I try to keep tirades to a minimum. But tonight I felt inspired. So for those of you that hate long posts, I apologize in advance. For those of you, however, that like to wax philosophic about the web, stick around. One caveat, do not read this as saying that Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 trends are mutually exclusive. Or, that the beginning of Web 3.0 means Web 2.0 is all out of juice. On the contrary, I believe that we have not even seen the brunt of Web 2.0. For some other perspectives, check out posts by Tim and Tim.
Much of the innovation on the web today has been loosely lumped under the term Web 2.0 – the meaning and significance of which has been hotly debated for over two years. Who remembers the debate on this now famous blog post? If you thumb through the comments you might see some familiar names (devilish smile). As if this was not enough to chew on, a new term – Web 3.0 – has recently emerged. Tim O’Reilly must be having a field day. Oh the conferences he will have….
Although these terms have helped to reignite the spirit of the web, they are not exactly effective at capturing the fundamental changes occurring in the digital world. So what exactly is going on?
Web 1.0 –> Web 2.0
[publication mechanism to platform for services]
The primary disruption associated with the DOT-COM boom, retroactively labeled Web 1.0, was the shift from traditional print publication mechanisms to the web as a pervasive publication mechanism. The Web 2.0 is the next step in this progression. Specifically, it is the transformation of the web from a publication mechanism into a platform for decoupled online services. Data and applications are quickly being atomized into reusable components that can be mixed and match to create new services. There is a shift from unstructured data (HTML) to structured data (web services/RSS/microformats).
Developers are experiencing this change via the increased proliferation of web services in formats such as RSS, REST, and XML-RPC. Developers are not the only ones benefiting from this change, however. Just as developers can mix and match web services to create new types of applications, tools are emerging for non-technical users to customize their web experiences – Widgets.
If you are a widget dork, skip this paragraph…
Widgets are mini-applications that encapsulate web services via graphical components such as slideshows, videos, games, and more. Want your blog readers to know about the stocks you are watching? Grab a Yahoo Finance Badge. Want your friends on MySpace to know what the tour schedule is for your favorite band? Grab a ReverbNation Tour Map Widget. Widgets are the web ala carte. And these little apps are being used to build increasingly customized experiences on StartPages, Social Networks, Blogs and other online content aggregation platforms. And – as it happens – these platforms are embracing this change with open arms. Typepad and Blogger have opened up their sidebar to Widget Developers. Tagworld introduced a Widget gallery. And the list goes on and on…
Web 2.0 –> Web 3.0
[Atomic services to integrated experience]
So the theme of Web 2.0 is atomization. If Web 2.0 is about atomization, then Web 3.0 will be all about integrated experiences in a world of atomic content and services. As the web continues to become disaggregated, there will be a burgeoning demand for tools that can help users effectively leverage these “information atoms,” together in a meaningful manner. Not only will there be a need for tools that help users aggregate widgets, but also tools that enable widgets to work together. Imagine a world where there are as many widgets as there are web pages. Won’t it suck royally if they don’t work together?
Tools like Netvibes, Pageflakes, and Uber represent the next generation of content aggregation platforms. Marc Canter has dubbed these tools as Digital Lifestyle Aggregators, or DLAs. DLAs will enable users to manage their content and services across platforms (desktop, web, mobile) and even across social networks. But what about inter-widget communication? Isn’t that part of that whole Semantic Web nonsense? Isn’t that impossible? Nope.
It Begins (again)…
You all might have noticed the recent buzz around Yahoo’s new product, Pipes. Some folks even emailed me and asked me why I did not post about it. Well, I am getting to it!! 🙂 Anyway, this new product is the first step towards the Holy Grail of programming – enabling non-programmers to program. According to Yahoo:
Pipes is a hosted service that lets you remix feeds and create new data mashups in a visual programming environment. The name of the service pays tribute to Unix pipes, which let programmers do astonishingly clever things by making it easy to chain simple utilities together on the command line.
Now, let’s be serious. Pipes is not for mom and dad. That being said, it is a great first step. And, as always, there are others that are hard at work on similar projects. YubNub has embraced the whole notion of piped web services with their command line utility for a long time. Netvibes is quietly developing what they dub the “Universal API for Widgets.” Dapper, the data mapper, enables users to scrape HTTP web services to create new services. And let’s not forget Teqlo quietly creating an alpha version of a graphical web service integration tool. I could go on, and on…but you are all smart cookies.
Sufficed to say it looks like we have just seen the beginning. How silly do those foolish people that dismissed Web 2.0 feel now?
Enough insomnia-driven, future-casting, rabble rousing, blabbering for this geek. Later web-slingers.