Monday, August 28, 2006

Web 2.0 – more than just “marketecture”

Back in the 1990s, when everyone started predicting the exact date when the last mainframe would be turned off and IBM wasn’t having a particularly great time, IBM tried to counter the bad news by having lots of initiatives – rather like governments do. Governments want you to think that you can’t get rid of them because they are just launching radical reforms to education and health (and anything else their media friends tell them the public want to hear). IBM, similarly, although without saying the words, tried to form the impression that mainframes (they were fashionably calling them servers at the time) would not go away because there were so many exciting and important things happening with them. The old Xephon (www.xephonusa.com) “Handbook of IBM Terminology” defines marketecture as, “A wonderful coinage to describe grand designs whose existence owes more to the creative intellect of marketers than to the industry of product developers. IBM is the past master of creating marketectures, outdoing even the people who write manifestos for politicians”. Web 2.0 sounds like it might be a piece of marketecture. At first it sounds like a proper product announcement. You think you could go out and buy this new version of the Web, but, of course, you can’t. What separates Web 2.0 from being marketecture and what makes it so great is the underlying concept – one that everyone seems to understand without necessarily being able to define it exactly themselves. The term Web 2.0 was coined following a meeting between two companies – O’Reilly and MediaLive International. Web 2.0 is a way of separating companies (or really Web sites) that make use of the latest Web-based techniques from less innovative sites. So how can you tell whether your company’s Web site is Web 2.0? Well that’s hard to say exactly. You know when you visit a site whether it could be called Web 2.0, but you may not always know why exactly. Typically, Web 2.0 sites will be making use of techniques such as AJAX (see last week’s blog), Web syndication, and public Web APIs. What I’m talking about are things like blogs, wikis (and who needs to buy Encarta when the wonderful wikipedia – www.wikipedia.org – is only a click away), RSS, and podcasts. Web 2.0 sites successfully use information from their site’s visitors – for example Amazon (www.amazon.com) recommends similar books that you might like when you order a book. Web 2.0 sites can also easily update the software they use – and do. This means that each time you browse the site the experience can be slightly different, but should be better (faster and easier). Web 2.0 sites can incorporate or link to pages from other sites to improve the browser experience (mash-ups). For example the Google Earth maps can be overlaid with bus routes (for example). Check out the following sites, which are considered to be Web 2.0: www.myspace.com, maps.google.com, flickr.com, www.blogger.com, del.icio.us, and digg.com. eBay (www.ebay.com) is also a Web 2.0 company. It makes virtually no profit when an item is sold on eBay. But (and this is a really big “but”) because there are so many transactions, each tiny amount of money adds up to a very reasonable income. I think eBay is one of the first of what will be a multi-million dollar industry as companies realize that collaboration makes Internet trading easy and effective. The other big change in the way users work introduced by Web 2.0 is that (like I said last week with AJAX) it is operating system agnostic. You are no longer tied to Windows or Linux (or whatever) as your user platform. So, there is definitely a Web 2.0 experience to be enjoyed at many Web sites out there. There are also probably millions of sites that could learn from these Web 2.0-enabled sites. There is definitely much more to Web 2.0 than simple marketecture.

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