Is Web 2.0 Entering "The Trough of Disillusionment"?

Surely they jest. Jeffrey Zeldman has an interesting and widely covered new article on Web 2.0 which is almost exactly as content free as he claims the Web 2.0 hypesters are. That's not to say that he doesn't make a few factually correct statements about AJAX and even makes a passing mention of social software. But he's missing many of the big pieces of Web 2.0 since he's apparently looking at it through the somewhat myopic tunnel vision of a web page designer. 

Yes, Jeffrey understands the Web from the front-end, but apparently not the whole thing, and so misses some important parts. In the end, Jeffrey doesn't like Web 2.0 because 1) he apparently didn't bother to really understand it and 2) he really dislikes any annoying people that have picked up on the name.

Yes folks, for a lot of non-technical people, Web 2.0 seems oh-so-approachable and some are beating us about the head and shoulders with the term and a few of the ideas, watered down. I do understand how it gets tiring. But in the end, it's like Faruk Ates says, the problem is not with the version number, it's about the excessive hype.

Unfortunately, none of this has helped folks like ZDNet's otherwise generally on-the-mark Phil Wainwright, who has also been bitten by his own version of the Web 3.0 bug. But Phil does have more appreciation for some of the larger picture as described by Web 2.0 (the Web as an full-blown landscape of shareable services, as one important example). Yes, Web 2.0 ideas are sometimes gargantuan in scope. And are they are delivering noticeable change on the Web in very short order.  And call it Web 3.0 if you like and it helps you understand it (see Alex Krupp's discussion of the Web all the way out to Web 4.0 if you really like the version number thing.) So if you have a better vision for developing software, now is the time to share with the rest of us.

What ultimately amuses me is that the Web 2.0 hype/anti-hype cycles use up so much digital ink and attention but don't change anything other than to make Web 2.0 more noticeable, not less. Sadly, though some of the smarter Web 2.0 detractors, like Joel on Software, are just not mentioning it at all. This is the more unfortunate trend, not well-written, angst-filled, buzzword-hatred articles like Zeldman's. Fortunately, we'll have folks like him and others to keep the discussion and debate going ad infinitum, which will just help increase the overall level of education on the topic. Like fellow Web 2.0 Workgroup member Joshua Porter points out about Zeldman's stance: many of us instinctively recoil from purely marketing-driven buzzword quackery and this is what a lot of folks react against initially with Web 2.0.

What's really in a name though? As I wrote in my well-read Web 2.0 Predictions for 2006, item #1 was that Web 2.0 will not peak in 2006, but the term will. I personally have no instinctive love for it. I'm much more fascinated by the actual concepts in the toolkit. And I'm excited by the fact that many of the more powerful Web 2.0 design patterns are just now starting to take off. I'm personally predicting here a fresh new wave of software innovation this year as capable new supporting tools for Web 2.0 continue arriving and enable all new possibilities. See my articles about the startling advances in this space in just the last 12 months in the Ajax Developer's Journal (here, here, and here) as well as how the latest round of open service toolkits are helping people build a true Web as Platform like never before. And all of this is here today and being extensively used.

Web 2.0 (or whatever you prefer to call the ideas) really is a full-blown set of interrelated design patterns and business models that identify the first-order issues in developing high-value, satisfying, online software. To explore this, I recently wrote a marginally fanciful but entirely (and some would say excessively) serious article titled The Timeless Way of Building Software. Take a look at the diagram in this piece and see how Web 2.0, while sometimes seemingly high-level, orients software designers, business people, software users, together onto the same set of primary goals and constraints. Web 2.0 is a potent aligning force and the result has been an inundating wave of terrific, ground-breaking software over the last year. Take all the potshots you want at the name, be my guest in fact, but I would avoid self-identifying as obviously ignorant of what is going on here. As Microsoft and Google, who are gargantuan players in this space would be happy to tell you - as they spend billiions to dominate it - this is all about a generational change in the way software is conceived. And the stakes are high indeed.

Sidenote: I was recently bileblogged by the infamous Hani Suleiman on the topic of Web 2.0. Unfortunately, this is what passes for substantive discourse in the Web 2.0 anti-hype world. Maybe software developers should just go back to sprouting acronyms and delivering software that doesn't do what people want. I really don't know sometimes.

Give us a better umbrella already!  Any better ideas?

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Aiden Reynolds
Aiden Reynolds
Aiden Reynolds is a content editor at WEB 2.0 JOURNAL. He was born and raised in New York, and has been interested in computer and technology since he was a child. He is also a hobbyist of artificial intelligence. Reynolds is known for his hard work ethic. He often puts in long hours at the office, and is always looking for new ways to improve his writing and reviewing skills. Despite his busy schedule, he still makes time for his interests, such as playing video games. In his free time, Reynolds enjoys spending time with his wife and two young children. He is also an active member of the community, and frequently volunteers his time to help out with local events.