Over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend I finally had time to compile my notes on a significant new Web 2.0 in the enterprise story that emerged earlier this month from the Web 2.0 Summit. At the same time, one of the inevitable recurring debates about Web 2.0 made its rounds on the blogosphere. Both pieces of news seem to be hallmarks of important and connected emerging trends on the Internet and are worth a closer look.
Enterprise Web 2.0
Dion Hinchcliffe on leveraging the convergence of IT and the next generation of the Web.
Dion Hinchcliffe is an expert in information technology, business strategy, and next-generation enterprises.
One of the most consistent trends on the Internet is the rise of open APIs and the applications built on top of them, known as mashups. Programmable Web currently lists over 1100 APIs that can be used for everything from building Web sites on top of Google Maps to using Amazon's powerful infrastructure APIs for storage and cluster computing. The underlying trend: The desire to easily remix the vast pool of high value data and services on the Web today into useful new solutions, at home and perhaps even in the enterprise.
The annual Web 2.0 Conference starts this Tuesday and with it comes an important update of the vision of the next generation of networked applications. Thus, the major event during the leadup to the conference is not the pending renaming of the conference to the Web 2.0 Summit, but the issuing of the most complete articulation yet of what exactly Web 2.0 is, something which the industry has frequently struggled with.
As browser-based software, SaaS, and Web 2.0 continue to make some inroads in the enterprise, it's the lack of useful pioneer reports that hampers the early adoptors. Sure, many of us witness the often amazing trends taking place out on the Web in the form of mountains of user generated content and communication and collaboration occuring en masse via blogs and spaces. But the big question is still with us: Can the motivations and context that makes the latest generation of software on the Web so compelling, and hence popular, be made just as meaningful in the enterprise?
Over the lifetime of this blog I've often written about using the latest Web-based software and tools to accomplish things on a completely different timescale than has been possible previously. Things like Ruby on Rails, mashups, syndication, and other lightweight software and service models seem to be changing the rules of the game out on the Web. What used to cost thousands to develop, now only costs hundreds, what took 5-10 people now only takes one or two. Many of these trends appear to be successfully optmizing for one all important variable in an increasingly time-challenged world; ease of development and consumption.
Last week I had the distinct honor of listening to Harvard Business School's Andrew McAfee speak on Enterprise 2.0 at The New New Internet in Northern Virginia. I've written several times here about McAfee's thoughts and work about the use of freeform, emergent, social software to enable ad hoc collaboration. McAfee's work essentially applies and combines many of the key Web 2.0 concepts of social software, user generated content, and discoverability via search to the workplace.
I'm on an Amtrak train as I write this heading to New York City where I'll get a chance to see Harvard's Andrew McAfee of Enterprise 2.0 fame speak at Interop, a chance I'll get twice in the next two days, so expect some coverage here shortly. On my ride, I thought I'd address some of the good points fellow ZDNetter Ryan Stewart made last week about the rise of new Rich Internet Applications (RIA) technologies such as Flex and OpenLaszlo. Ryan wrote about the advantage of having a robust, modern Web stack supporting a RIA aplication.
First, a parable: At the heart of the Web from the very beginning was the concept of sharing information with others. Originally this vision encompassed the notion of information stored in "pages" accessible from the network and connected together by links. These links let readers effortlessly travel to related information somewhere else on the Internet, forming a sort of fabric. This conceptual fabric was of a relatively flat "Web" of servers and pages with hyperlinks gluing everything together. And though creating pages could be done by anybody, in practice it was done by a relative few. But early on, everyone liked what they saw and built on top of it.
A host of powerful new methods for rapidly creating compelling browser-based software (aka Rich Internet Applications) have recently come to market, or are rapidly heading there. While the technique getting the most press by far these days is still Ajax, there are a number of new approaches that are intent on dislocating this often finicky and hard to work with -- though very powerful -- browser software model. The goal? To help us more easily develop the next generation of Web applications that are every bit as good as or better than desktop PC applications.
A pair of new articles over on the Sandhill site explores the increasingly discussed topic of Enterprise 2.0, an important Web 2.0 offshoot that I've covered over the last few months. While a lot of folks are taking a wait and see attitude to the application of low-barrier, emergent, social software to enable ad hoc business processes, it's nevertheless a topic of interest in many IT and business circles.