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Is Web 2.0 How Integrations Move Forward?

  Article published in DM Direct Newsletter
January 5, 2007 Issue
  By Curt Finch

One of the original leaders of the open source movement, Tim O'Reilly, kicked off a firestorm earlier this year by sending a cease and desist letter over the use of the term "Web 2.0." His technical conference is trademarked by that name. He later withdrew his complaint. Having open source gurus involved in disputing trademarks is of course ironic, but in this case it is particularly so because Web 2.0 is all about openness, flexibility and freeness. What is Web 2.0, why are people excited about it and why should you care?

Reasonable people disagree about what Web 2.0 means. Let's clear that up. Web 2.0 refers to the propensity of recent Internet applications to be more collaborative and provide for a richer user experience. Web 1.0 was a Web site that looked like a brochure or a resume. Web 2.0 is a blog. Web 1.0 was your newspaper's classified ads, webified. Web 2.0 is eBay or craigslist. Web 1.0 was Netscape (i.e., here's some software). Web 2.0 is Google (there's nothing to install, but it's powerful).

Web 2.0 is about harnessing collective intelligence and eliminating the software release cycle. It's about providing services, not products. Much of the agile software development mindset is rolled up into the phrase. It's about trusting users as co-developers of content or even of technology. As an example, Amazon does this with its user review system.

Those Cynical Europeans (They're Probably Right)

A more cynical definition of Web 2.0, found in the blogosphere in Europe (where they tend to be more conservative about technology) is "Bubble 2.0." What they mean by this is that some marketers have gone off the deep end applying this term to anything. And they're right. Europeans are always right (just ask them).

Bubble 1.0 burst in March of 2000 when the NASDAQ reached 5,000 points (it's 2,200 today). Some software as a service (SaaS)-oriented companies such as Salesforce, Journyx and Google, emerged successfully from that bubble, and some did not. Bubble 2.0 will probably be smaller but will have some winners and losers, too. YouTube - a video blogging site - is an obvious recent big winner, with a billion-dollar-plus buyout by Google. This happened just as venture capitalists were starting to sour on the Web 2.0 concept. http://del.icio.us is a social bookmarking site that has taken off. Clipmarks is similar.

Web 2.0 includes a social dimension, greater openness and transparency in process. It includes the use of new technologies, such as Really Simple Syndication (RSS), Web Service Definition Language (WSDL) and eXtensible Markup Language (XML). It has a more open style and a "keep it simple" approach. Many of these attributes go hand in hand. For example, open source technologies tend to be simple, transparent and lightweight. It's more of an attitude than a specific architectural protocol. Web 2.0 has:

  • New technologies for data and content integration, like XML, Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP), WSDL and RSS.
  • Collaboration and content repurposing, like Sourceforge.net or Youtube.com.
  • Different business models with longer tails, such as Google Adwords as opposed to DoubleClick.

Wikipedia is the canonical example of a Web 2.0 application. A mashup is a Web application that combines content from more than one source. Trakzor is a Myspace mashup that combines Google maps with Myspace visitor data to produce detailed information about visitors to your Myspace page (if you're young enough to have one). "On demand" offerings from companies such as Journyx and Salesforce.com fit into the new paradigm, as well. Salesforce's AppExchange site is probably the best example of a business-centric Web 2.0 system currently available. It is designed to some degree to encourage mashups to happen - although the enormous sign-up fees are very un-Web 2.0-ish. With Web 2.0, groups of users within companies control their own destinies by shared administration responsibilities more than was the case in previous software models.

New Technologies for Integration

Web-oriented architectures based on XML, SOAP and WSDL make mashups possible. Rememberthemilk.com is a Web site that combines Google mapping technology with your personal task list, allowing you to see on the map where your tasks are located in the real world. You can see what's nearby or on your way, and plan the best way to get things done. IBM's answer to XML is Representational State Transfer (REST), which exposes elements of an application via the SaaS model. Journyx Timesheet's WSDL API enables similar mashups to occur with its SaaS site. Salesforce.com's AppExchange push is based on the mashup concept and heavily dependent on XML as the application programming interface (API) mechanism. IBM is another vendor that is shifting its innovation strategies toward enabling a broader web environment as opposed to just adding new features to existing applications such as IBM's Lotus Notes middleware tool. To this end, they're working on technologies like dogear and Feedme (an RSS-based improvement to the old IBM Tivoli Enterprise Console product). Technologies that allow a richer user experience in the browser as is displayed in Google Mail and Maps are also considered to be part of the Web 2.0 movement. IBM's service-oriented architecture (SOA) initiative takes this to a new level - but that's another article.


Youtube (video sharing), Digg (IT news voting) and Wikipedia (way better than britannica.com) exemplify the community aspect of Web 2.0 thinking. The content comes from users, not authorities, and it's amazingly high quality.

One of the greatest communities on the Internet is Sourceforge.net where Python, Perl, Apache, PostgreSQL and thousands of other great technologies were developed. The company that owns this site, Va Software, realized that the collaborative project-oriented atmosphere created on Sourceforge.net would also be useful for large IT shops like those at FedEx if they added some security features and issue tracking. Sourceforge Enterprise was born, which allows companies to securely pull external software developers into their development process - whether they're from partners, customers or the public at large. For an example of how Web 2.0 is impacting governments, compare sites like DavisWiki.org to a traditional city Web site.

Older firms, like eBay or Amazon, are arguably successful precisely because of the more collaborative nature of their Web sites. Amazon lets you vote on books and then vote on other peoples' votes. eBay has buyer and seller rankings based on feedback. Content is king in both cases. In fact, Amazon lets publishers (even small ones) include content relevant to their book in the listing for the book. The ownership of this information becomes questionable once uploaded. See how Amazon wins?

New Business Models

Web 2.0 focuses on the fundamental shift in how businesses are delivering value. Third parties are empowered and consumers can become content producers or repurposers of content in new and fascinating ways. Napster is moving to a model where its two million monthly visitors will provide advertising revenue in addition to revenue from buying music. Two new tools are available with its free music service.

  • Narchive is a new tool that allows a user to create a "Wikipedia" of his favorite music and related information.
  • Napster users will be able to share songs with friends via email, blogs or Myspace pages.

New business models based on advertising, subscription, usage or revenue sharing will crop up that will feel very different than traditional technology licensing. Web 2.0 is a shift - a shift away from closed, inflexible, proprietary models to a more collaborative, participatory, open model for content. It's a shift toward a world where we are all authors, videographers, programmers and contributors. Companies that enable these sorts of integrations will win, and those that don't will lose. It's as simple as that.

Change is accelerating. To win you have to get out in front of the change. Web 2.0 is at the front of that wave right now.



For more information on related topics visit the following related portals...
Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA), Web Services and XML.

Curt Finch is the CEO of Journyx in Austin, Texas. Journyx provides patented time and project accounting solutions that guide customers to per-person, per-project profitability. Customers include American Airlines, Bayer, Symantec, AC Nielsen and many others. In 1997, Finch created the world's first Internet-based timesheet application - the foundation for the current Journyx product offering. For more information, go to the Web site, http://pr.journyx.com.


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