One of the most interesting characteristics of the Web is that it doesn’t version. The Web is a bona-fide computing ecosystem, and is along with email, one of the killer applications of another system, the Internet, itself designed for high-survivability and to deal with massive physical infrastructure damage (it’s literally nuke-proof). The Web evolves as does the Internet it runs on. Versioning for the Web makes no sense whatsoever.
The reason that the term ‘Web 2.0’ has been bandied about so much since Dale Dougherty came up with it a year and a half ago in a conference planning session (leading to our Web 2.0 Conference) is because it does capture the widespread sense that there’s something qualitatively different about today’s web.
Web 2.0 is the Web for Mr. Safe and his management team. This helps bring shrinkwrap software, advertiser, broadcast and publish media people bringing to the Web, as it actually is, with enough of their old concepts out of their comfort zone. It does however choose to frame the Web in terms of the old models. Given the history of what hapens when old ideas knock up against the Web, it’s arguably risky then, for Mr Safe and his team to actually believe it fully. Sometimes you have to take a phenomenom on its own terms rather than it terms of your existing paradigm . Most recently to see what happens when the old ways don’t carry over, take at look at the IT industry’s Web Services efforts.
Anyone that thinks that the Web is something that evolves according to a release cycle fundamentally doesn’t understand it. If you could version the Web it wouldn’t work properly – support for versioning would be a bug. I think this is why Tim Bray doesn’t like Web 2.0, which is where this recent conversation began:
It’s not only vacuous marketing hype, it can’t possibly be right.
It’s a broken memeof sorts, perhaps one only a dinosaur could enjoy. Other developers like Dare Obasanjo are working through their transition from the Web as place to run a websites to the Web as a place to run platforms. Here’s Obasanjo responding to Tim O’Reilly’s take on Web 2.0:
Reading stuff like Tim O’Reilly’s just leaves me scratching my head. I completely grok the simple concept that folks like me at MSN are no longer just in the business of building web sites, we are building web platforms. Our users are no longer just people interacting with our web sites via Firefox or IE.
But even that idea – web platforms – seems dysfunctional. In the software industry a platform is a chunk of software infrastructure other people innovate on. It’s the closest the industry has ever had to a toll-booth. You build it and they will come, and pay to drive over it – how cool is that? Unfortunately, ‘web platforms’ are based on the collective hallucination that the Web ofers a viable means to support such API based architectural franchises. That being something of a cargo cult suggests it’s unlikely to work. Future franchises will be built around access to data not access to software. As with versioning, if the Web were an operating system or a platform, we’d need to file a bug report against it. Heck, it’s turtles all the way down – being able to file a bug report would be a bug.
Here’s my take on it: Web 2.0 is an attitude not a technology. It’s about enabling and encouraging participation through open applications and services. By open I mean technically open with appropriate APIs but also, more importantly, socially open, with rights granted to use the content in new and exciting contexts.
So it seems while the term Web 2.0 might miss the mark for technical types, it has broader value. Here’s Stephen O’Grady’s take on it (from the comments):
Web 2.0 is similar to that of Ajax. in and of itself it’s probably inaccurate, non-descriptive and misses the point. And yet, I’m favor of it. why? For two reasons: 1.) it’s propagated widely enough to have some widespread recognition, and 2.) it neatly packages everything up for the non-digerati who, after all, is the majority of the population.
What’s interesting in all this, is that while the toolsets and technologies are surely getting better, core Web architecture isn’t changing that much. What’s happening is that people’s ability to innovate is improving and that seems to come about by accepting Web thinking as much as any recent improvement in the toolchain. In short, instead of trying to make the Web a good place for your business or technology to function, adapt your business or technology to function well on the Web.