42 things about Web 2.0 in 2008, part 3 of 3


Introduction to Part 3

Web 2.0 Delving into the world of Web 2.0 we have discovered Web 2.0 incorporates a number ideas and concepts including social activities, information re-use, interoperability, remixability, accessibility, usability, innovation and trust which were explored in Part 1 whilst we started to explore technologies and applications in Part 2. This section continues our exploration and attempts to put what we have learned so far into an application context and try and obtain an idea of what the future holds for Web 2.0.

29. Interoperability

With so many different systems, languages, and platforms it can be extremely problematic getting systems to talk to each other. Fortunately, web services combined with the notion of information reuse and remixability allows for a high degree of interoperability between systems and their data. Applications can expose interfaces to allow other applications to utilise their functionality and work together to build a larger application. To attain interoperability, data needs to be highly portable, consistent and standardised and applications need to provide consistent and standard communications interfaces (fortunately XML and JSON can help). We must also remember the standardised protocols providing the glue between applications and data.

30. Accessibility

The notion of accessibility is to provide easy information access to the broadest range of users possible. Accessibility is sometimes confused with usability but accessibility occurs at a much earlier point in the consideration of usability. If a button cannot be clicked upon or a hyperlink cannot be accessed or an alternative to an image is not shown the application will not be used for the purpose under which it is intended.

31. Design

Everyone can design web sites; ask anyone and they can probably “rustle one up in half an hour”. We’ve all heard it and it’s probably true to a degree but there is a big difference in producing a site on the web and producing a web site. When starting out with a web design more consideration needs to be placed at the back end and connecting up the pieces, consideration also needs to be given to how the information will be managed and metric reporting. Think about the information and how it may be used, re-used and re-mixed. Consider who may be accessing the information and how and why they may use it.

32. Intelligence

Have you found the needle in the haystack? Or do you have trouble finding the right rainbow to dig under? Finding the right information is more about intelligent data than ever before. Optimisation, ranking, and public opinion all play a part but behind it all needs a good system to organise the network of information providers and the information they hold. XML, JSON and other standards provide ways of standardising data formats. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a commonly misunderstood service that at its heart aims to provide a way of organising information to make it more search engine friendly. Remixability allows data to be used more sensibly and design and accessibility provide ways of presenting information consistently and with flexibility.

33. Affiliation

With so much choice on the Internet reputation plays an important part in gaining visitors and affiliation can help to build a reputation and make a web-site stand out. Affiliating with peer sites can help build reputation and is an important part of how search engines and other ranking agents such as Technorati work.

34. Uniqueness

Sites used to try and be all-encompassing and cater for all needs, tastes and interests. Web 2.0 allows smaller sites to prevail and the information from these can be combined into a larger co-operative to provide a detailed body of knowledge. Niche is where the pioneers are at. Why try and develop a generic web site that competes with everyone else, why not instead bring the focus down and become an expert in something in particular.

35. Online and Thin Applications

It seems everybody is jumping on the online applications bandwagon. Google are doing it, Adobe are having a go, even Microsoft have got round to doing it, and the Open Source community have been doing it for ages. Users are no longer tied to the desk and have little need to carry information around in paper form or on electronic media. Work can be carried out anytime anyplace – find a quiet spot with a network connection and you can work. Here-in lies that catch with online applications – they require a network connection. Cached or Offline equivalents will be required until such time as an Internet connection can be made permanent.

36. Usability

Freeing data from visual design makes the information potentially more usable. However, careful consideration needs to be placed on the importance of good usable design under Web 2.0. As any emerging technology it does not come out fully fledged and takes time to develop. Usability is not just design, nor is it accessibility – Usability is information that is useful, convenient and capable of being used (and re-used). Usability allows for remixability and not just the data itself but the navigation and meta-information attached to it. Information is a tool and all good tools need to be easy to use for their intended purpose. If the tool makes it more difficult then it affects usability.

37. Legal Implications and Licensing

What is said on the Internet will pervade for a very long time. Your views and opinions may change over time but things you have typed will stay indefinitely. Also, what is acceptable under the laws of the country where you live may not be acceptable else where. The Internet levels the playing field in many things but law still has a lot of catching up to do. As systems are becoming more open the data itself is becoming an important traded commodity. Obtaining information requires an increasing number of licensing agreements, as information is often copyrighted, and in order to meet these licensing agreements more information needs to be collected.

38. Advertising

Imagine if no one made any money producing data – would the data stop flowing? Probably not, but the web is an ideal place to provide dynamic advertising to a vast audience. This is great news for the advertiser as advertising can be tailored based on individual habits and preferences. This can also be good news for the information provider as it can help fund further site developments, newer articles and research methods, together with contributing to hosting fees. Social networks, Viral (word-of-mouth) Marketing, embedded Ads and Banners are all means of getting the word (and pictures) out – this itself has led to the development of an increasing number of web services and metrics including the measurement of click through rates, bounce rates, pay per click, search engine optimisation and ranking services.

The Future

39. Business Culture, Economy and the Long Tail

The juggernaut of big business is slowly changing its way of thinking – openness doesn’t come easy and information is still a vital asset for many businesses. Small businesses do their utmost to appear as large businesses and large businesses do their utmost to appear small and friendly. Fortunately, thanks to the Internet they can meet in the middle and companies embrace customers more by making use of online tools such as blogging. Viral Marketing, the Internet equivalent of word of mouth, and the long tail (providing a broader range of products to smaller focused audience) are opening new avenues for commerce.

40 Rich Internet Applications (RIA)

The Internet experience constantly evolves. First we had linked text documents. Next we added a few images here and there. Not long after, along came Flash, followed by audio and video, and other multi-media services. Add onto that a great deal of interaction and we start to see the rise of the rich Internet application. AJAX is further enabling HTML documents but rich Internet applications are the technology leading to the viability of online applications as the distinction between browser applications and desktop applications becomes even more blurred.

41.  Fast Internet

Video streaming, pod-casting and TV on demand would all struggle with poor Internet bandwidth. Faster and more consistent and reliable speeds are required to allow this content into a viable reliable platform. BT is working hard on delivering the 21CN and others are regularly increasing broadband speeds. SDSL is around the corner but the big hurdle is the Last Mile which will need addressing by the roll out the fibre, unless of course the wireless brigade get their act together and finally agree a universal common wireless standard.

42. Web 3.0

Things are constantly changing so whilst we are getting to grips with Web 2.0, what it means and how to do it others are already working on Web 3.0. Will Web 3.0 finally herald the dawn of the semantic web and the Internet as a platform? Perhaps Web 3.0 may even see the Web evolve into an Operating System?


Whilst Web 2.0 is many things to many people, hopefully in this series of articles we have identified some of the more measurable values of Web 2.0 together with gaining an understanding of where Web 2.0 is at in 2008. Certainly, the Internet is a very different place than it was ten (perhaps even five) years ago. The Web 2.0 phenomenon draws parallels similar to those of the home computing explosion of the early 1980’s where everyone could be a developer and bedroom programmers could find their fortunes. However we must always remember who the customer is – never compromise the customer and don’t just chase hits – work on the content.

One of the key drivers for Web 2.0 has been sites opening up their systems using application programming interfaces (API) so anyone can develop or extend web based applications. One thing for sure is that the Internet has evolved from an information system into a communication system and is now heading towards being a processing platform. The Internet is likely to usurp the desktop operating system in our anywhere anytime world but for this to become a reality improvements need to be made (and are being made) to the local speed of the Internet, the end-to-end reliability of information delivery, Quality of Service, information intelligence and a more open communication architecture. Online applications need to operate in offline capacities and we need to bridge the accessibility gap to really make a platform for all.

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For a little light relief try Monk and his I.T. Junk – an online technology cartoon

Further Reading

Links to other sites talking about aspects of Web 2.0

Technorati Tags: web 2.0, 42, things, 2.0

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Jason Slater

Jason Slater is a technology blogger and the editor of jasonslater.com.

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