March 30, 2006

Web 2.0 By Paul Boutin

More questions about what "web 2.0" means.

I think "web 2.0" is a pretty easy concept to understand.

Back in the 90s I found a few people who really "got" the web; who really understood what was important, what wasn't, how it worked, how it didn't, what you could expect, what you couldn't. I'm not saying these were the only people who were smart about the web. Or that they were the originators of all the ideas. But they were the ones that I discovered, and who I knew instinctively were right, and who I shamelessly stole my ideas from.

For me, "web 2.0" means one thing : vindication of those people and those ideas. Pretty much everything (good) in web 2.0 is really a playing out, in one form or another, of things those people were saying around 8-10 years ago.

So who are they? I'm sure you're not likely to very surprised by the list. Maybe you'll be more surprised by some people I missed out on.

Anyway, in no particular order :

Jakob Nielsen : intensely at war with all the bad UI design of the web, particularly from designers who mistook it for print or TV. Ajax and other web 2.0 design fashions may not be Nielsen in letter, but they are in spirit. Web 2.0 is more with the grain of the media. (Of course, that's partly because the media has become closer to what they want with CSS and standards pushed by Firefox.)

Philip Greenspun : his book on database backed web-sites pretty much covers most of what you need to understand about the synthesis of technology and community at the core of web 2.0 thinking. There's a reason I call mash-ups "Greenspun 4 models".

Chris Locke : Those Cluetrainers knew how this was going to affect business and the market. Is there a blogging-for-business book now which really has much more insight than "Gonzo Marketing"?

Eric Raymond : developing all the ideas about what we now call "peer production" in the context of thinking about hacker culture and open source.

Dave Winer : Starting from an insistence that the web was a place for everyone to be a speaker, journalist, publisher rather than a consumer of content, Winer simply put the theory into action, promoting a world where everyone can (and often does) aspire to be a speaker, journalist and publisher. Web 2.0 is a step-change in public participation, and we learned that mainly from Dave.

And someone I missed at the time, but who was developing some of the profound ideas. Ward Cunningham, invented wiki and contributed important ideas to xtreme / agile software development philosophy. The "lite" development strategies behind quick and cheap web 2.0 services are due to Cunningham and friends.

If you understood and accepted what these people believed, sometime around about 1999, then nothing in web 2.0 is likely to have been a surprise or confusion to you.
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