by Judith Hurwitz
Web 2.0 has emerged as the hottest property in the IT world these days. Especially if one judges heat by the amount of money being used to fund startups. Money is indeed pouring into companies categorizing themselves as Web 2.0 vendors. There have even been suggestions that Web 2.0 is the successor to the nascent SOA market. You might note some cynicism in my tone. Perhaps since I lived through the .com bubble and the hype that followed, you can’t blame me for wanting to introduce a little realism and present a perspective on Web 2.0.
If one remembers the .com era, there were problems. First, most of the companies entering the market had no business model at all. The entrepreneurs in the space all looked to a handful of companies that had first mover advantage and were able to become leaders. The web was indeed an important platform – but it did not succeed in isolation. It became the foundation for the first true distributed computing platform. Today, no vendor in the market creates software that does not have a full-fledged web component.
Fast forward to Web 2.0. Entrepreneurs in this market look at some of the early successes like YouTube, My Space, and Facebook and see dollar signs. However, most of the companies yearning for billions actually have no commercial business model.
Before going any further, I want to state that I think that Web 2.0 is very important and will emerge as an integral part of commercial computing. The value and significance of Web 2.0 is that it provides a compelling user experience on the Internet platform that had only been available in the past on a windows desktop platform. The typical Internet environment looked and acted a lot more like a terminal than a rich computing platform. We were willing to accept this setback because of the incredible flexibility and distributed access that the Web offered. As the web has become mainstream, it was inevitable that technology would emerge that would transform the flat environment of the web interface into a richer environment.
Indeed, web 2.0 is the evolution of the web platform into a stateful distributed computing platform for cross enterprise and cross affinity group collaboration. The characteristics of Web 2.0 that enable this include:
o The ability to have web pages continuously refresh
o Leveraging the XML-based Ajax development platform to support iterative client development
o The ability to create Web applications without server interactions or dependencies
o The ability to stream information within a client environment
o Changing the client experience from page refresh to incremental retrieval of data
o The ability to link components together into “Mashups” (client driven composite applications)
In my view, Web 2.0 completes one of the key components of a service-oriented architecture – the interactive presentation and collaboration services. In fact, this will be one of the foundational ways that customers will create collaborative composite applications.
One of the impacts of Web 2.0 is that it begins to turn the balance of power upside down. It enables emerging companies without a vast infrastructure to begin to create compelling software that can appear on the Web. This will be aided by the emerging business model of Web 2.0 – short development cycles where the community provides feedback to the developers.
If one starts to think about Web 2.0 in this context it takes on a new dimension of importance. It will enable more dynamic collaboration across enterprises. Yes, I know that this isn’t the exciting world of adolescent cool sites but it probably has longer-term value for business. I expect that the commercial generation of Web 2.0 applications will be focused on business collaboration networking rather social networking. These types of Web 2.0 applications will focus on helping collaboration across teams within the same organization as well as teams across partners and customers.