Reading O’Reilly: “What is Web 2.0” (2005)
As a web site designer-developer I want to be up-to-date on the development of the World Wide Web. People are using the buzz word “Web 2.0” – as something that would be around soon. Well, as it turns out, it is already here.
“Web 2.0” is a concept predominantly developed and brought to exploitation by Mr. Tim O’Reilly (O’Reilly Publishing Company) and by Mr. John Battelle. The 2005 article: “What is Web 2.0” by O’Reilly is available on the Web at http://oreilly.com/web2/archive/what-is-web-20.html. I think it’s a Must Read.
The article is about “Design Patterns and Business models for the Next generation of software”. It is of particular interest for web entrepreneurs and web site creators. Why? The article analyses why and how the winners of the first generation Web companies survived and prospered. And it does so very well, to my taste. In fact the article provides a set of best practices for Web entrepreneurs and design patterns for the web sites to use. New Web entrepreneurs cannot ignore these practices, models or patterns. Doing so implies loosing the competition against companies that do take them into account, or even improve on them.
Brief summary of conclusions
Web 2.0 applies not only to the Web server-client model, but also to P2P applications. The web is not about delivering software (in releases), but about delivering services involving data.
The market doesn’t exist of a view large companies, but rather of the enormous number of small companies and individuals – Those should be reached.
People do not just consume your service, but they also create value when engaged in activities on your site. Activities motivated by some self-interest (could be just having some fun). The owner is the facilitator of these activities; the web site is the platform. The value created benefits all – both users and owners. You don’t advertise your site, Advertisement is by hearsay. Content on the web is not static, it is changing. Users of your site can subscribe to changes (made by other users). This dynamics create communities. In general, a reinforcing feedback loop should be the driver for growth of your business. On the other hand: static links between sites and user tagging of contents creates structure in the vast amounts of web data.
Successful Web companies own some kind of data. This can be basic data, or a form of data enrichment. Opportunities can be found by disagreeing with consensus; privacy doesn’t seem to be all that important to the users anymore, and the enforcement of intellectual rights ownership seems to be less strict – in certain areas, notably not in the areas of movies or music.
Software, the web site, is updated in extremely short cycles, no doubt using agile software development practices. Motive is that the delivered service should closely follow customer desires. I detect an empirical improvement cycle here, a la Lean production systems or product development. Software is characterized by being lightweight and having simple features. The service delivered by your software is likely to be reused by others. The motto here is not to control, but to cooperate. Software should target various devices, and provide Rich User Experiences.
My current understanding is that Web 2.0 revolves around an explosive self-induced growth of the use of your website. All you do should serve this single goal. The revenues and “raison d’être” of your web company is a side effect of this large scale use. Your site should look and feel fabulous, and should be instantly adapted in order to optimize the usability for its visitors.