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Web 2.0 + 1

Friday, 13 April 2007 — by

I never really hit it off with the Web 2.0 moniker. To me, it was and still is a marketing gimmick that doesn’t reflect the fullness of the second breath the web has taken recently.

Version two implies the web has stepped forward. To me, that’s to neglect the fact that the web has not only stepped forward, but also sideways, into areas not often thought of as the domain of the web, such as truly interactive applications.

I remember one guy telling me how he as a developer was asked by the marketing guy to insert a progress bar into a web application, simply because it looked cool. Despite trying to explain that this was bad usability – as well as slowing the application down to do it, because the action was instant – his marketing guy rested on the misguided belief that cool meant good.

Well, not always. And in fairness, people are generally better informed these days, so such ghastly horror stories are far & few between.

I’m not going to wade into the technical minutia of what makes up the so-called Web 2.0 thing, because that’s not really all that important. What is important is what Web 2.0 has achieved and what lays ahead.

For a long time, JavaScript was the ginger stepchild of the marriage of the web to the browser. Oh, there would be moments, of course, but for the main part, JavaScript made few friends and didn’t really influence people, least of all me.

Why? Because of how JavaScript was implemented in the various web browsers. Saving some blushes and forgoing the temptation of some finger-pointing fun, JavaScript just didn’t do the same thing from one browser to the next.

Bummer.

Personally, I hate JavaScript, and choose to avoid it at all times. But what Web 2.0 did was breathe new life into JavaScript and bring in some discipline.

Web 2.0 is also a philosophy. It’s a way of doing things and pulling together best-of-breed of tools, formats and standards, like HTML, XML, CSS, SOAP et cetera, and turning them into RIAs (Rich Internet Applications) that really do create something greater than the sum of all the constituent parts.

So it’s not all about JavaScript, but in terms of end user interaction, it’s where much of the action is.

Two notable problems that Web 2.0 seemed to bring to the table were security issues and poor accessibility. Let’s face it, they’re as big as they get.

Fortunately, people are already giving good thought to these issues, specifically accessibility issues surrounding rich internet applications.

The future of the web

As an indication of the direction of all things web, when the likes of Adobe get involved and build something like the Apollo framework, you know there’s money in them thar widgets!

By creating an environment for discrete, self-contained and highly adaptive formats, like Adobe Flash, in addition to the aforementioned HTML, XML, CSS, SOAP et cetera – with the more recent inclusion of Apple’s WebKit – to work together seamlessly as pier formats, and all of a sudden, these little widgets start to take on a life all their own.

Speaking of widgets, enter stage left, the World Wide Web Consortium with their Widget 1.0 standard. And then there’s Google, coming in with their widgets in hand .. so to speak.

Draw neat little lines between our technological triumvirate and you see the shape of something looking very much future like.

So what’s next for the web?

Let’s not forget the little guys, eh? After all, they’re the ones who started all of this in the first place. But what we now have is the dust settling and something not at all like a ginger teenager, but something all grow’d up, ‘n’ stuff.

Sorry guys, the final frontier is an office block and the suites have moved in!

The pieces are set, and the idea of working with web standards to create rich interconnected web applications is the ‘in thing’ these days. Not convinced? Why not take a squint at what Yahoo! have been up to recently.

The whole mashup thing isn’t so much an offshoot of Rich Internet Applications, borne out of Web 2.0, but a consolidation of the philosophy. It’s a desire to make one web application play nice with all of the other luvly little web applications out there.

For me, that’s big.

It’s something that has sort of been touched upon, but only tangentially, and from the end user point of view. Yes, we have this social web thing taking off like an Arian rocket, but the concept of building sociability into web applications themselves is something slightly different.

So while people busy themselves being social with social web applications, the web applications themselves are being social, too. Now the lingua-franca is XML, the Esperanto of the web, if you like.

Talk that particular tongue, and you can talk to anyone these days.

Whither Web 3.0?

I’ve been putting myself about recently, and I’ve been feelin’ the luv over at Now Public, who have been notably receptive to my rambling, meandering prognostications crapping up their front page much of this week.

In between acts of blatant self-promotional whoring, I stumbled upon an intriguing article on Now Public – to be found in more complete form on the actual Highlight HEALTH website itself – that prompted me to say:

“As I read your article, questions popped into my head. But as I read on, you quite comprehensively answered all of them. If you don’t mind, I’ll be referencing this article in an article of my own, maybe later this week.”

Which I did, and am doing. Right now, in fact!

“Web 3.0 will bring together advanced technologies that include the semantic web and adaptive data mining, and move towards making content accessible by applications other than a web browser. Everyone will build the next layer of intelligence into the web using integrated tools for social networking, allowing for both interaction and collaboration. Web 2.0-style tagging will be formalized and expanded so that documents and other web data that now must be interpreted by humans can be read and understood by computers.”

The article is a must read, because that one article brings together all of the things I was thinking, but in a concise way, lacking the verbiage and endless digressions from the point, like you get from reading anything found here.

If you read all of the article, you’ll notice that it takes a healthcare angle, which was even more interesting, because some years ago, I read something about healthcare data management, specifically hospital records and how they need some kind of formal, standard format.

A narrative, perhaps? I’d say so. And that’s what brought my own ideas into focus.

For those not in the know, I’m currently developing a series of web applications for creative businesses. I’ve got a prototype application, but I’m currently thrashing around like an oiled-up Sumo wrestler in a kiddies paddling pool, trying to make sense of Marketing Plans, Sales Forecasts, Executive Summaries, Business Plans…

I’ll stop now, the twitch is coming back and I’m all out of medication.

While much of what’s been mentioned earlier is doable now, it’s really something that will benefit greatly from the Semantic Web, which makes possible the loose coupling of rich internet applications, mashed up together, producing refined, focused and specific groups of data that can be marshaled into a comprehensive narrative.

In the context of the healthcare industry, a narrative of the patient’s care over the years. A narrative that is threaded, linking out to other narratives, forming a network of related, interconnected groups of data.

Taking this idea out of the domain of the healthcare industry, and into perhaps insurance, finance, legal, even creative, better yet, policing, national and international security and you have a model for mining data that does so almost automatically, by virtue of the applications used to source the data in the first place.
The web is dead! Long live the web!
Moving forward, and I think a time will come when the the turn of phrase: “Going on the web” will drift out of our vocabulary. In time, you’ll just decide to find something, and you’ll do so from almost anywhere from any number of devices.

Your questions will then be interpreted contextually, depending on where you are and what your question is. And finally, the data you uncover will become your data.

I say your data because the end result of your search maybe so highly focused to your specific needs – and with more data & information being disentangled from proprietary ownership – that your results become part of your own Lifestream or Workstream.

Discoverable from anywhere at any time. There for you to manipulate, adjust, widen, refine, reshape, subtract from or even just discard.

This is the social web maturing and the high five of the API (Application Programming Interface) being joined by the square-shouldered, firm hand shake of the Enterprise, their databases, blade servers and their becubicled staff scattered hither & yonder around this global village of ours.

The end

OK, as most regular readers will be familiar with, I love my closing line. But today, I managed to come up with two, and I can’t decide which works best.

Even after talking to Carl, I’m still undecided. So, I’m going to use both!

End #1: Discovery is to the dialogue, what data is to the dollar. Didn’t you know?

End #2: Data is the new dialogue. Didn’t you know?

Talk about non-linear technology commentary, eh? Can’t beat it…

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Will everything on the web one day be free? → Tuesday, 9 October 2007 @ 5:55 BDT

[...] had our fill of Web 2.0 already! What comes after Web 2.0, damn it?! “Moving forward, and I think a time will come when the the turn of phrase: ‘Going on the [...]

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