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Web 2.0 Re-Examined: Nexaweb's Coach Wei On The Paradigm Shift, Technology Stack and Business Value

This essay re-examines Web 2.0 by looking at its technology stack and impact on enterprise computing

The Paradigm Shift, Technology Stack and Business Value

Abstract

This essay  re-examines web 2.0 by looking at its technology stack and impact on enterprise computing, in contrast to the common consumer-centric point of view. Categorizing the landscape into Consumer Web 2.0 and Enterprise Web 2.0, the essay establishes a web 2.0 technology stack that forms the foundation of a paradigm shift called “architecture of partition”. In the end, the business impact of web 2.0 technologies on enterprises is presented.

Table of Content

  1. Web 2.0: the State of Confusion
  2. What is Web 2.0?
    1. The "Consumer-centric" View Causes Confusion
    2. The Difference between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0
    3. The Two Pillars: Consumer Web 2.0 and Enterprise Web 2.0
    4. Key Characteristics of Consumer Web 2.0 and Enterprise Web 2.0
  3. Web 2.0: The Paradigm Shifts
    1. Architecture of Participation: A Usage Paradigm Shift
    2. Architecture of Partition: A Technology Paradigm Shift
  4. The Rise of a Web 2.0 Technology Stack
    1. The Fundamental Flaws of Web 1.0
    2. The Web 2.0 Technology Stack
    3. From Browser to Application Client Container
    4. From Unreliable HTTP to Internet Messaging Bus
    5. From Application Server to Mashup Server: Next Generation Middleware
    6. Compatibility with Web 1.0 Is Key
  5. The Business Value of Web 2.0 for Enterprises
    1. A Better Way to Build, Deploy and Maintain Business Applications
    2. New Possibilities – Social Computing
  6. Summary
  7. References

Web 2.0: the State of Confusion

Web 2.0 is exciting, but there are lots of confusions today, even among noted experts.

There are two schools of opinions among experts. The first school is critical of Web 2.0. This group is represented by Tim Berners-Lee and Russell Raw. Their opinions are:

  1. There is nothing fundamentally different between “Web 1.0” and the so-called “Web 2.0”;
  2. Web 2.0 has nothing new and is based on the same technology as of Web 1.0;
  3. Web 2.0 is just a piece of jargon.

The second group of experts are Web 2.0 champions. This group is represented by Tim O’Reilly, Paul Graham and Dion HinchCliffe. This group argues:

  1. Web 2.0 is here and it is big;
  2. “Architecture of Participation”, “the Network Effect (social network)”, and “Harnessing the collective intelligence” are fundamentally new and different from web 1.0;
  3. Web 2.0 is more about a paradigm shift in how people use the web, less about new technology.
  4. “Web 2.0” is not based on a technology shift, but rather a usage paradigm shift.

Despite the confusion, the term “Web 2.0” is getting widely known, accepted and adopted since Tim O’Reilly’s original essay on Web 2.0 published in September 2005. However, these confusions must be addressed.The followings are three key questions that need to be clarified:

  1. What is Web 2.0? Is it just a consumer phenomenon?
  2. Is there any new technology that differentiates web 2.0 from web 1.0?
  3. Given that the most web 2.0 examples such as MySpace, Flickr and Google do not relate to enterprises well, what is the real, tangible and measurable business value of web 2.0 from an enterprise perspective?

It is time to re-examine Web 2.0.

What Is Web 2.0?

Web 2.0 is the next evolution of the web that has a new usage paradigm as well as a new technology paradigm. The former is characterized by “architecture of participation” and the latter is characterized by “architecture of partition”.

The “Consumer-centric” View Causes Confusion

There is no doubt that the “web 2.0” phenomenon is ignited by the success of consumer websites like MySpace, YouTube and Flickr.  From these consumer website, analysts established “social networking” via the network effect as a key feature of web 2.0. Though it is possible that enterprise oriented social computing applications may emerge to address specific enterprise concerns, it is not clear how social networking can change enterprise IT on a more fundamental level. Analysts further characterized “Architecture of Participation” as another key element of web 2.0, as evident from YouTube and Flickr. Similarly it is unclear whether/how “architecture of participation” would impact enterprise IT mission. Enterprise IT’s mission is simple: to enable and facilitate the interaction and integration of IT systems and people. There is no doubt that web 2.0 applications like blogs and wikis based on “architecture of participation” can be useful to enterprises, but is there anything beyond blogs and wikis?

The key technology behind most consumer web 2.0 websites, Ajax, is not new. The popular “mashup” concept sounds new but in reality is based on what has been built into the browser for many years. The “consumer-centric” perspective limits how we look at the technology aspect of web 2.0 and leads to the conclusion that web 2.0 involves no technology advancement.

Further, “architecture of participation”, “social networking” and “harness the collective intelligence” are all usage patterns. They do not relate to technology. In fact, they can be supported well on web 1.0 technologies; reinforcing the common belief that web 2.0 has no technology foundation but rather a buzzword created by marketers. 

The Differences between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0

Tim O’Reilly observed the differences between web 1.0 and web 2.0 from a consumer perspective in his original essay:

Web 1.0 Web 2.0
DoubleClick-->Google AdSense
Ofoto-->Flickr
Akamai-->BitTorrent
mp3.com-->Napster
Britannica Online-->Wikipedia
personal websites-->blogging
evite-->upcoming.org and EVDB
domain name speculation-->search engine optimization
page views-->cost per click
screen scraping-->web services
publishing-->participation
content management systems-->wikis
directories (taxonomy)-->tagging ("folksonomy")
stickiness-->syndication

From Consumer Web 1.0 to Consumer Web 2.0
   

From an enterprise perspective, web 2.0 introduces a very different set of changes: 

Web 1.0 Web 2.0
Browser-->Application Client Container
HTML-->Declarative application markup
HTTP(pull, unreliable)-->Push, pub/sub, reliable
Application Server
-->Mashup Server
Appilcation Integration
-->Enterprise Mashup/SOA
Press release
-->Corporate blogs
Packaged software
-->On demand/Saas
Close source
-->Open source
Top down (dictatorship)
-->Bottom up (democracy)
Superbowl Ad/TV
-->Google Ad

From Enterprise Web 1.0 to Enterprise Web 2.0

The Two Pillars: Consumer Web 2.0 and Enterprise Web 2.0

Web 2.0 has two pillars: consumer web 2.0 and enterprise web 2.0. These two do overlap, in particular, in the area of social computing.

Consumer web 2.0 and enterprise web 2.0 have different characteristics, as shown below:

Consumer Web 1.0 Enterprise Web 2.0
Architecture of Participation
Architecture of Partition
Social networking
On Demand computing/SaaS
Harness collective intelligence
Enterprise social computing
HTML Mashup
Enterprise mashup
Rich User Experience
Rich User Experience
The Web As Platform
The Web As Platform

Key Characteristics of Consumer Web 2.0 and Enterprise Web 2.0

The technology paradigm shifts with web 2.0 brings tremendous, tangible and measurable ROI to corporate IT. Further, the new possibilities enabled by web 2.0 such as social computing are bringing corporate IT to new horizons.

Web 2.0: The Paradigm Shifts

Web 2.0 refers to the 2nd generation web that is driven by two paradigm shifts from the first generation web:

  1. A usage paradigm shift
  2. A technology paradigm shift

Architecture of Participation: A Usage Paradigm Shift

The usage paradigm shift is the most obvious aspect of web 2.0 as seen from various consumer websites like MySpace, YouTube and Flickr. The characteristics have been very well articulated by Tim O’Reilly, Dion HinchCliffe and Jeremy Geelan, etc:

  1. Architecture of participation
  2. The network effect via social networking
  3. Harnessing the collective intelligence

Architecture of Partition: A Technology Paradigm Shift

Over the history of computing, computing architecture partition has been swinging back and forth between two extremes: server-centric or client centric architecture. We started with mainframe computing, which is a highly centralized model. In the mainframe era, computing happens on the server side and the client is a dumb display terminal.  The next paradigm is client/server computing, where most of the computing happens on the client side. During web 1.0, we went back to a model similar to mainframe, where all the processing happens on the server side and the client side is simply a browser for displaying HTML pages.


The truth of the matter is that neither server centric nor client centric architecture is always appropriate.  Unfortunately developers never had the flexibility to deciding the right architectural partition for their applications. Web 2.0 brings architectural partition flexibility to developers for the first time in history. With web 2.0, developers can partition the application in a way that is best appropriate for the application, rather than trying to fit into a pre-determined architecture. Some applications are best served by leaving only user interface and some UI logic on the client side. Some applications require all UI logic on the client side to deliver optimal result. For even more sophisticated applications, there is requirement to have a certain business logic and data on the client side as well. Web 2.0 technologies enable developers to decide how much computation stays on the client side and how much stays on the server side, delivering optimal results. 


The Business Value of Web 2.0 for Enterprises

A Better Way for Enterprise IT

Corporate IT has always been centered on application development and maintenance. Each evolution of computing, from mainframe to client/server to web 1.0, brings dramatically improved efficiency, significantly lowered costs and new business opportunities. Web 2.0 is not different either.

The web 2.0 technology stack offers real, tangible, and measurable benefits to enterprises as a better way to build, deploy and maintain enterprise IT solutions, resulting in better user productivity, lower operations costs and reduced development and maintenance costs:

  • Reduced development and maintenance costs. The Web 2.0 technology stack eliminates the need to install client software, enabling companies to leverage the Internet more cost-effectively. Equally important, an organization can deploy the same version of a web 2.0 application to all its users, across heterogeneous client configurations and network connection types. This eliminates the need to develop and maintain multiple client software versions, the need to standardize client systems and the need to upgrade network infrastructure.
  • Reduced operations costs. All clients gain access to new or updated business application immediately upon connecting with a server—no installation is required. Businesses can thus enjoy all the cost advantages of a centralized deployment and management model.
  • Improved responsiveness to business drivers. The Web 2.0 technology stack empowers development teams to respond more quickly to changing business needs and shorten time-to-market for applications. The emergence of “situational applications” is a direct result of that the web 2.0 technology stack enables users, including less technical users, to create applications “instantly” as needed.

 Combining the web 2.0 technology stack with SOA and enterprise legacy systems, an much more agile and cost-effective IT infrastructure emerges. This infrastructure is sometime being called as “Enterprise 2.0”.

New Possibilities – Social Computing

Web 2.0 not enable brings significant benefits to application development, deployment and maintenance, but also brings in new possibilities: social computing.

The most visible examples of social computing are blogging and wikis. Blogging enables normal business users to participate “web content development” without knowing anything about technology. As a result, it enabled an entire new way of marketing that is able to reach more people deeper at a much lower costs than ever before. Wikis, on the other side, enable new ways of collaboration that is previously only possible with expensive proprietary software.

The emergence of “situational applications” is likely to have an even more profound impact. By leveraging heterogeneous data and content as well as the collective intelligence via mashup tools, business users who traditionally have to rely on enterprise IT teams now have more power at hand than ever

Summary

Web 2.0 is the next evolution of the web that has a new usage paradigm as well as a new technology paradigm. The former is characterized by “architecture of participation” and the latter is characterized by “architecture of partition”.

Web 2.0 is more than a consumer phenomenon. There is a consumer as well as an enterprise aspect of web 2.0. Consumer Web 2.0 and Enterprise Web 2.0 intersect at social computing.

Contrary to the common wisdom, Web 2.0 is based on a new technology foundation from Web 1.0. Though still evolving, the web 2.0 technology stack includes an application client container, an internet messaging bus and an enterprise mashup server. This technology stack enables “architecture of partition”, giving developers the capability to decide the appropriate architecture partition according to application requirements for the first time in history.

Beyond being a consumer phenomenon, web 2.0 has a significant impact on business computing by enabling better, faster, richer applications while reducing costs, with tangible and measurable real ROI.

References

  1. IBM DeveloperWork’s Interview of Sr. Tim Berners-Lee: http://www-128.ibm.com/developerworks/podcast/dwi/cm-int082206.html, 8/22/2006;
  2. “Web 2.0? It doesn’t exist”, Russell Shaw, http://blogs.zdnet.com/ip-telephony/?p=805, 12/17/2005;
  3. “What is Web 2.0”, Tim O’Reilly, http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/a/oreilly/tim/news/2005/09/30/what-is-web-20.html, 9/30/2005;
  4. “Web 2.0 Is here”, Dion HinchCliffe, http://web2.wsj2.com/web2ishere.htm, 9/24/2005;
  5. “Tim Berners-Lee Comes Under Fire: Is It Time He Let Go of "Web 1.0"?”, Jeremy Geelan, http://web2.sys-con.com/read/267479.htm, 9/5/2006;
  6. “All We Got Was Web 1.0, When Tim Berners-Lee Actually Gave Us Web 2.0”, Dion HinchCliffe, http://web2.wsj2.com/all_we_got_was_web_10_when_tim_bernerslee_actually_gave_us_w.htm, 9/4/2006;
  7. “The "Perfect Storm" of Web 2.0 Disruption”, Jeremy Geelan, http://web2.sys-con.com/read/267370.htm, 9/7/2006;
  8. “The Co-Evolution of SOA and Web 2.0”,Dion HinchCliffe, http://web2.wsj2.com/continuing_an_industry_discussion_the_coevolution_of_soa_and.htm, 6/6/2006;
  9. “Web 2.0: the State of Confusion?”, Coach Wei, http://www.coachwei.com/blog/_archives/2006/9/11/2314800.html, 9/11/2006;
  10. “Every Organization Should Have A Web 2.0 Story”, Coach Wei, http://www.coachwei.com/blog/_archives/2006/7/25/2162250.html, 7/25/2006;
  11. “Web 2.0 Communication Layer: from HTTP to Comet to Internet Messaging Bus”, Coach Wei, http://www.coachwei.com/blog/_archives/2006/10/13/2414519.html, 10/13/2006;
  12. “Does every organization need a Web 2.0 strategy?”, Dion HinchCliffe, http://blogs.zdnet.com/Hinchcliffe/?p=60, 8/18/2006;
  13. “Gartner's 2006 Emerging Technologies Hype Cycle Highlights Key Technology Themes”, Gartner, http://www.gartner.com/it/page.jsp?id=495475, 8/9/2006;
  14. “Web 2.0 Summit: IBM evolves vision of SOA and Web 2.0”, Dion HinchCliffe, http://blogs.zdnet.com/Hinchcliffe/?p=72, November 2006.

More Stories By Coach Wei

Coach Wei is founder and CEO of Yottaa, a web performance optimization company. He is also founder and Chairman of Nexaweb, an enterprise application modernization software company. Coding, running, magic, robot, big data, speed...are among his favorite list of things (not necessarily in that order. His coding capability is really at PowerPoint level right now). Caffeine, doing something entrepreneurial and getting out of sleeping are three reasons that he gets up in the morning and gets really excited.

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