Web 2.0 … but why not web 1.1 ?

While searching on the net for a valuable explanation of Web 2.0 concept I have found two short videos which kept my attention.

First is made by Christopher Barnatt, currently an associated Professor of Computing and Future Studies in Nottingham University Business School and author of ExplainingComputers.com, its name Explaining Web 2.0 and the second one named Web 2.0 … The machine is Us/ing Us, created by dr. Michael Wesch, a guy coming from social sciences field, to be more precise he is  “a cultural anthropologist exploring the effects of new media on society and culture”. Really interesting and exciting Michael’s video, this was indeed confirmed by a big slice of blogosphere community, it had ~10million viewers on its first release date on Youtube. Besides this you’re not “forced” to listen a buddy wearing eyeglasses and it gives us a snapshot of the effects that the Internet and the Web are having on us, as human beings.

More about his research projects and academic portfolio you can find here .

So the first one, here you have it below…

This one is more informative, it begins by a straightforward statement, which actually denies any possibility of clearly giving a definition for such term : defining exactly what is meant by Web 2.0 is about as difficult as nailing a jelly to a wall. If you cannot define something, I mean strictly speaking, at least you can say what is made of: people and software, we’ll neglect for the moment the infrastructure. Having those two sides face to face, we can infer three types of connections which in fact are constituting the three fundamental aspects of Web 2.0.
– those between people, called interpersonal computing
– those between web applications, called web services
– those between users and software applications, called software as a service (SaaS).

Each of them is taken and roughly explained.

But before going into this classification let’s try to roughly answer the stupid question in the title. Web 2.0 term is closely associated with the name of Tim O’Reilly. It has nothing to do with updates, patches, but to continuous changes in the way that people are using the Internet and Web. It is written in the form of a major software release, 2.0, only as a tribute to the huge development of software applications that over time decisively transformed what is generally called Web. Web 1.0 is about static web pages and HTML, as Michael’s video shows from one web page you can “link here”, “or here” or “anywhere”, but it doesn’t go farther, you, as an user, cannot act upon web pages and make them how you like it. Web 2.0 basically relies on dynamic web pages, it is not only about retrieving information, it is interactive, you can run applications through your browser.

Probably the most important aspect it is that you can participate, you can get involved in creating the Web. The difference between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 is that the first one looks as the developer wants it to look like, and the second is like the user wants it. We can make an analogy with HTML and XML, first one was the pioneer language for Web 1.0, here code is important and there are no user defined tags, latter can be considered among pioneer languages for Web 2.0, and here data is more important than code, and it goes beyond pre-defined tags, it “extends” them. One widely known analogy that Tim O’Reilly himself traced is the one between Netscape and Google. Here you have it quoted:

Netscape focused on creating software, updating it on occasion, and distributing it to the end users. O’Reilly contrasts this with Google, a company which
does not focus on producing software such as a browser but instead focuses on providing a service based on data. The data here, of course, are the links
Web page authors make between sites. Google exploits this user-generated content to offer Web search based on reputation through its “Page Rank” algorithm.
Unlike software, which undergoes scheduled releases, a service such as Google is constantly updated, a process called the perpetual beta.

Now let’s go back to the classification me made at the beginning.

First of the web aspects is about using web technology to connect people to each other in social networks or business teams. Interpersonal aspects of Web 2.0 are commonly associated with wikis, blogs, social network sites and video sharing sites. Example of them are obvious and well-known: facebook, myspace, wikipedia for wikis, blogger and wordpress for creating blogs, video hosts like kaltura or youtube. Wikis allow visitors to add, remove and edit their content, enabling thus collaborative authorship. Wikipedia is the most democratic encyclopedia that can exist. I will indirectly quote Tim O’Reilly once again. He constrasted Wikipedia with Encyclopedia Britannica, in order to spot the difference between how things were done in the past and how are they going now, thanks to the web development. Britannica is created by experts and is published at fixed moments in time, but Wikipedia completely relies on “users’ expertise”, I can say everyone trust everyone, or at least should trust everyone, any user is free to adjust, add, modify its content. On youtube or kaltura this is the same everyone is the producer and everyone is the audience.

Blogs (web logs) are another aspect of Web 2.0 and they consist in maintaining an online journal. There are many free blog services, but maybe the most notorious are blogger.com and WordPress.com (which is hosting also this blog where I am writing ). Twitter had became recently an emergent business and Web 2.0 site, its focus being on microblogging, messages must have a limited number of characters, 140, and can be accessed from both platforms: Internet and mobile.

Social networking sites are probably the most prominent feature of the web nowadays. They allow to create, edit and maintain a web profile, by writing personal information, creating a personal gallery and exchanging messages with different members. Also there is the possibility to join various groups, communities and friendships and to be informed when changes occurred. The most popular social networking web-sites are Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, but an extended list containing Top 20, updated on a monthly basis can be found here.

Second feature is named web services and refers to the “applications lego” that is located in the “cloud”, this being a metaphor for the Internet. In order words this is the software infrastructure, it is constituted by components which are providing online functionalities, that can be plugged together to create an on-line offering, or mashup. Web services can be, depending on their output, of different types: consumer, data or enterprise. Consumer mashups is the most common type and targets the general public, it can be, for example, a housing site combining personal data of houses’ sellers with maps from Google Earth. One example of data mashups can be AlertMap which combines data from various
sources into a unified representation aiming to forecast severe weather conditions or seismic information.

Third aspect of Web 2.0 is, probably the most exciting one: Software as a Service, already an accepted acronym SaaS. This one consists in replacing standalone software distributions by online applications. More precisely, office tools commonly provided by Microsoft are threatened by applications like those from Google (Document, Spreadsheet, Presentation) or from Zoho (Sheet, Show, Writer) which do not required to be installed locally but can be accessed online, via a web browser. Besides this they are available for free and at fraction of the costs required to purchase old-standard tools.

Michael’s Wesch video (here below) is, as already discussed, rather more profound than informative, but a true small piece of art.

The simple fact that someone who is going to Papua New Guinea to make anthropological researches and then turns his attention to the, may say a lot. He manifested an interest for the way media influences and transforms people during his earlier researches in Melanesia on the introduction of print and print-based practices. Steering the attention through a phenomenon such as the web, several years afterwards, can be considered a generalized case study at global scale. Two things can be concluded from here, Michael did a great job with his Digital Etnography project, which I strongly recommend you to follow it and I hope to write some future posts about this, and the Web is indeed more than an outdoors phenomenon, it is coming into our houses and our souls.

I watched the video slowly, pausing it when necessary. Some key sentences kept my attention: with form separated from content users did not need to know complicated code to upload content on the web – this was already discussed, it is anyhow interesting that appears in Google’s search box, actually Google logo is present many times during the short movie.
There is a blog born at every half second – appearing on a blog hosted by Blogger (oups! one like me every half second, I’m far from being original)
… also at some moment in time some words like: Who will organize all this data … We will, you will… We are the web along with digital text is no longer just linking information …The web is linking people, sounds like bringing into discussion Frankenstein myth, we have to be aware of the results that our “machines” might produce.
The final part of this short movie, could stand very well for conclusion of this post, We’ll need to rethink a few things … copyright, authorship, identity, ethics, aesthetics, rethorics, governance, privacy, commerce, love, family, ourselves sticks with the same idea. More and more people are accessing the Web (Think of the 100 billion times per day humans click on a web page says Michael Wesch) so we have to be very careful that when we increasingly use the machine, it might be the threat that we’ll start to think like machines.

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2 Responses to Web 2.0 … but why not web 1.1 ?

  1. vasiauvi says:

    Welcome to the bloggers world!

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