Is Web 2.0 dead, for real?
December 27, 2005 at 12:12 PM
While several people are just beginning to understand what "Web 2.0" is, others who have been working within the realm of it are now beginning to say it's dead. Thomas Vander Wal has a great post entitled Web 2.0 Dead? explaining this in more detail in response to Richard MacManus's post Web 2.0 is dead. R.I.P.. Of course Richard wasn't the first person to say such a thing. Back in October Jay Fineberg was already leaning that way in his post The era of web 2.Over. My short take on Thomas's post is that O'Reilly has turned "Web 2.0" into a rather meaningless buzzword due to over-hype. As a business you don't get to decide, the community does for you.
I am not so sure it was O'Reilly that made a mess of the Web 2.0 term as they were the one's that coined the term, but it took them more than a year to define it. O'Reilly created it as an umbrella term to cover many things that were converging and making web use different than it had been in the past for the general web user. Others seem to have flipped the term to try and make it specific. This created confusion around the term and eventually turned into silly wars around what is Web 2.0 as technologies or a checklist. I think O'Reilly will be quite successful with its Web 2.0 conferences in the future as they are a celebration of what is emerging on the web today as successful products.
I guess I have issues with what we at Blue Flavor call "solutioneering" or another way to put it is putting the solution before the problem. There are a lot of people out there advocating throwing Web 2.0 type solutions (again, misuse of the term) into web sites that either don't need them or their users never indicated that they wanted them or could make use of them.
Bing, bing, Nick hits it on the nose as the year ends. In a Fast Company article this past year it was stated, "show me the canyon". Don't throw solutions at problems that you don't understand or may not even be there. My biggest problem with Web 2.0 is not the solutions, or more appropriately the confluence of solutions, given the right problems to solve, but it is the horrid misuse of the term at nearly every turn. The term is an umbrella term that means a lot, but also very little. The things sitting underneath that umbrella need to be called out and talked about properly, part of which is the user's browsers are now closer to standards compliance (this makes building the sites and applications easier, still far from ease of building them as many site prove their developers so not have the understanding at the time they built their solutions (or at least in commercial, non-profit, and government space). The user's processors are better so that they can actually process what is needed in the browser (remember the late-90s building a killer solutions on your top-end developer machine only to have it utter kill most of your actual user's machines, that is now happening much less). Lastly the people using the web has risen to the level of understanding of what they can expect out of web browsers and we can push the envelope ever so slightly more than before. People are also more trusting of the web and web systems. They are more trusting of social interaction on the web. This has moved closer to mainstream, or the younger generations are a large enough part of the populace to make a difference as well as teach their parents. Much of what is happened is not so much about the rich interface technologies, as none of them are really new (some just have new better to remember names, which was sorely needed). There is great change. Unfortunately, most of what we learned in the 90s has not been grasped by many designing and developing, so we have to dig out the same lessons learned from them and teach them all over again. But, the putting value in for the person interacting with the system is missed far to often, value is often thrust toward the technology over value for the person using. I knew things were bad when I started hearing product managers say, "I want to drag and drop the hell of of this product" and "I want this to be the richest interface on the web". How did these people get hired or not stay fired after the last go around. It is not about cool and wiz-bang it is about useful, usable, and valuable to the person wanting or needing the product.
I agree about calling out the things under the Web 2.0 umbrella, especially standards compliance. Umm.. I guess now would be a bad time to tell you that you have an open paren you forgot to close in perhaps double nested parens, Thomas. ;) Anyway, I agree, form ever follows function.