Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Web 2.0 Theoretical Review

In the simplest terms Web 2.0 is the phrase being applied to 'the second coming' of the internet. The 2.0 name is a clear allusion to the naming convention of software updates; this is the internet version 2.0 (Sturgeon 2006). Two or three years ago there was a feeling that innovation online had failed to emerge from the doldrums of the dot-com boom and bust cycle and had hit something of a dead end, but now innovation is arguably at its most frenetic level ever (Sturgeon 2006). The bursting of the dot-com bubble in the Fall of 2001 marked a turning point for the web. Many people concluded that the web was over hyped, when in fact bubbles and consequent shakeouts appear to be a common feature of all technological revolutions (Perez 2002). Shakeouts typically mark the point at which an ascendant technology is ready to take its place at Center stage. The pretenders are given the bum's rush, the real success stories show their strength, and there begins to be an understanding of what separates one from the other (O'Reilly 2005).

Looking back at the beginning of Web 2.0, a core of theories and aspects, are mentioned by O’Reilly, which he calls the seven principles of Web 2.0 (O'Reilly 2005):

1. The Web as a Platform
Software as a Service (SaaS)
Web 2.0 service is a combination of software and data. Individual, the software and the databases are of limited value, but together they create a new type of service. In this context, the value of software lies in being able to manage the (vast amounts of) data. The better it can do, the more valuable the software becomes.
Harnessing the Long Tail
The Long Tail refers to the vast number of small sites that make up the Web as apposed to the few ‘important’ sites (Jaokar 2006).
2. Harnessing Collective Intelligence
This principle deals with the metadata/content created by users that collectively adds value to the. To understand Collective Intelligence one should understand three aspects:
Peer Production
Is defined as a new model of economic production, different from both markets and firms, in which the creative energy of large numbers of people is coordinated (usually with the aid of the Internet) into large, meaningful projects, largely without traditional hierarchical organizational or financial compensation (Benkler 2002). An Example are reviews on Amazon: Collectively, these small contributions lay the foundation for the ‘Intelligence’ of Web 2.0 also called the ‘wisdom of crowds’
The Wisdom of crowds
Large groups of people are smarter than an elite few, now matter how brilliant the elite few may be. The wisdom of crowds is better at solving problems, fostering innovation, coming to wise decisions, and even predicting the future (Surowiecki 2005).
Network effects from user contributions
The ability for users to add value (knowledge) easily and then the ability for their contributions to flow seamlessly across the whole community, thereby enriching the whole body of knowledge
3. Data is the Next Intel Inside
Data is the key differentiator between a Web 2.0 service and a non-Web 2.0 service. A Web 2.0 service always combines function (software) and data (which is managed by the software). Database management is a core competency of Web 2.0 companies. While data is valuable, the company needs not necessarily own the data. Although in most cases, the company serving the data also ‘owns’ the data (e.g.Google Maps, Google does not own the data, which are maps and information. Web 2.0 website are often a combination of data from two or more sources into one experience, this is called a mashup. According to O’Reilly (2005) the race is on to own certain classes of core data.
4. End of Software Release Cycle
Operations must become a core competency
The shift from software as artefact to software as service causes that the software will cease to perform unless it is maintained on a daily basis.
Users must be treated as co-developers
The open source dictum, "release early and release often" has morphed into an even more radical position, "the perpetual beta," in which the product is developed in the open, with new features slipstreamed in on a regular basis.
5. Lightweight programming models
Simpler technologies like RSS and Ajax are the driving force behind Web 2.0 services. Because lightweight programming models are oriented towards syndicating data, they are contrary to the traditional mindset of controlling access data. They are also designed for reuse. As a result of this architecture, innovation is given a boost because a new service can be created using existing services through mashups. This is one other important aspect of Web 2.0, called Innovation in assembly: When commodity components are abundant, you can create value simply by assembling them in novel or effective ways. Web 2.0 will provide opportunities for companies to beat the competition by getting better at harnessing and integrating services provided by others.
6. Software above the Level of a Single Device
One other feature of Web 2.0 is the fact that it is no longer limited to the PC platform. This principle is not new but rather a fuller realization of the true potential of the web platform, this phrase gives key insight into how to design applications and services for the new platform. iTunes is the best exemplar of this principle. This application seamlessly reaches from the handheld device to a massive web back-end (platform), with the PC acting as a control station. There have been many previous attempts to bring web content to portable devices, but the iPod/iTunes combination is one of the first such applications designed from the ground up to span multiple devices. O’Reillly (2005) expects to see some of the greatest change in this area of Web 2.0, as more and more devices are connected to the new platform. Real time traffic monitoring, flash mobs, and citizen journalism are only a few of the early warning signs of the capabilities of the new platform.
7. Rich User Experience
The competitive opportunity for new entrants is to fully embrace the potential of Web 2.0. Companies that succeed will create applications that learn from their users, using an architecture of participation to build a commanding advantage not just in the software interface, but in the richness of the shared data.

In exploring the seven principles above, O’Reily (2005) highlighted some of the principal features of Web 2.0: Services, not packaged software, with cost-effective scalability; Control over unique, hard-to-recreate data sources that get richer as more people use them; Trusting users as co-developers; Harnessing collective intelligence; Leveraging the long tail through customer self-service; Software above the level of a single device; Lightweight user interfaces, development models, and business models.

In October 2005 one definition of Web 2.0 is given (O'Reilly 2005): It is the network as platform, spanning all connected devices; Web 2.0 applications are those that make the most of the intrinsic advantages of that platform: delivering software as a continually-updated service that gets better the more people use it, consuming and remixing data from multiple sources, including individual users, while providing their own data and services in a form that allows remixing by others, creating network effects through an "architecture of participation," and going beyond the page metaphor of Web 1.0 to deliver rich user experiences. A Meme Map of Web 2.0 can be found in Appendix 1.

Joakar and Fish (2006) state a ‘unified view’ of Web 2.0 based on the seven principles of Web 2.0 by O’Reilly (2005) by which the second principle (harnessing collective intelligence) encompasses the other six. Web 1.0 was hijacked by the marketers, advertisers and the people who wanted to push content into the market. The dot com bubble was the end of many who took this approach of the broadcast content. What is left is the Web as it was originally meant to be a global means of communication. The intelligence attributed to the Web (Web 2.0) arises from us (i.e. the collective/people) as we begin to communicate. This approach focuses on the ‘Intelligent Web’ or ‘Harnessing Collective Intelligence’ and deals with the principle of ‘wisdom of crowds’. A more simple definition from MacManus (2005) explains Web 2.0 as Platform. For corporate people, the Web is a platform for business. For marketers, the Web is a platform for communications. For journalists, the Web is a platform for new media. For geeks, the Web is a platform for software development.
According to Hinchcliffe (Hinchcliffe 2006a) there is no doubt that the Web has changed recently in important ways. New techniques and technologies are reshaping the way we think about and use the online world to meet our needs. Not only is the software experience more online, but it is an increasingly two-way, social, even communal, experience. Online publishing is being replaced with blogs, content management systems with wikis, static web pages with rich Internet applications (RIAs). The Web itself has become a vast landscape of information services that can be wired together to reuse and take advantage of aggregated data and functionality. The hallmarks of these online applications are their pervasive availability, interactivity, social immersion, user-driven organization, community contribution, and particularly their reusable, remixable services.

Web 2.0 is a buzz word but the concepts underlying it should be taken seriously: The essence of Web 2.0 is not in the (technology) implementations, but it is in the concepts. As far as Baker (2005) is concerned the attention for Web 2.0 demarks the coming of a second Internet revolution. From a technological, organizational and a social perspective, all signs are there that the Internet will become increasingly popular the next couple of years for applications, and in the end the Internet will be the platform of choice for practically all new applications. From a technological perspective, practically all innovation is somewhat related to web based projects or technologies targeted at the Internet. Nobody is developing new products or technologies anymore that are not web enabled. Also, other trends like ubiquitous Internet access and an increasing number of people having broadband wireless, through any device, make that the Internet is at the Center of technological evolution. From an organizational perspective, it is interesting to see that many enterprises have adopted Internet technologies. For instance, Corporate blogging is, from a marketing point-of-view, an opportunity to reach the market in a different, very scalable way. From a social perspective, tomorrow's customers, end users and decision makers are of the generation that grew up with the Internet, and who are used to communicating and doing business through Internet technologies. Bakker (2005) argues the simple observation that an increasing number of people are not only using the Internet, but who are relying on the Internet for social contacts, purchasing goods and being informed on what is happening in the world. The Internet is becoming a significant factor in today's society (Bakker 2005). Web 2.0 also refers to the creation of far greater levels of interactivity, not just between users, or between users and the internet but between complementary online services through mash-ups and web services (Sturgeon 2006).

Appendix 1. Web 2.0 Meme Map

Figure 1: Meme Map Web 2.0 (O'Reilly 2005)

Bakker, L. (2005). Why the Web 2.0 concept will survive A Matter of Perspective: Loek Bakker's weblog

Benkler, J. (2002). "Coase's Penguin, or, Linux and The Nature of the Firm." The Yale Law Journal 112.

Hinchcliffe, D. (2006a). Welcome to the Web 2.0 World of Flickr, del.icio.us, Writely, Basecamp, Digg, and Many Others. Web 2.0 Journal S.-C. Media.

Jaokar, A. a. F., T. (2006). Mobile Web 2.0 - The innovator's guide to developing and marketing the next generation wireless/mobile applications. London, Futuretext Limited.

O'Reilly, T. (2005). What is Web 2.0: Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation of Software. O'Reilly.

Perez, C. (2002). Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital: The Dynamics of Bubbles and Golden Ages. Cheltenham, Edward Elgar.

Sturgeon, W. (2006). Cheat Sheet: Web 2.0. Silicon.com.
What on earth is it and should you care?

Surowiecki (2005). The Wisdom of Crowds. New York, Anchor Books.

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