Saturday, December 31, 2005

wondering: what the &*$! is Web 2.0?

I've been through my share of meme-shifts. When I was at Sybase we had our uncarriages in a twist over the "Object-Oriented Database" thang. Anyone of a certain age remembers the CASE tool fad. And who doesn't get a little frisson of angst when they look back on the gold-rush that took place around Pointcast and the first version of Marimba?

So it is with a certain sense of deja vu that I find myself reading more and more about something called "Web 2.0", which I shall arbitrarily abbreviate "W2", for it is New Years Eve and I am lazy.

The canonical source of truth describes W2 as:
". . . a term often applied to a perceived ongoing transition of the World Wide Web from a collection of websites to a full-fledged computing platform serving web applications to end users. Ultimately Web 2.0 services are expected to replace desktop computing applications for many purposes."
Well gosh, this is a mighty ambitious thing, this W2. As we've seen before, there's no sense of doing something if you don't do it big. But this time, le meme du jour is accompanied by some pervasive facts that are visible to the washed and unwashed alike.

We can see newspaper circulation numbers plummeting faster than a paralzyed albatross. We can read unedited, unexpurgated and unverified "news" at any hour of the day from armies of bloggers, yours truly included. And we can experience the dizzying growth of cheap, easily accessible broadband combined with cheap gigahertz-class computers and utterly ubiquitous mobile telephony.

However you elect to mix these things together, they describe a fundamental shift in the "content computing platform". We've gone from mainframe to midrange to desktop to network "computing". The trick is, we're in the transition phase between desktop and network computing, waiting for the core enabling technologies to reach the tipping point.

We may have RSS "mashups" and AJAX and Google Earth extensions, but we're not using web services as substitutes for "regular" applications. Yet. We're not leveraging unused MIPS in our "neighborhood group" as a sell-back utility to corporations. Yet. We're not seeing a rich-media RSS experience that spans desktop/mobile/palmtop.

(Sing with me)


From where I'm sitting, the software that gets developed to exploit and extend this platform seems to be in its infancy, lolling in the cradle with wide eyes and moist diapers.

It is going to be a fun year for professional software marketing guys, because as the meme shifts from emergent to urgent, we're the ones who are going to wrap it, position it, package it and sell it. We're going to take it from something that makes sense to the few and transform it into something that makes sense to everyone. Whether we do it for commercial providers or shared/open-source cabals, the skill set of folks who sit on the narrow divide between engineering and sales is going to be in high demand. Software braintrusts build the bullets, sales shoots them, but we aim.

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