Web 2.what?

This week it’s the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco, where we’ve been listening to a wide selection of presentations and meeting a bunch of interesting people and companies old and new.
Written by Simon Bisson, Contributor and  Mary Branscombe, Contributor

This week it’s the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco, where we’ve been listening to a wide selection of presentations and meeting a bunch of interesting people and companies old and new. With the news pages full of talk of a new internet bubble, it’s perhaps worth thinking about just what’s happening to the Web 2.0 movement.

Focusing on the user rather than the technology, Web 2.0 took advantage of advances in the web to produce new, more social ways of using the internet. With data as important as applications, companies like Google and Facebook became multi-billion dollar giants, soaking up the cognitive surplus of a world weaning itself away from television. But that was then, and now we’re in a world where a rekindled brushfire browser war is pushing the envelope, and new technologies are blurring the line between device and user. It’s a world where my pedometer tweets for me, and where adaptive rooms monitor my context and respond accordingly.

Everything is, as Ted Nelson described, deeply intertwingled, with APIs opening up tools, services and data to anyone who can wield a JavaScript statement. The bundles of loosely associated standards collectively referred to as HTML5 may still be unfinished, but they’re starting to be the layer we use to view this intermingled world of data – giving it meaning and utility.

It seems that we’re stepping beyond the Web 2.0 moniker, into something new. Cloud technologies are part of it, as is a focus on mobility (and with it the next billion or so users). Platforms are migrating away from simple operating systems, becoming the vision Steve Ballmer has pushed at the last few Microsoft CES keynotes, a world of three screens and the cloud. It’s a vision that’s rooted in something far older, one that goes back to the early days of computing and the ubiquitous computing vision of Xerox PARC and to the self-published scrawl of Nelson’s Dream Machines.

No longer dependent on infrastructure a new generation of startups is coming out of the wreckage of the global financial system, bootstrapped on credit cards and ramen, and thriving on analytics and big data. They’re something new; something focused on delivering access to that world of big data with open standards and published specifications. In their brave new world Web 2.0 is yesterday, stepping beyond the Ruby on Rails world to one of Node.js and Azure, of AWS. Loosely coupled and deeply connected they’re building people-centric applications that used context and community to change the relationships between users and software, abstracted from all that messy technology…

Writer and thinker Kevin Kelly’s keynote at Web 2.0 Expo tried to fit six verbs to this new world, worlds that were intended to encapsulate many of its themes and drivers.

Screening: Everything is or can be a screen, displaying information on demand and overlaying context and insight on the world. Interacting: Natural user interfaces let us conduct data, giving the web touch and vision. Sharing: Anything that can be shared, will be, increasing in value with that sharing – with permission, in the right context. Flowing: A new metaphor where streams of always on, real time information blend to give an at this moment view of the world. Accessing: In a world of subscription libraries, everything is borrowed, not bought, where we have access without ownership. Generating: Where anything can be copied, value comes from immediacy and personalization, from findability and from accessability – things that can’t be copied easily and are generated as part of an interaction with a user.

A brave new world indeed. And one that's very very close, where we can put product names to all those six verbs.

So with all that in mind, is it time to drop the 2.0 and come up with a new name? I suspect it is. So why not steal a leaf out of Microsoft’s book and call it Web.Next? That way we can always be looking to the future of the internet – in all its many forms, from Kelly’s six words to the ever evolving world of HTML 5 and the cloud.

Simon Bisson

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