by Gerald Boerner
When the World Wide Web was first introduced by Tim Berners-Lee in 1989, it was text only. In the early years of the 1990s it was expanded to allow the display of a limited type of graphics through the use of “helper” apps. At that point in time, web pages were static and created as if they were a page of a document. To update content, the entire page needed to be edited and the new content inserted.
Then, came the second phase of the web where dynamic elements were built into the web pages. Flash, animated GIF images, and other technologies were being combined with dynamic content being accessed from data bases through “back end” programming. This was better, but still required a traditional web browser and PC/Laptop. Each time we wanted to obtain updated information, we would need to re-access the entire page from our web server.
When smartphones began to appear, they were not able to access most web content. Their real diversity would require the implementation of Web 2.0 that not only could bring in content without reloading the entire page, but we could display that content on different devices. The content could be displayed “on the fly” to the display device without special programming!
That is what Web 2.0 can do for us! And, to add to that, Web 2.0/3.0 supports the social media that has become so popular these days. GLB
“The Mobile Web Initiative is important — information must be made seamlessly available on any device.”
— Tim Berners-Lee
“The Web as I envisaged it, we have not seen it yet. The future is still so much bigger than the past.”
— Tim Berners-Lee
“Whatever the device you use for getting your information out, it should be the same information.”
— Tim Berners-Lee
“We shouldn’t build a technology to colour, or grey out, what people say. The media in general is balanced, although there are a lot of issues to be addressed that the media rightly pick up on.”
— Tim Berners-Lee
“The most important thing that was new was the idea of URI-or URL, that any piece of information anywhere should have an identifier, which will allow you to get hold of it.”
— Tim Berners-Lee
“The Semantic Web is not a separate Web but an extension of the current one, in which information is given well-defined meaning, better enabling computers and people to work in cooperation.”
— Tim Berners-Lee
“We could say we want the Web to reflect a vision of the world where everything is done democratically. To do that, we get computers to talk with each other in such a way as to promote that ideal.”
— Tim Berners-Lee
“What is a Web year now, about three months? And when people can browse around, discover new things, and download them fast, when we all have agents – then Web years could slip by before human beings can notice.”
— Tim Berners-Lee
History of Hand-Held Computers: Web 2.0
The term “Web 2.0” (2004–present) is commonly associated with web applications that facilitate interactive information sharing, interoperability, user-centered design, and collaboration on the World Wide Web. Examples of Web 2.0 include web-based communities, hosted services, web applications, social-networking sites, video-sharing sites, wikis, blogs, mashups, and folksonomies. A Web 2.0 site allows its users to interact with other users or to change website content, in contrast to non-interactive websites where users are limited to the passive viewing of information that is provided to them.
The term is closely associated with Tim O’Reilly because of the O’Reilly Media Web 2.0 conference in 2004. Although the term suggests a new version of the World Wide Web, it does not refer to an update to any technical specifications, but rather to cumulative changes in the ways software developers and end-users use the Web. Whether Web 2.0 is qualitatively different from prior web technologies has been challenged by World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee, who called the term a “piece of jargon” — precisely because he specifically intended the Web to embody these values in the first place.
History: From Web 1.0 to 2.0
The term “Web 2.0” was coined in 1999 by Darcy DiNucci. In her article, “Fragmented Future,” DiNucci writes:
The Web we know now, which loads into a browser window in essentially static screenfulls, is only an embryo of the Web to come. The first glimmerings of Web 2.0 are beginning to appear, and we are just starting to see how that embryo might develop. The Web will be understood not as screenfulls of text and graphics but as a transport mechanism, the ether through which interactivity happens. It will […] appear on your computer screen, […] on your TV set […] your car dashboard […] your cell phone […] hand-held game machines […] maybe even your microwave oven.
Her use of the term deals mainly with Web design and aesthetics; she argues that the Web is “fragmenting” due to the widespread use of portable Web-ready devices. Her article is aimed at designers, reminding them to code for an ever-increasing variety of hardware. As such, her use of the term hints at – but does not directly relate to – the current uses of the term.
The term did not resurface until 2003. These authors focus on the concepts currently associated with the term where, as Scott Dietzen puts it, “the Web becomes a universal, standards-based integration platform”.
In 2004, the term began its rise in popularity when O’Reilly Media and MediaLive hosted the first Web 2.0 conference. In their opening remarks, John Battelle and Tim O’Reilly outlined their definition of the “Web as Platform”, where software applications are built upon the Web as opposed to upon the desktop. The unique aspect of this migration, they argued, is that “customers are building your business for you”. They argued that the activities of users generating content (in the form of ideas, text, videos, or pictures) could be “harnessed” to create value.
O’Reilly et al. contrasted Web 2.0 with what they called “Web 1.0”. They associated Web 1.0 with the business models of Netscape and the Encyclopedia Britannica Online. For example,
Netscape framed “the web as platform” in terms of the old software paradigm: their flagship product was the web browser, a desktop application, and their strategy was to use their dominance in the browser market to establish a market for high-priced server products. Control over standards for displaying content and applications in the browser would, in theory, give Netscape the kind of market power enjoyed by Microsoft in the PC market. Much like the “horseless carriage” framed the automobile as an extension of the familiar, Netscape promoted a “webtop” to replace the desktop, and planned to populate that webtop with information updates and applets pushed to the webtop by information providers who would purchase Netscape servers.
In short, Netscape focused on creating software, updating it on occasion, and distributing it to the end users. O’Reilly contrasted this with Google, a company which did not at the time focus on producing software, such as a browser, but instead focused on providing a service based on data. The data being the links Web page authors make between sites. Google exploits this user-generated content to offer Web search based on reputation through its “page rank” algorithm. Unlike software, which undergoes scheduled releases, such services are constantly updated, a process called “the perpetual beta”.
A similar difference can be seen between the Encyclopedia Britannica Online and Wikipedia: while the Britannica relies upon experts to create articles and releases them periodically in publications, Wikipedia relies on trust in anonymous users to constantly and quickly build content. Wikipedia is not based on expertise but rather an adaptation of the open source software adage “given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow”, and it produces and updates articles constantly.
O’Reilly’s Web 2.0 conferences have been held every year since 2004, attracting entrepreneurs, large companies, and technology reporters. In terms of the lay public, the term Web 2.0 was largely championed by bloggers and by technology journalists, culminating in the 2006 TIME magazine Person of The Year – “You”. That is, TIME selected the masses of users who were participating in content creation on social networks, blogs, wikis, and media sharing sites. The cover story author Lev Grossman explains:
It’s a story about community and collaboration on a scale never seen before. It’s about the cosmic compendium of knowledge Wikipedia and the million-channel people’s network YouTube and the online metropolis MySpace. It’s about the many wresting power from the few and helping one another for nothing and how that will not only change the world, but also change the way the world changes.
Since that time, Web 2.0 has found a place in the lexicon; the Global Language Monitor recently declared it to be the one-millionth English word.
Flickr, a Web 2.0 web site that allows its users to upload
and share photos
Web 2.0 websites allow users to do more than just retrieve information. They can build on the interactive facilities of “Web 1.0” to provide “Network as platform” computing, allowing users to run software-applications entirely through a browser. Users can own the data on a Web 2.0 site and exercise control over that data. These sites may have an “Architecture of participation” that encourages users to add value to the application as they use it.
The concept of Web-as-participation-platform captures many of these characteristics. Bart Decrem, a founder and former CEO of Flock, calls Web 2.0 the “participatory Web” and regards the Web-as-information-source as Web 1.0.
The impossibility of excluding group-members who don’t contribute to the provision of goods from sharing profits gives rise to the possibility that rational members will prefer to withhold their contribution of effort and free-ride on the contribution of others. This requires what is sometimes called Radical Trust by the management of the website. According to Best, the characteristics of Web 2.0 are: rich user experience, user participation, dynamic content, metadata, web standards and scalability. Further characteristics, such as openness, freedom and collective intelligence by way of user participation, can also be viewed as essential attributes of Web 2.0.
Web 2.0 draws together the capabilities of client- and server-side software, content syndication and the use of network protocols. Standards-oriented web browsers may use plug-ins and software extensions to handle the content and the user interactions. Web 2.0 sites provide users with information storage, creation, and dissemination capabilities that were not possible in the environment now known as “Web 1.0”.
Web 2.0 websites typically include some of the following features and techniques. Andrew McAfee used the acronym SLATES to refer to them:
Finding information through keyword search.
Connects information together into a meaningful information ecosystem using the model of the Web, and provides low-barrier social tools.
The ability to create and update content leads to the collaborative work of many rather than just a few web authors. In wikis, users may extend, undo and redo each other’s work. In blogs, posts and the comments of individuals build up over time.
Categorization of content by users adding “tags” – short, usually one-word descriptions = to facilitate searching, without dependence on pre-made categories. Collections of tags created by many users within a single system may be referred to as “folksonomies” (i.e., folk taxonomies).
Software that makes the Web an application platform as well as a document server.
The use of syndication technology such as RSS to notify users of content changes.
While SLATES forms the basic framework of Enterprise 2.0, it does not contradict all of the higher level Web 2.0 design patterns and business models. And in this way, the new Web 2.0 report from O’Reilly is quite effective and diligent in interweaving the story of Web 2.0 with the specific aspects of Enterprise 2.0. It includes discussions of self-service IT, the long tail of enterprise IT demand, and many other consequences of the Web 2.0 era in the enterprise. The report also makes many sensible recommendations around starting small with pilot projects and measuring results, among a fairly long list.
How It Works
To permit the user to continue to interact with the page, communications such as data requests going to the server are separated from data coming back to the page (asynchronously). Otherwise, the user would have to routinely wait for the data to come back before they can do anything else on that page, just as a user has to wait for a page to complete the reload. This also increases overall performance of the site, as the sending of requests can complete quicker independent of blocking and queueing required to send data back to the client.
On the server side, Web 2.0 uses many of the same technologies as Web 1.0. Languages such as PHP, Ruby, ColdFusion, Perl, Python, JSP and ASP are used by developers to dynamically output data using information from files and databases. What has begun to change in Web 2.0 is the way this data is formatted. In the early days of the Internet, there was little need for different websites to communicate with each other and share data. In the new “participatory web”, however, sharing data between sites has become an essential capability. To share its data with other sites, a web site must be able to generate output in machine-readable formats such as XML, RSS, and JSON. When a site’s data is available in one of these formats, another website can use it to integrate a portion of that site’s functionality into itself, linking the two together. When this design pattern is implemented, it ultimately leads to data that is both easier to find and more thoroughly categorized, a hallmark of the philosophy behind the Web 2.0 movement.
The popularity of the term Web 2.0, along with the increasing use of blogs, wikis, and social networking technologies, has led many in academia and business to coin a flurry of 2.0s, including Library 2.0, Social Work 2.0, Enterprise 2.0, PR 2.0, Classroom 2.0, Publishing 2.0, Medicine 2.0, Telco 2.0, Travel 2.0, Government 2.0, and even Porn 2.0. Many of these 2.0s refer to Web 2.0 technologies as the source of the new version in their respective disciplines and areas. For example, in the Talis white paper “Library 2.0: The Challenge of Disruptive Innovation”, Paul Miller argues
Blogs, wikis and RSS are often held up as exemplary manifestations of Web 2.0. A reader of a blog or a wiki is provided with tools to add a comment or even, in the case of the wiki, to edit the content. This is what we call the Read/Write web.Talis believes that Library 2.0 means harnessing this type of participation so that libraries can benefit from increasingly rich collaborative cataloguing efforts, such as including contributions from partner libraries as well as adding rich enhancements, such as book jackets or movie files, to records from publishers and others.
Here, Miller links Web 2.0 technologies and the culture of participation that they engender to the field of library science, supporting his claim that there is now a “Library 2.0”. Many of the other proponents of new 2.0s mentioned here use similar methods.
Not much time passed before “Web 3.0” was coined. Definitions of Web 3.0 vary greatly. Amit Agarwal states that Web 3.0 is, among other things, about the Semantic Web and personalization. Andrew Keen, author of The Cult of the Amateur, considers the Semantic Web an “unrealisable abstraction” and sees Web 3.0 as the return of experts and authorities to the Web. For example, he points to Bertelsman’s deal with the German Wikipedia to produce an edited print version of that encyclopedia. Others still such as Manoj Sharma, an organization strategist, in the keynote “A Brave New World Of Web 3.0” proposes that Web 3.0 will be a “Totally Integrated World” – cradle-to-grave experience of being always plugged onto the net. CNN Money’s Jessi Hempel expects Web 3.0 to emerge from new and innovative Web 2.0 services with a profitable business model. Conrad Wolfram has argued that Web 3.0 is where “the computer is generating new information”, rather than humans.
Critics of the term claim that “Web 2.0” does not represent a new version of the World Wide Web at all, but merely continues to use so-called “Web 1.0” technologies and concepts. First, techniques such as AJAX do not replace underlying protocols like HTTP, but add an additional layer of abstraction on top of them. Second, many of the ideas of Web 2.0 had already been featured in implementations on networked systems well before the term “Web 2.0” emerged. Amazon.com, for instance, has allowed users to write reviews and consumer guides since its launch in 1995, in a form of self-publishing. Amazon also opened its API to outside developers in 2002. Previous developments also came from research in computer-supported collaborative learning and computer-supported cooperative work and from established products like Lotus Notes and Lotus Domino, all phenomena which precede Web 2.0.
But perhaps the most common criticism is that the term is unclear or simply a buzzword. For example, in a podcast interview, Tim Berners-Lee described the term “Web 2.0” as a “piece of jargon”:
“Nobody really knows what it means…If Web 2.0 for you is blogs and wikis, then that is people to people. But that was what the Web was supposed to be all along.”
Other critics labeled Web 2.0 “a second bubble” (referring to the Dot-com bubble of circa 1995–2001), suggesting that too many Web 2.0 companies attempt to develop the same product with a lack of business models. For example, The Economist has dubbed the mid- to late-2000s focus on Web companies “Bubble 2.0”. Venture capitalist Josh Kopelman noted that Web 2.0 had excited only 53,651 people (the number of subscribers at that time to TechCrunch, a Weblog covering Web 2.0 startups and technology news), too few users to make them an economically viable target for consumer applications. Although Bruce Sterling reports he’s a fan of Web 2.0, he thinks it is now dead as a rallying concept.
Critics have cited the language used to describe the hype cycle of Web 2.0 as an example of Techno-utopianist rhetoric.
In terms of Web 2.0’s social impact, critics such as Andrew Keen argue that Web 2.0 has created a cult of digital narcissism and amateurism, which undermines the notion of expertise by allowing anybody, anywhere to share – and place undue value upon – their own opinions about any subject and post any kind of content regardless of their particular talents, knowledgeability, credentials, biases or possible hidden agendas. He states that the core assumption of Web 2.0, that all opinions and user-generated content are equally valuable and relevant, is misguided and is instead “creating an endless digital forest of mediocrity: uninformed political commentary, unseemly home videos, embarrassingly amateurish music, unreadable poems, essays and novels”, also stating that Wikipedia is full of “mistakes, half truths and misunderstandings”.
Background and biographical information is from Wikipedia articles on:
Wikipedia: Web 2.0…
Brainy Quote: Tim Berners-Lee Quotes…