The Web 2.0 Revolution (published in Different Strokes Youth Magazine, Delhi & TradeExpress Asia, Manila)
Posted July 23, 2007on:
Breathe deep – the air has a whiff of magic. Fantastic dreams are being dreamt and realised, and the future seems to hold untold promise. The garage entrepreneur is back, and the “idea” rules again. Yes! The Internet revolution is back! What’s more, it has a new baptizement this time around – “the Web 2.0 Revolution”.
And this time, it promises to stay, rather than being mercilessly pinpricked like the dot-com bubble of 1995-2000. The heavyweights are still around – the Yahoos, The Googles, the AOLs, the MSNs, even weightier than they used to be, having ridden the tough times, having learnt to adapt, while many of their counterparts went under. And there is a whole new breed of heavyweights – MySpace, Facebook, Digg, YouTube, Flickr, Wikipedia, SecondLife, nipping at the heels of the oldtimers.
This new wave of the revolution has also brought along with it its own set of buzzwords – “user generated content”, “Syndication”, “Blogging”, “Widgets”, “Digg”, “YouTube”, “Social Media”, “Wiki”, “Social Bookmarking”. New startups are being formed by the hordes, Venture Capitalist funds are gushing in, and there are many a garage-startup-making-it-big stories making the rounds. How about Youtube.com skyrocketing from its humble beginnings in mid 2005 to its $1.5 Billion acquisition in Oct 2006 and its more than a 100 million viewers per day today. Or how about the 27 year old Kevin Rose creating Digg.com for less than $2000 in Dec 2004 to its current valuation of more than $200 Million. Or the 21 year old Englander who sold each pixel of his milliondollarhomepage.com for 1 dollar each and became a millionaire. And the audacity of him trying to do it again!! Could becoming a millionaire get easier than that!! Makes you want to don your garage entrepreneur shoes right away and plunge into the fray!
So what is Web 2.0 and how is it different from the first dotcom wave? Taking the definition of the coiner of the term “Web 2.0”, Tim O’Reilly:-
“Web 2.0 is the business revolution in the computer industry caused by the move to the internet as platform, and an attempt to understand the rules for success on that new platform. Chief among those rules is this: Build applications that harness network effects to get better the more people use them.”
So the first thing that characterizes Web 2.0 is the death of the desktop. New applications don’t have to be loaded to the desktop to be used; they play from the browser itself. This has been enabled by greater bandwidth speeds and new approaches to application architecture.
Another major characteristic of 2.0 sites is user involvement. Me and You are now more than passive consumers of website content but are rather dynamically involved and contribute to the content and development of a site through uploading, commenting, rating, opining. The massive success of some sites has solely been based on this “user generated content”. YouTube allows any and sundry to upload their videos for a potentially global audience. Digg allows users to rate news articles from around the net, and top rated articles appear on the home page of Digg. Millions of people visit Digg to look at the most interesting news on the internet. The information in Wikipedia is not submitted by paid professionals but site visitors who contribute information on specific subjects. The success of Yahoo Answers is based on it acting as a moderator between users who ask questions and users who answer them on subjects varying from quantum physics to “How can I access the paid of version of so and so software for free??” to tips for nannies.
Social Networking is another unique aspect of Web 2.0. The success of modern sites is not dependent on traditional advertising but spread by word of mouth or “networking effects”. You tell your friends, each of whom tells his friends, and so on till the trickle of visitors to a site turns into an overwhelming torrent. For this reason many sites or softwares have social networking features built around them which allow you to create individual profiles, create friends lists, communicate with friends, upload photos and so on. These sites cash in on a basic human need to connect. Some of the most popular sites on the net are sites solely dedicated to social networking like Orkut, Hi5, MySpace (they don’t need any introduction do they?), and there are various thematic networking sites wrapped around themes like art, dating, counseling, science etc. Even sites which are not strictly social networking sites incorporate some elements of social media to varying degrees.
Yet another characteristic of Web 2.0 is the emergence of loosely coupled systems. The trend is going away from huge highly structured systems with well integrated parts and moving towards small modules which are loosely joined and communicate with each other. This explains the emergence of “widgets”, small programs having specific functionality (such as videoplayer, calender, clock, radio, games etc) which can be added to a wide array of sites which support basic standards. RSS Syndication allows sites to draw data like videos, news, and audio from across the internet. A perfect example of a loosely coupled system is a MySpace profile which has embedded videos from YouTube, a Google Reader which supplies feeds about the latest news from Iraq, a Meebo chat widget which allows you to chat to site visitors, an iTunes widget which plays songs of your choice, a Google Map widget which specifies your exact location on the globe etc. The future of an internet system will be a loose collection of application parts, content, and data from all over the net, which can be located, used, reused, fixed, and remixed.