web experience by using AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript + XML) for its Google Maps & Gmail applications, SYS-CON's RIA News Desk has been covering every aspect of Rich Internet Applications and those creating and deploying them. If you have breaking RIA news, please send it to [email protected] to share your product and company news coverage with AJAXWorld readers.

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