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Sir Tim Berners-Lee calls for Web 2.0 calm

At last! Some sense & reason seems to have been brought to all of the nonsense, obfuscation and misinformation around Web 2.0, and not before time, either:

“Tim Berners-Lee, the individual credited with inventing the web and giving so many of us jobs, has become the most prominent individual so-far to point out that the Web 2.0 emperor is naked. Berners-Lee has dismissed Web 2.0 as useless jargon nobody can explain and a set of technology that tries to achieve exactly the same thing as “Web 1.0.”

According to this transcript, Berners-Lee was reacting to an IBM developerWorks pod cast interviewer who’d categorized Web 1.0 as connected computers and making information available, and Web 2.0 as connecting people and facilitating new kinds of collaboration. Those who remember the empowering effects of Netscape and the moment email became more than just borrowing your mate’s CompuServe account at work will also recognize such blanket assertions of historical revisionism for what they are.”

I’ve had several conversations before now with people, so-called Technorati, who would have everyone & anyone believe that there is any such distinction between what we have now and what we had before.

Clearly, standards move on, new ideas come along which make use of those ideas, but the functional mechanisms are essentially the same now as they were then. But, as buzz words go, Web 2.0 refuses to go quietly:

“Web 2.0 relies on technologies that have been around for years. Berners-Lee pointed out the things that drove Web 1.0 also underpin Web 2.0 – the document object mode, HTML, http, SVG, web standards and – because he’s old school “Java script of course.” Free Software Foundation chief legal counsel Eben Moglen recently concurred at this month’s LinuxWorld, saying Web 2.0 owes its existence to software and development methodologies already established in open source.

“The phenomena of the empty buzzword called Web 2.0 can only exist because of the real layer for free and open source software underneath,” Moglen said, letting the Web 2.0 crowd down gently.”

While being both argumentative and succinct, but essentially correct, Web 2.0 is in essense the desire to bring desktop application nomenclature and functionality to the browser.

So to facilitate this, one technology is destined to rule them all, that being JavaScript, otherwise know by the sobriquet AJAX (no, not the powder detergent cleaner, it’s yet another accronym!), which is given a shot of steroids and we’re given a course of anti-depressants.

The problem here is, because JavaScript .. sorry! AJAX (which is itself a collection of various technologies. Still with me?) is being used so heavily — doing more involving and rich interactive stuff — we’re inheriting the baggage associated with JavaScript; that being instability, browser incompatibilities, problems with backwards compatibility, security issues and the generally unfriendly attitude towards search engines.

Clearly, there is more to the Web 2.0 idea, but that’s another problem: hardly anyone has a definative idea of what the overarching concept is!

In addition to adding richness to web-based applications, it’s also a conceptual way of thinking, which is sort of summerised by that other buzz word: mashup.

Put simply, a mashup is a service that combines various other, disparate services, such as how Flagr makes extensive use of Google Maps, or how ‘blogging & Wiki services and RSS feeds are tied into Last.fm.

I’m all for new ways of doing stuff and new ways of thinking, but for goodness sake, someone keep the marketing people out of the design studio…

By Wayne Smallman

Wayne is the man behind the Blah, Blah! Technology website, and the creator of the Under Cloud, a digital research assistant for journalists and academics.

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