What I think about web 2.0 (if anyone cares)

O'Reilly Network: What Is Web 2.0:

"The question is particularly urgent because the Web 2.0 meme has become so widespread that companies are now pasting it on as a marketing buzzword, with no real understanding of just what it means. The question is particularly difficult because many of those buzzword-addicted startups are definitely not Web 2.0, while some of the applications we identified as Web 2.0, like Napster and BitTorrent, are not even properly web applications."
The next time a company claims that it's "Web 2.0," test their features against the list above. The more points they score, the more they are worthy of the name. Remember, though, that excellence in one area may be more telling than some small steps in all seven.

Even after reading the article, I still do not get what web 2.0 is exactly but the article does tell of what it should/ would be. In fact the article also does not strive to define what web 2.0 is, only giving examples to contrast what is known as the older web 1.0 and what is now considered to be web 2.0 stuff. Maybe web 2.0 is nothing more than a hodgepodge of technology all loosely linked together. In fact, it is the loose ability to be interconnected that makes web 2.0 so powerful (and prone to abuse). The ability to harness everything else around and shape it as you please, if you have the skills for it (this is what the article means when it says "Users add value"). In short, I think it is the ability to manipulate and interact with different information from across the web. By manipulate, I mean do something to it (filter only the things I want, display it in a certain way) and by interact I mean adding my own thoughts about the information. I hope the last two sentences managed to avoid using too many buzzwords.

Of course, in case you have not noticed, web 2.0 also brings with it a whole new myriad of distractions! Don't believe me? Go to a site like digg.com or even 43things.com. Look at the amount of information flowing there with all the user ratings, comments, user pictures, etc. There is a lot of information on one page. Some of the comments are long enough to be considered web articles. It makes you wonder how this people get the time to write all that. And if that were not enough, digg's contents refreshes almost every hour.

Besides distractions, web 2.0 also brings with it a whole sleuth of personal information issues. There are now so many nifty sites out there that require you to register to get special custom commands. Want to rate a comment of provide feedback on the aforementioned digg.com? Register first. Want to add to your own list of things to accomplish at 43things.com? Register first. And within your user profile, you can even include links to your web blog or flickr account. And now everyone gets to see what you write about and what pictures you have. Consider what happens once the hype about a particular site has died down. You stop visiting it. But you will probably forget to remove your information from the site. And thus your public information is still available there. Ever thought of that possibility?

What about information overload? We are talking about tons and tons of links from one page to the other. From digg.com you can easily click a link to post the current topic to your web blog. This is really nifty and all. But try clicking on some of those blogs. Some of them do provide better insight into the issue at hand. But most of them are just echoing the contents of the topic verbatim on their web blog. Why? If they just want to show that they have stumbled across this topic or want to remember this topic, there is a better way to do this: bookmarks! Or, the uber-cool thing now is to use del.icio.us. Or, even better, go ahead and tag this with 10 over tags. Yup, 9 out of which you will probably never ever remember.

Since we are on the topic of tags, what is the big deal with tags actually? Do they actually help you find information that you need quickly? I have been using them and found them to be really ineffective compared to a simple text based search. For me, tags are more of a way for people to explore things. Consider a tag for "fish" at flickr. There are so many things that can be tagged as fish. Would you really want to go through all of them? Try it. At this moment, searching for "fish" has returned over 42373 pictures. And how many of them are actually about angel fish. In a way, tags force you to guess the keyword that you or someone else used.

Even as I write this, I know that there is probably something better that I should be doing instead of going on and on about web 2.0. But fortunately for me, I do enjoy writing and reading what I wrote, so with web 2.0 or not, I will still continue writing.

So I am not against web 2.0 or anything. Although I feel that in its inchoate state, there is a lot of possibility for misuse. Some of these things might sound cool now but many of those who embrace these technologies now are just there for the sake of sounding cool. Once the hype dies down, most people will just forget all about it. Remember the personal home page craze a few years back? Boy, I was really into it. Even set up a personal home page with pretty much nothing interesting on it. I was updating it so frequently almost everyday and checking the web stats. But after a few months, the whole thing just died down since there was practically nothing else to talk about myself there. No doubt, web blogs offer more opportunity for content since you do not have to talk about yourself anymore. Instead, now you get to talk about other things that, for all practical purposes, do not concern you.

By the way, my short excursion into personal home pages did teach me a few important lessons: how to use HTML, javascript, DHTML and flash. So, it was not all that bad for me.

Blake Ross, founder of the Firefox project, recently come here to UIUC for the annual ACM Reflections conference. And in his presentation, he made this very cogent point: not everyone cares about RSS feed and all that fun stuff. People like us who bother reading blogs, subscribing to RSS feeds and are poised to pounce on the latest internet buzzword are actually just a small niche of the users out there. Only recently have most people come to appreciate the web, Google and e-mail. It will probably take them about a decade to come to the level of web 2.0. And by that time, web 3.0 would have surely surfaced.

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