Archive for the ‘Web 2.0’ Category

Choose between Plug-Ins and HTML5? No, go for Apps!

Stats show that consumers like plug-ins, but site owners fear they don’t. Developers are caught in the middle. Must we choose the HTML5 technology stack with is meager installed base, or build on plug-ins and restrict our client base? No! Developers can turn to making Apps that hold or require plug-ins. A web site becomes an App feed, a home page becomes an App store.

Introduction

What will people visit your web site with? If you have some interest that they do, you want to know, because you will have to find your optimal position somewhere between a mouth watering user experience and accessibility for all. An ultimate user experience requires “the latest technologies”, accessibility for all requires, alas, the eldest.

Statistics concerning the web are easy to obtain, but vary wildly among sources en change quickly. Let’s first see what web browsers look like (today, according to various sources).

Statistics on web browsers

Market share: diversity – incompatibility

Which web browser has the largest market share (on PC)? Without distinguishing between the various versions, we see that at early February 2011 (source: www.Computeridee.nl <- www.Tomsguide.com <- www.netmarketshare.com )

Web Browser Market Share (%)
Internet Explorer 56
Firefox 23
Chrome 11
Safari 6
? ?

I myself have IE 9 (beta), Chrome 9 and Safari 5 installed on my PC (Firefox seems a bit behind technologically at this moment. Many more people will be in comparable situation, so what do these figures mean? Most windows PCs (87% according to www.statowl.com) will have at least IE.

Anyway, the trend is down for Internet Explorer, and up for the others. Opera has gone into the category “?”. The four dominant web browsers use three rendering engines, all with different capabilities. Great!

Unifying technologies – plug ins

By providing plug-ins, technology is added to a web browser. Web sites that build on a plug-in can depend on practically all the features built into the plug-in, across the dominant web browsers. But how about the market penetration of the web browser plug-ins? If I build my site on a plug-in, will anybody be able to see / hear it? There are three major plug-ins: Flash, Java and Silverlight. This is what we know about their use (source: www.statowl.com , figures over December 2010):

Web Browser plug-in Market Share (%)
Flash 96
Java 79
Silverlight 60
QuickTime 59

So, all PCs have Flash. Note that market share for web browser plug-ins is like that of web browsers not mutually exclusive. You will have at least two, but probably all of them installed.

The trend is (slightly) down for Java, stable for Flash, and up for the rest.

Unifying technologies – The Html5 technology stack

Slowly but surely, Html5 makes its way to the web browser. The whole technology stack mentioned here consists of Html5, CSS3, JavaScript 1.8.5, and perhaps SVG 1.1. These technologies each have strong capabilities in 3D graphics and media support.

A drawback compared to plug-ins is that these technologies lag behind: they do not provide webcam or microphone support. Ok, Html5 has the ‘device’ tag, but it is not implemented in any (main) web browser. According to the Wikipedia, there are no plans to do so either. You can do so much more with plug-ins.

A problem, I think, with these technologies is that they are / have open standards, directed by boards containing parties that also have other, prevailing, interests. Progress in these boards and standards is slow, and so is their implementation. Nevertheless: support for (many of the features of) these technologies can be relied upon in the near future.

Where do we find support for above technologies? In the latest browser versions (IE9 beta, Chrome 9, Safari 5) you find:

Technology IE9 (beta) Chrome Safari Source
Html 5 96 pts 242 pts 202 pts The HTML5 test (max 300 pts)
CSS 3.0 Slight Partial Partial Wikipedia
JavaScript 1.8.5 Y Y Y Tutsplus
SVG 1.1 Limited (IE8 no support) partial Partial Wikipedia

You can find The Html5 test Here. You can find TutsPlus Here.

Statistics on web sites

Web browsers pull data from web sites; there will have to be some kind of compatibility.

According to www.statowl.com 88% of the internet users has a broadband connection to the web. So, what do, or can, they haul in?

– Only 30-40% of the web pages contain Flash elements.
– Only 3,2% of the web pages contain AJAX elements.

source: http://www.flashmagazine.com/news/detail/how_many_sites_use_flash/ (3,5 million pages tested in 2009).

Opera also did extensive research : http://dev.opera.com/articles/view/mama-key-findings/ (2009) and found that:

– There are about 1 trillion (10^12) web pages.
– CSS (any version) is used in 80% of the pages.
– Scripting (mainly JavaScript) is used in 75% of the pages.

Conclusions

1. The market for web browsers is divided, PC owners are likely to have several.
2. Consumers don’t mind installing some plug-ins to have the ultimate user experience.
3. Site owners don’t trust plug-ins, they rely on HTML, CSS and JavaScript.
4. The new and improved HTML, CSS and JavaScript versions find their way into web browsers only slowly.

So web page consumers and web site owners are on different tracks with regards to the ultimate user experience technology. Web browser builders all go their own way.

Now suppose that you want to create great web sites for many people. What to do?

– Use plug- ins, and only few site owners want to buy your sites.
– Use the Html Stack, and the state of the art in web browsers limits your possibilities.

Caught in the middle? Yes. Really? No!

We now have a new phenomenon: the App. People download software that is specific to some task or domain. Apps run on your device, usually out of browser, and are often connected applications. This provides a way around the web browser, or if you must, to install an App as part of your browser (that’s a plug-in, isn’t it?). Well, if you are downloading and installing an application, you don’t mind installing some supporting software that can also be used by other Apps, right?

So, this provides a way around the whole problem, and new possibilities to make your living on the internet therewith.

Make your website a place that feeds your Apps, Make your home page your App store! That is Web 2.0 also.

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Reading O’Reilly and Battelle: “Web Squared” (2009) – with comments

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 will evolve into Web 3.0 soon. Well, as it turns out, it is already here. The article discussed here is available at http://www.web2summit.com/web2009/public/schedule/detail/10194.

The article

This blog post build on a previous post on Web 2.0. The authors update the earlier article: the creation of value by users is called “crowdsourcing” nowadays. The structure of successful sites stimulates and directs the creation of value for the users, and for the owners. The structure is such that more people will create more value (bring your friends!). The authors call this “harnessing the activities of the users”.

Opportunities identified are not only to disagree with the consensus, but also to be able to identify interesting types of metadata. For instance, the metadata that Facebook generates is that of a social graph (?).

The data to be owned comes increasingly from sensors, mainly sensors in Smartphones. Examples are the: camera, microphone, GPS receiver, motion sensor, proximity sensor. Also in industry, logistics and retail (barcode at the cash register of the supermarket) a lot of data collecting is going on.

Ownership is not interesting only of sources of base data but (increasingly) of metadata. “Metadata” covers concepts as enriched data, and structure within and between (huge) data sets, among others. The structure in the data is brought about by human activities (e.g. tagging), but also by machine learning.

Services are increasingly about managing, interpreting and responding to large amounts of data, in real time. The real time component seems to be introduced by means for instant messaging.

Integration is still a major theme. Applications integrate multiple sources of information. Cooperation and not control is a major growth and development factor. (2011 update: Google drops HTML5 support for the H.264 video codec in its browser; Intellectual rights and access restrictions are considered harmful for the development of the web).

An interesting relation is the one between things (people) in the world and the data about them on the web (Information shadow on the web). Things tend to get increasingly uniquely identified on the web by the increasing amount of data on the web about it (MD: emergent identity).

The authors argue that Web 2.0 is not a version number. So, there will not be something like a Web 3.0. Rather, “Web 2.0” was their term to describe the restart after the burst of the Internet hype. Now they call it Web squared, since developments seem to increase in speed and magnitude swiftly.

Comments

This article, like its predecessor is a Must Read, especially for Internet entrepreneurs.

One may find (e.g. here) texts about semantic relations on the web, and that this phenomenon introduces Web 3.0. These semantic relations – primarily brought about by tagging, thus generating emergent semantics – seem an inherent development of existing activities on the Web.

In linguistics (at the time I read about it regularly) it was ok to distinguish between syntactical, semantic and pragmatic aspects. Pragmatism being about the effect a syntactical construct can bring about, what it can do (to you), or how you can use it to get something done. So I was wondering what would be the pragmatics of the Web. Would that then be Web 3.0, or 2WEB?

After pondering for a while on this question I concluded that “Apps” embody the pragmatism of the data available on the web. This has interesting implications: people who by Apps subject themselves to the pragmatics of the App makers. Software developers are the free citizens, since they can subject data to their pragmatics. We also see an explosive increase in the number of available Apps on the market, which will call for ways to search among them, and structure the results. Now we have move the next level up. Fascinating!

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.

Rounding up

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.