the evenings out here - Thoughts, rants and musings about absolutely everything except photography. Or cats.

My Web’s better than your Web

, Friday, September 01, 2006

There's quite a kerfuffle going on at the moment around Tim Berners-Lee's mild put down of Web 2.0 in a recent IBM podcast. Predictably, The Register are using it to ridicule everything from blogs to wikis, exagerating it out of all proportion along the way. The Register is verging on tiresome in this particular Quixotic crusade. What Sir Tim actually got miffed at was the suggestion that Web 2.0 is about "connecting people", implying that everything that came before wasn't. This, of course, is utter hogwash, and he was quite right to put the record straight. What Web 2.0 is really about is a bunch of techno-lemmings too young too have got rich quick in the dot-com years, rushing around building countless near-identical 'social' web services, pretending they're not interested in filthy lucre, whilst praying to be acquired by Google or Yahoo. On the other hand, Web 0.01 (beta) was about nothing other than connecting people - and it was 100% a "read/write" web....until Silicon Valley discovered it and ruined it all. However, I do think Berners-Lee was missing the point a bit. Sure, there's nothing new about connecting people, or indeed social applications. But what is new is that these things are much easier to use, more intuitive, more responsive, and more reactive. The amalgam of technologies underlying Web 2.0 essentialy make applications more user friendly. It is surely no coincidence that the coalescence of much of this into 'Ajax', a key foundation stone of Web 2.0, came out of the usability field. Jesse James Garrett didn't really invent Ajax, he was simply the first to clearly express what he, his colleagues at Adaptive Path, and others had realisd they had brought together. The birth of Web 2.0 as a movement came from a desire to get rid of the clumsy interaction patterns imposed by the traditional browser-server model. Of course, the inevitable next step was that Silicon Valley saw it as an opportunity to Get Rich Quick, and hence the self-propelling bullshit cycle started up, as frequently lampooned by the Register. Of course there are some true innovative thinkers in field - Tim O'Reilly being a stand-out example, whatever people think of his invite-only policies - but they're few and far between. So acually I do think there is a major difference between Web 1.0 and 2.0, and it is to do not with connecting people as such, but rather making connecting, and everything else, easier to do. A really impressive example of this is far away from tags and memes and trivial 2.0 Beta lash-ups (er, sorry mash-ups) so beloved of the pontificators - the Swiss home hunting site,, uses plenty of Web 2.0 techniques, but most users have no awareness of this - they just find it almost magically useful. The true creative forces behind the ongoing web revolution get very little credit, being drowned out by the empty vessels of the self-referential blog pundits. And it seems these have even managed to distract Tim Berners-Lee.