James Gosling on Web N

James Gosling had a couple of slides on Web N during his presentation on the Java Platform. Is it "a piece of Jargon" as Tim Berner's Lee is quoted as saying? Well James seems to agree in part with that assessment. It is a lot of hype for what seems to be a very simple thing: just different User Interfaces on ways of storing data on servers. The one consistent similarity of these services, he points out in the next slide, is the way they build communities, using the input of millions to create services that no single organization could have provided.

But in that respect, how does that differ from projects such as Linux, which I was using as my desktop OS in the 90ies? That was a huge piece of engineering developed on the internet, using the web and other tools, in a communal fashion. How does that differ from services such as imdb, the largest online database of films, which I was happily using ten years ago, whose whole content was updated by its users? Is it that the improvements in the web interface are making it easier and easier for people to contribute content? Partly so. If adding photos to a flickr account forced one to fetch a new page for every change, it would be a lot less appealing. But how much then does bandwidth improvements have to do with this? Services such as flickr would have been unbearable in the early web. Certainly YouTube would have gotten nowhere, not even taking into account the difficulty of editing videos on 400Mhz machines. So is Web 2.0 a technical thing, or is it something else?

I'll agree that Web 2.0 is a social phenomenon, in more ways than one. It is a meme that also has a psychological dimension. People who thought that by 2000 they had understood all about the web, the .com aspect, never quite grokking the huge open source wave, those people then declared the Web bubble burst. As more and more amazing things continued happening after the .com bust, they need a way to change their tune without feeling that they had gotten something wrong. Hence Web 2.0. The web just keeps evolving. It's always more than you thought it could be.

Another thought is that if we can trace Web 2.0 all the way back to Open Source programming, then my feeling is that this is where one should look to sow the seeds for Web 3.0. The Open Source community is full of small little Island projects. True they can all exchange code between each other, but the interaction between the groups could be a lot better, just as the interaction between Web 2.0 sites could be. If one could make the interactions between these communities a lot more fluid, then one will certainly be able to unleash a whole new wave of energy. This is why I am so enthusiastic about Baetle, the bug ontology we are developing, which should be an important element in helping open source project work together.

The next generation of the Web is not going to be obvious: how could it be? If it were obvious it would, technical issues aside, already be here. The people most apt to be able to move those technical issues aside, are of course going to be developers themselves. As they see the benefits, these will be distilled into something useful and easy to understand for everyone else.

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