Blogger: Richard Monson-Haefel
Like it or not, there’s something to this meme called “Web 2.0”. There is a pattern, a design, an architecture that certain web application have in common that set them apart from the rest of the web. In my last blog entry I pointed out that the very heart of “Web 2.0” is “an Architecture of Participation based on the World Wide Web”.
This blog is important to our service in that it’s a sounding ground for ideas and as such it draws as much criticism and praise from outside the company as within. One of the major criticisms that I heard (through private e-mail) was complaints about the name “Web 2.0”. Seems that that label really bothers some people – I’m not sure why. But the point isn’t the name, it’s the paradigm, or more precisely the question of weather there is a new paradigm.
I was initially very critical of the meme “Web 2.0”. In fact, I made fun of it myself when I first heard it. However, my research of the World Wide Web required that I investigate the meme and form an opinion based on analysis rather than gut reaction. After more than three weeks I’ve come to the conclusion – having read a great deal of positive, negative, and neutral opinions and theorizing on the subject – that call it what you will, a new paradigm built on “an Architecture of Participation based on the World Wide Web” - has been discovered. Notice I say discovered, rather than created. That is the nature of patterns and paradigms: we tend to discover them. Paradigms are rarely “created” out the blue, but evolve from new thinking.
So let’s say that Web 2.0 - or the Participatory Web or the Interactive Web or whatever – is a newly discovered way of architecting web applications. Is it so horrible that people want to identify, categorize and name it? Who cares what we call it: it exists and “Web 2.0” is as good as any other name.
So does the fact that a new web application paradigm has been discovered mean that the old way of doing the web goes away? No. In fact, paradigms of the web coexist and are employed in parallel of the Web. When people started floating in boats did we give up walking? When wheels were invented giving rise to carts, chariots, and bicycles did we stop walking or floating in boats? No. New paradigms in transportation are discovered throughout history (walking, floating, riding, driving, flying) but old paradigms continue to exist. This is also true of the Web.
If you look at the World Wide Web today there appears to be at least three different paradigms which exist in parallel. Web 1.0 which is commonly associated with static web content. Web 1.5 which is commonly associated with dynamic generation of HTML, and Web 2.0 which is based on an architecture of participation. In a report I wrote that is due out soon I call these the Static, Dynamic and Interactive Webs – but again these are only labels for patterns that exist in parallel. The point is if you don’t like the name Web 2.0, than get over it. You probably didn’t like the term Ajax either, but you survived. Besides, the term has already hit mainstream so you might as well use it.
What’s important is that a new way of doing things; a new paradigm for the web has been identified and we should understand it. As Donna Bogatin points out frequently, there isn’t a clear path to riches with Web 2.0. It may be a long time before anyone makes good money with the concept, but that doesn’t lesson its importance. It’s a game changer just as open source software, another Architecture of Participation, is a game changer. No one knew how to make money with open source either – they still don’t have a very good model in my mind – but no one doubts its importance. Web 2.0 is going to change things, so get over the name and try to understand its essence.