Web 3.0
Issue № 210

Web 3.0

Google, with the cooperation of prestigious libraries, has been digitizing books to make them findable. The practice excites futurists but angers some publishers. Of necessity, digitization creates virtual copies. The publishers claim that such duplication violates copyright, even if the book’s content is hidden from the public. The New York Public Library, one of Google’s partners in the project, recently hosted a public debate on the subject.

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It was while attending that debate that my discomfort with the hype surrounding an emerging genre of web development turned into a full-blown hate-on.

The big room was packed. There were more ticket holders than chairs. Yet the seat in front of me remained empty. Each time a hopeful standee approached the empty chair—and this happened every few nanoseconds—the poor schmoe seated next to it had to apologetically explain, “Sorry, the seat is occupied.”

It soon became clear that the kindly schmoe was reserving the seat, not for a friend or colleague, but for a stranger who had imposed that duty on him. While the kindly fellow defended the other man’s throne against a steady stream of resentful ticket holders, the stranger was off somewhere knocking back the library’s free champagne. I wondered what kind of jackass would ask someone he didn’t know to save his seat for thirty minutes at an oversold event. When he finally arrived, I found out.

A taste of ass#section2

“Were you at the Web 2.0 conference?” the arriving man asked, by way of thanking the other for saving his place. The kindly schmoe signified in the negative. This was all the encouragement our man needed to launch into an adjective-rich and fact-poor monologue that was loud enough for half the room to hear.

It soon appeared that “Web 2.0” was not only bigger than the Apocalypse but also more profitable. Profitable, that is, for investors like the speaker. Yet the new gold rush must not be confused with the dot-com bubble of the 1990s:

“Web 1.0 was not disruptive. You understand? Web 2.0 is totally disruptive. You know what XML is? You’ve heard about well-formedness? Okay. So anyway—”

And on it ran, like a dentist’s drill in the Gulag.

At first I tolerated the pain by mentally modifying the famous scene from Annie Hall:

HIM:  “I teach a venture capitalist workshop, so I think my insights into XML have a great deal of validity.”

ME:  “Oh, really? Because I happen to have Mr. Bray right here.”

Later I gnawed my knuckles. At some point, in a kind of fever, I may have moaned. Blessedly, at last the lights dimmed and the night’s real speakers redeemed the evening.

But the ass whose braying I’d endured left a bad taste.

Less noise, more signal#section3

Let us now define and disclaim.

The jerk at the library event was in love with his own noise, and the problem with noise is that it interferes with signals. What is the signal? What, if anything, does “Web 2.0” mean? What is the good thing that the hype risks obscuring?

Well, there are several good things, it seems to me.

Some small teams of sharp people—people who once, perhaps, worked for those with dimmer visions—are now following their own muses and designing smart web applications. Products like Flickr and Basecamp are fun and well-made and easy to use.

That may not sound like much. But ours is a medium in which, more often than not, big teams have slowly and expensively labored to produce overly complex web applications whose usability was near nil on behalf of clients with at best vague goals. The realization that small, self-directed teams powered by Pareto’s Principle can quickly create sleeker stuff that works better is not merely bracing but dynamic. As 100 garage bands sprang from every Velvet Underground record sold, so the realization that one small team can make good prompts 100 others to try.

The best and most famous of these new web products (i.e. the two I just mentioned) foster community and collaboration, offering new or improved modes of personal and business interaction. By virtue of their virtues, they own their categories, which is good for the creators, because they get paid.

It is also good for our industry, because the prospect of wealth inspires smart developers who once passively took orders to start thinking about usability and design, and to try to solve problems in a niche they can own. In so doing, some of them may create jobs and wealth. And even where the payday is smaller, these developers can raise the design and usability bar. This is good for everyone. If consumers can choose better applications that cost less or are free, then the web works better, and clients are more likely to request good (usable, well-designed) work instead of the usual schlock.

Of this they spin#section4

In addition to favoring simpler solutions built by leaner teams, the stuff labeled “Web 2.0” tends to have technological commonalities.

On the back end, it is most often powered by open source technologies like PHP or (especially) Ruby on Rails.

On the front end, it is mainly built with web standards—CSS for layout, XML for data, XHTML for markup, JavaScript and the DOM for behavior—with a little Microsoft stuff thrown in.

When web standards with a little Microsoft stuff thrown in are used to create pages that can interact with the server without refreshing, the result is web apps that feel peppy and, dare we say it, Flash-like. In a white paper that actually got read, writer/consultant Jesse James Garrett named what I’ve just described. He called it AJAX, and the acronym not only took, it helped interactivity powered by these technologies gain traction in the marketplace.

Here is where the spinners bedazzle the easily confused. Consider this scenario:

Steven, a young web wiz, has just celebrated his bar mitzvah. He received a dozen gifts and must write a dozen thank-you notes. Being webbish, he creates an on-line “Thank-You Note Generator.” Steven shows the site to his friends, who show it to their friends, and soon the site is getting traffic from recipients of all sorts of gifts, not just bar mitzvah stuff.

If Steven created the site with CGI and Perl and used tables for layout, this is the story of a boy who made a website for his own amusement, perhaps gaining social points in the process. He might even contribute to a SXSW Interactive panel.

But if Steven used AJAX and Ruby on Rails, Yahoo will pay millions and Tim O’Reilly will beg him to keynote.

Who weeps for AJAX?#section5

We pause but a moment to consider two AJAX-related headaches.

The first afflicts people who make websites. Wireframing AJAX is a bitch. The best our agency has come up with is the Chuck Jones approach: draw the key frames. Chuck Jones had an advantage: he knew what Bugs Bunny was going to do. We have to determine all the things a user might do, and wireframe the blessed moments of each possibility.

The second problem affects all who use an AJAX-powered site. If web signifiers and conventions are still in their infancy, then AJAX-related signifiers and conventions are in utero. I am still discovering features of Flickr. Not new features—old ones. You find some by clicking in empty white space. This is like reading the news by pouring ACME Invisible Ink Detector on all pieces of paper that cross your path until you find one that has words on it.

I am not knocking Flickr. I love Flickr. I wish I were as gifted as the people who created it. I’m merely pointing out complex design problems that will not be solved overnight or by a single group. In Ma.gnolia, which is now in beta, we used small icons to indicate that additional actions could be taken and to hint at what those actions might be. We succeeded to the extent that 16px by 16px drawings can communicate such concepts as “you may edit these words by clicking on them.”

These problems and others will be solved, most likely by someone reading this page. One points to these issues mainly to dent a swelling of unthinking euphoria. We have been down this road before.

Bubble, bubble#section6

When I started designing websites, if the guy on the plane next to me asked what I did, I had to say something like “digital marketing” if I wanted to avoid the uncomprehending stare.

A few years later, if I told the passenger beside me I was a web designer, he or she would regard me with a reverence typically reserved for Stanley-Cup-winning Nobel Laureate rock stars.

Then the bubble burst, and the same answer to the same question provoked looks of pity and barely concealed disgust. I remember meeting a high-rolling entrepreneur in the early 2000s who asked what I did. I should have told him I hung around playgrounds, stealing children’s lunch money. He would have had more respect for that answer.

I hated the bubble. I hated it when Vanity Fair or New York Magazine treated web agency founders like celebrities. I hated that mainstream media and the society it informs either ignored the web or mistook it for a high-stakes electronic version of the fashion industry.

When the bubble burst, these same geniuses decided the web was of no interest at all. Funny, to me it was more interesting than ever. To me it was people and organizations publishing content that might not otherwise have seen light. It was small businesses with realistic goals delivering value and growing. It was traditional publishers finding their way into a new digital medium, helped by folks like you and me. It was new ways of talking and sharing and loving and selling and healing and being. Hardly dull.

Eventually the uninformed stopped seeing a wasteland and started seeing bloggers, by which they meant only those bloggers who wrote about politics, most often from the extreme left or right. The web was “back” even though it had never left. (Of course, the fifth time you hear Wolf Blitzer say “blogger” or ask, “what do the bloggers have to tell us about these still-unfolding events?” the joke is stale and you wish those who don’t get the web would go back to ignoring it.)

But nothing, not even the rants of political bloggers, was as exciting as the scent of money. As the first properly valued “Web 2.0” properties began to find buyers, a frenzy like the old one popped hideously back to life. Yahoo spent how much? Google bought what? Here was real blood in the water.

But how to persuade the other sharks in the tank that this blood feast was different from the previous boom-and-bust? Easy: Dismiss everything that came before as “Web 1.0.”

It’s only castles burning#section7

To you who are toiling over an AJAX– and Ruby-powered social software product, good luck, God bless, and have fun. Remember that 20 other people are working on the same idea. So keep it simple, and ship it before they do, and maintain your sense of humor whether you get rich or go broke. Especially if you get rich. Nothing is more unsightly than a solemn multi-millionaire.

To you who feel like failures because you spent last year honing your web skills and serving clients, or running a business, or perhaps publishing content, you are special and lovely, so hold that pretty head high, and never let them see the tears.

As for me, I’m cutting out the middleman and jumping right to Web 3.0. Why wait?

95 Reader Comments

  1. that the marketing types get ahold of a technical concept and spin it their advantage? yeah? welcome to 1999.

    no, scratch that. welcome to 2000. to 2001. to 2002. to 2003. to 2004. to 2005. to 2006. to the web in the real world.

  2. Thanks to Zeldman’s influence, I completely abandoned DHTML and Flash in favor of web standards. (Against my will, mind you. I wanted to like these things–but they very quickly revealed themselves to be baroque, convoluted solutions to simple problems.)

    So now, I’ve justed started a new job, and my team leader is already throwing around the buzzword “AJAX,” which is new to me. Before I get too deeply entrenched in learning this new technology, can someone please explain why Zeldman refers to it with such implied disdain?

  3. I’ve stopped reading when I hit on the first ever use of “Web 2.0”. I think Jeffrey wrote down very well why I feel such disinterest.

    To me, most of the time the web feels like 1.0 beta 2 still; the website of the national railway services has a simple form where you key in you departure point, your arrival point and it gives you the next 4 train departures.

    Thanks to some stupid javascript, it does not work on my Sony Ericsson K700 mobile phone, when I need that service most when confronted with yet another delay or reroute.

    As long as most companies still “don’t get it”, I couldn’t care less about Flickr, Google maps or any other hyped thing.

  4. I must have blinked for too long, web 2.0 and ajax were on my do-to-list…ok, so I scrap them and go for web 3.0? I agree with Martijn’s comments above, it would be nice if there more than a few companies making useful, working sites.

  5. Screaming out of the top of my lungs, this is what I’ve been trying to tell everyone in my department. Now that I have some backup, I will most definitely use this article as proof that wire-framing a web application means twice the work.

    This also goes to further proof that traditional interaction designers are going to have beef up on their JavaScript and learn some progressive enhancement to make sure each web app has a fallback.

    Lastly, the bit on “But if Steven used AJAX and Ruby on Rails, Yahoo will pay millions”. Sorry, that just ain’t true. Using Ruby for production would put us in the pit mainly because it can’t touch PHP when it comes to speed.

    Aside from that, where do I sign up for the 3.0 conference? Can I be a speaker 😉

  6. With the greatest of respect to this site and the authors, I’d been worried by the quality of articles lately, lots of hot-air and very little of genuine interest or use to the experienced professional. But this (and it’s companion) is a gem.

    You express many of the things that have been getting me frustrated over the last year or so; Particularly the ‘web agency founders like celebrities’ line. The general cult of css-celebrity and sycophantic review sites like stylegala, css import, web standards awards, etc. wind me up no end.

    I’ve spent much of the last eighteen months rediscovering Javascript and playing with AJAX-like components and sites, and I find it all very promising and interesting; but there’s so much hype and so little quality (relatively) that we do risk generating anothor bubble, ready for bursting. When all of the VCs and big clients involved realise that all the spiel they’ve been getting from developers/designers (who, frankly, should know better) is a load of hot air with very little deliverable, they’ll be queuing up to deride and discredit us once again.

    And I’ll be first in line to kick those responsible.

    P.S. AJAX _is_ a bitch to wireframe.

  7. For me the important aspect of Web 2.0 is the concentration on what users of a site might be visiting for. Designing interfaces and metaphors that make functionality simple and easy to access is hard.

    Design is planning, and planning for interaction is hard. When it works well, like Flickr, it’s very good. I’m genuinely excited about the sites I’ve found that offer lots of functionality with very low learning curves.

    If we are all on the Web 2.0 bandwagon maybe we should enjoy the ride, and hopefully none of the wheels will fall off!

  8. This reminds me of the stupidity (not your article, very nice actually)of the fashion industry, only with design and development technologies, there is supposed to be a practical side to the tech-flavor of the time.
    Give up Flash? Hell no. I love Flash, and I also love xhtml & css that doesn’t need a thousand hacks to make it work across the major modern browsers (even IE 6!).
    As Rick Nelson sang, “ya can’t please everyone so ya, got ta please yourself.
    Hmmm…Think I’ll save the rest for my blog.

  9. I’m already on to Web 4.0, where it’s all plain text and SVG.

    Web 2.0 is the biggest gimmick and joke that I’ve seen in a long time. It reminds me of higher ed, where professors pat themselves on the back, and build each other up. In this case, it’s the industry superstars capitalizing on their b.s., and it’s the wanna-bes that are yucking it up.

  10. 20% of the passion we feel for a particular utopian possibility is responsible for 80% of the anxiety we feel about it’s reception by the great unwashed;-) Experience seems to suggest that a messiah (fan, believer, advocate, etc.) can expect 2 possible responses. And they both suck.

    If the idea is shunned, that’s obviously not good. If the idea is embraced, that’s often not good either, for it seems that according to some law of linguistic impotence, the idea that is embraced will have little to nothing in common with the original vision. Often, in the worst cases, it becomes the antithesis of the idea. If you are a messiah of peace, expect a lot of killing in your name.

    I’ve felt this apprehension for a number of ideas: the web, cinema, art, hip hop. It seems the same cultural process operates on any idea, at least for the people who care about it. (Imagine how Richard Dawkins feels.REF) When you have two options for reception and one is the antithesis of the original idea, then obscurity becomes much more attractive. Better the original art form remain largely invisible than it get confused with rap. Better Post Modernism remain academic than it be embraced (or rejected) as a form of totalitarianism.

    On the other hand, Jeffery’s Web 3.0 maneuver seems like a cool move, at least for as long as it can remain undefined. As long as no one figures out what Web 3.0 is, our world is safe. Otherwise, expect more of the same: show me a communications medium and I’ll show you a marketer who will render it 99% useless and see the remaining 1% as a very respectable response rate.


  11. I used to look forward to the weekly updates, there’d always be some new interesting techniques to digest.
    That hasn’t happened since September 26 2005. every issue since then may has well have been titled “don’t forget to breathe” or “looks like rain… best take an umbrella” – common sense stuff that doesn’t really need 500 odd words written about it!

    bring back the juicy tech stuff!

  12. Seriously, it’s just javascript. The only real difference being that it’s slightly more complicated than simple form checks.

    Get off the high horses already, they are dead anyway. AJAX is just a name to describe something that is merely a feature.

    By overhyping this “feature” all you create is unnecessary use of javascript on websites.

    Web 3.0? Not even close. Web 1.0 public beta 3 is more like it.

  13. Yeah, wireframing an AJAX app is a bitch… as long as you are thinking of it as a web page. If you think of it as what it is — an application — you design it as you would any GUI application. That’s not so hard.

    Frankly, I think there is about as much anti-hype on this subject as there is hype. That is to say, there are as many people condemning this stuff out of hand as there are claiming it’s the next big thing. Not that this is new — really it’s just the old “when I was a kid we did things better” syndrome. But there really is great stuff being done with this technology, and it will get better still. I, for one, can hardly imagine living without Google Maps anymore.

    Saying that people can really screw things up with AJAX is pretty silly. People can screw things up with HTML. People can screw things up with construction paper and scissors. AJAX is just a tool — some people will do great things and some people will saw off their fingers. But you can’t blame the tool. We’re talking about human nature here.

  14. _When all of the VCs and big clients involved realise that all the spiel they’ve been getting from developers/designers (who, frankly, should know better) is a load of hot air with very little deliverable_…

    There’s nothing really complex behind all this. If they can’t figure that out for themselves, perhaps they deserve to get hosed.

  15. Wow,

    When I was young and running a web agency as a nobody, I thought that these companies around me must know something I didn’t because from what I could see they consisted of nothing but hot air. Soon they were gone, and I realised that I *did* know something they didn’t, or perhaps I was merely only being honest.

    I’ve felt the same akwardness around the whole Web 2.0 bandwagon, some top people that I respect touting the next big thing, usually because their mortgages and world speaking tours relied on it. I wondered if they were seeing something amazing that I was to stupid to grasp, but now I think I realise again, that perhaps I’m not being stupid.

    Mr Zeldman, thanks for a great, enlightning reality check. Your quote about a dime-a-dozen Web 2.0 Social App development is gold. 😉

    Note to Everett Lindsay: Web technologies are not on/off switches to be adopted and/or thrown away at the whim of a book or article you have read. They form a selection of tools that may or may not be appropriate to the task at hand. Reading ‘Designing With Web Standards’ didn’t make me (and shouldn’t make you) stop using Flash altogether, it should just cause you to stop and think about when it is an appropriate tool or not. As you learn about AJAX you will too learn that it can be used in a useful manner in many situations. 🙂

  16. I don’t understand why people have such a distaste for all things labeled ‘Web 2.0.’ I’m not a fan of buzzwords, and there’s nothing I hate more than a middle manager with a head full of technologies he knows nothing about. But let’s forget about all that and think about what it is we are trying to accomplish. I don’t know about you, but I would like to make better web sites. Web sites with better usability.

    Let’s face it, Tim Berners-Lee never fathomed the web would be used the way we use it today. The HTML protocol was just not made to support rich e-mail clients that check our spelling as we type, or maps that allow us to drag them around transparently gathering information from the server in the background without refreshing the page. I don’t see how anybody could disagree with the fact that these features enhance a user’s experience on the web, and they would simply not be possible without AJAX or some other still undiscovered technology.

    The sooner we stop complaining about people improperly using ‘Web 2.0’ buzzwords and start thinking about what this technology gives us as web developers and how we can embrace it and enhance it, the better off we will be, and the better off the users of our sites will be.

  17. I *really* liked this article, especially since it isn’t just related to web design/development. I’m afraid it’s a universal truth that “the people” and especially managers love buzz words and hypes.

    It’s just like music these days. People hear some crap that’s new and hyped, and thus they love it. More often than not, they actually think they’re really into this “new” music genre (which has probably been going on for years and years), while in fact they ain’t heard nothing yet (can you tell I love underground music? ;)).

    It’s not that I particularly hate popular music, I just can’t stand the reasons people feel attracted to it. And just like web design, they might just hate it tomorrow. I suspect people’s brains just keep getting flatter or something, they don’t like to really investigate what it is they choose.

    Well, what can we do but scream and rant and swear and smash our heads against the wall and… O, wait, we could of course let go and breathe out for a moment (OK, I admit, I’m still struggling with that one every once in a while :)).

  18. The whole web 2.0 – ruby on rails – ajax crappola strikes me as a pyramid scheme. I hate quoting slashdot, but this time it may be appropriate:

    1. Write a web framework in an obscure programming language that’s “Big In Japan”
    2. ?
    3. Profit!!!

    Seems like step 2 has been figured out…either write a book about Ruby / Ajax / Web 2.0, or get bought by Yahoo or Google.

    Once you work your way up to the top of the pyramid, you get to write a book about Ruby or Ajax, and everybody below you must buy it. Later, it will be their turn. The whole scheme depends on recruiting new people to the pyramid.

  19. _Let’s face it, Tim Berners-Lee never fathomed the web would be used the way we use it today._

    Actually, he did. Back in 1998. He called it the ‘semantic web’:


    Im more of a Java developer than a web designer… and Ive been using ‘AJAX’ for five years now. Of course, back in those days it was just called ‘Remote Scripting’:


    My beef with Web 2.0? Its just Web 1.0. There is NOTHING NEW HERE. Only that people are finally making JavaScript libraries so the hard DHTML and AJAX stuff isn’t so hard anymore. Good, certainly. Worthy of the name? No.

    I say cut the hype, BS, and infighting, and lets get people behind a ‘JavaScript Standard Library’ once and for all.

  20. To me the main issue with AJAX is not accessibility – it’s the “asychronous” part that’s the real issue and to my mind, no one has solved yet.

    It’s largely a skills problem – AJAX takes applications into a realm where you’d normally want stuff like “MQSeries”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MQSeries to help out, and that’s an area where most web developers have little to no experience, or even awareness. Another issue is people developing AJAX apps @localhost.

    People are just starting to notice that there could be a problem though…

    “Rapid Ajax requests out of order”:http://wrath.rubyonrails.org/pipermail/rails-spinoffs/2005-November/001334.html

    “XMLHTTP notes”:http://www.quirksmode.org/blog/archives/2005/09/xmlhttp_notes_a_1.html

    “The problem, obviously, is that a user may type so fast, and/or the server may be so slow, that one request overtakes another. User types second number, request goes out, but before it comes back he types the third number, and another request goes out etc.”

    Latency may or may not be a problem your particular AJAX feature needs to be worried about but it’s a big “it depends”. Looking at many “Thankyou note” type AJAX demos suggests that for the most part no ones even thinking about it. Worse still is some of the popular AJAX “toolkits” out there will take people right into this trap. A rare exception is “Live Grid”:http://openrico.org/rico/livegrid.page – if you look deep into the code you see they’re being careful to check the order they got responses in – this wasn’t handled by their AJAX toolkit.

    And it’s worth understanding that cable modems don’t magically make this problem disappear – see “It’s the Latency, Stupid”:http://rescomp.stanford.edu/~cheshire/rants/Latency.html

  21. Insightful article. When will somebody come up with a better name than the generic web2.0, web3.0 naming scheme?

    Everywhere Internet?

    Web On Marketing?

    There must be something better out there!

  22. *Web 3.0*…….SWEET!

    Maybe we can find some other technologies that have existed for years, use it, and give it a name! We’ll make millions!

    It’s all about how to solve problems and how you look at things. Google didn’t invent search, they just said, hey …. let’s do something with this. People tend to look at the technology and not at the overall big picture of *WHAT IS THE POINT*?

    I’m learning that people who use this stuff really don’t care how it is created. If it makes life easier, looks good, and adds productivity then 2 thumbs up to the creator(s). Just cause a blog can fade in and out doesn’t mean you going to get VC funding. _( If you do, well…..how the hell?…oh yeah…YOU USING AJAX, DUH! )_

    Design and usability is a science. WE should be the ones concerned with HOW something is built because we want to make sure the USER EXPERIENCE is what rulez.

    Here’s some food for thought:
    How about VCs (and some do this) actually look at companies who have a useful *business model* surrounding that cool look and feel. There are other industries who could benefit from this *new technology* 😉 So what experiences are there that can be created or improved upon; aside from podcasting and photos?

  23. It’s incredible – fancy javascript gets tauted as the next revolutionary web doohickey to solve everybody’s problems.

    Zeldman is spot on with this article. Issues abound today that deserve a lot more coveage than AJAX or anything like it – things like accessibility, usability and of course the crucial aspects of CSS and XHTML. They are the topics that champions of hype should concern themselves with.

    AJAX is a great thing but it’s a progression, not a revolution. Web 1, 2 whatever. It’s the web. Let’s focus on what we have and make it work rather than looking to the future without properly developing what we have in the present.

  24. How quickly we forget the tech wreck when the VC’s push the next best thing.

    Is there anything truely new with 2.0 or is it just easier for more people to do the same old thing?

  25. I never belive anyone who talk about web 2.0 (and now Web 3.0) It is all marketing bullshit to me… Most who talk about-it… only talk about-it and never really work with their idea.

    I dont’t consider the web as something with version number like a comercial software. It is somethng in constent changes you simply cannot put a version number on it.

  26. I’m going with Jeffrey on this one. Design of new applications has to be smart, not cool. Like he mentioned, I’m constantly finding things in Flickr that are extremely old, yet were never really brought to light. By using small icons and such you can effectively suggest that, “Hey, something can be done here!”

    I know for one thing I’m tired of hearing all of these buzzwords being thrown around by people who have basically no idea what they even mean. I think the jerk from the presentation he talked about is a perfect example of “that guy”

  27. I hope I’m not off-topic but this reminds me of Bruce Eckel’s recent article on ‘The Departure of the Hyperenthusiasts.’ He’s talking about Java but in many ways it seems that his point is similar to Jeffrey’s. There is just so much hype around that it’s hard not to be seduced into one distraction after another. Perhaps some of them will be worthwhile. But as the hype level gets higher and higher you have to wonder. In either case it’s good so see someone arguing for a little skepticism while we get our work done.

  28. bq. People who speak because they like the sound of their own voice, don’t like listening to people who speak because they like to hear the sound of their own voice.

    Zeldman was my hero. I attended conference after conference and listened to his standards and accessibility hype for years. It was great and extremely important. It also spawned a bunch of crusading sycophants, who were unthinking immitators.

    I lost religion after ALA got a functional downgrade with the latest redesign, which prioritizes a huge logo and a column of white-space over immediate access to related articles. Is this web 3.0 that Zelman envisions? more clicks, more scrolls, more page reloads, pretty, pretty logo.

    Why not just ignore the hype and choose not characterize a whole approach by the least intelligent of it’s followers.

    Keep it simple.

    # Web sites can be made much better for the user with the principle known as AJAX.
    # Be sane about your useage of AJAX

  29. While I tend to agree with many of the points made here (especially the bit about Ajax being a bitch to wireframe, ain’t that the truth) I can’t help but feel a bit frustrated that:

    A) It has to be said at all.
    B) It takes someone like Zeldman to get this stuff to sink in.
    C) In a way it’s just more spin.

    Web 2.0, Web 3.0, etc. It’s not the numbers that matter. It’s all “Web” and this stuff should be about people not technology. A successful Web application can be built with Ajax, or not. It can rock on Ruby on Rails or be a bit slower on PHP and be a great app either way.

    Ultimately I feel this kind of hype doesn’t matter much at all and it’s kind of crazy there is so much time, effort and brain power spent debating about it. But, hey, it was a fun read.

  30. An interesting and in some ways reassuring article. All I know about Ruby on Rails is from Wikipedia… kind of scary. What on earth is Ajax on Rails and can it be explained to a layperson? Probably not. With (X)HTML, CSS, php, and a smattering of JavaScript – and a bit of Flash thrown in, maybe – all on Apache, one can build almost anything nice and useful, beginning absolutely from scratch. Technologically, this has become my web world and this is why Geoffrey Zeldman’s article is reassuring (I’ve always found JavaScript nasty stuff, for some reason).

    And with ever-faster connections, I don’t see such a big advantage in client-side processing, especially with the proliferation of devices and the important issues around accessibility.

  31. I like it when Brother Zeldman blows his top. This is creamy smooth vituperation on a level with his “*The Day the Browser Died*” — the dirty little secret of Netscape 4.

    As a cubicle-dwelling Web application GUI developer, I see a proliferation of hyped tech being adopted, yet the focus is wrong. Too much attention is on programming and middle-layer magic bullets rather than user-centered design. Technology has *never* been the thing that holds the Web back.

    In fact, no silliness has been able to hold the Web back at all. Despite the media hype of “the dot com bust”, the Web has continued to accelerate its expansion into new areas, new uses, and new audiences.

  32. OK, you are right, right, right, AJAX is very difficult, which means the majority of apps is bad, unless the programmer is very gifted.

    What also sux in the Web 2.0 / social software hype is that its all about content or bookmark sharing. Even the so called social software is not very social. It’s without people. And this is what virtual presence changes. OK, this sounds like an advertisement. But it isn’t. If you check out the Jabber Virtual Presence project (please google it, no ad, no URL here), then you might get a topic for your next blog. And if people read and do it then it might save the Web by making the social web really social.

  33. I want to thank you for letting [us hard-working hype-abhoring designers] be ourselves, again.

    Jeffrey, I don’t know how old you are (I suspect I may be older), but I want to be just like you when I grow up. Reading this article relieved a dull aching pain and gave me hope that this “2.0” shall pass.

  34. Tired…………………..Wired

    Web 1.0…………………Web 2.0


    Laptop………………….Thin computing


    Photoshop……………….AJAX Gimp

    MS Office……………….AJAX OpenOffice

    Dumb Textareas…………..AJAX-WYSIWYG


    Windows Desktop………….Cpanel

    If you still don’t get it…too bad.

  35. “Web technologies are not on/off switches to be adopted and/or thrown away at the whim of a book or article you have read.”

    Never said I did.

    What I wrote was that

    “Thanks to Zeldman’s influence, I completely abandoned DHTML and Flash in favor of web standards. (Against my will, mind you. I wanted to like these things—but…)”

    Even with my conservative use of language, it’s clear that my resulting conclusions were much more than just a “whim.” “Against my will” is a cute, shorthand way of alluding to my years of philosophical struggle with dynamic web interfaces under the constraints of section 508 compliance.

    But really, none of this detail is necessary if you stop and think about the number of “whims” /you’ve/ engaged in “against [your] will”…

  36. For me, Web 2.0 or 3.0 whichever version you prefer, is about mobile computing not some cool Java-Script effects.

    The next wave of web sites and content online will have to adapt and be able to feed cellphones, PDAs and PocketPCs. To this end we need MOBILE DEVICE BROWSERS TO ADOPT WEB STANDARDS (Mr.Zeldman can you do anything about this?). The adoption of these web standards by mobile browsers should be called Web 1.0.

    Web 1.0 is point when all devices and browsers truly support web standards through different platforms, devices and browsers. Until, then this Web 2.0 stuff is all nonsense to me….

    @media=”handheld” style sheets are currently not supported in PocketPCs as they should be, what’s up with that?

  37. Information design or unique impression? Centralized or decentralized? XHTML or JavaScript?

    Point one: It’s the money, stupid! Designing an application using AJAX will cost you 5x – 20x more then doing the same work with PHP or any similar language. Google is able to spends 100k on the design of a few AJAX pages for Google Maps. But that doesn’t make sense if you’ve only got a few hundered visitors.

    Point two: It’s centralization against decentralization. We’re going in cycles, did you notice? From the simple and comprehensible to more and more features back to the simple. Do you still remember why we’ve discarded “fat clients” (decentralization) as lame a few years ago? And why fat clients were great compared to the (centralized) green and amber terminals of IBM machines?

    Point three: Web 1.0 got close to the terminals again and Web 2.0 moves towards the direction of fat clients. So expect the same “innovative” amateur GUI design, until somebody comes up and imposes a standard. MS again?

    No, please, don’t!!!

  38. My analysis: There’s no web 2.0 past the marketing, yet something is beginning to happen.

    We talk AJAX (burp) and all that nice stuff that is been cited more than often here and all over the place, and in my opinion fail to see the simple course of events in the blurry background.

    As a software designer in love with networking and user interfaces for a long time now I’ve seen with much delight something really big happening the past few years: *programming met design*. I don’t know if I’m the only one thinking it’s huge… sometimes it feels like that.

    Computer tools are beginning to take the shape of users’ hands. Distance between user and hardware shortens. At least we strive to make it so, more and more. Whatever the tools and the technical trends most user don’t give a * about. Sure those help, but it’s not the point.

    I agree that it’s really nice to be given technology that’s (not that much) fit to make something worth/more of the web, yet I think that mobile terminals, for a dumb exemple, are more of an achievement than AJAX (re-burp) in the networking trends.

    I suggest (but feel free to do whatever you want;) we stop focusing on this small spot in the bottom left corner of the big picture of the web currently passing by us, and spend our time, ideas and ink to more rewarding (and profitable, in the end) matters.

    It’s not really that I’m fed up with empty articles, piles of books born out of ten lines of JS code and promising talks devoid of any juice (trust me I TRY HARD to find the juice), but more that I am hungry for more.

    I’m confident. much more will come out of it if we don’t go astray.

  39. I’m thing about creating a website about web 2.0.
    Do you think that the domain name web30.pl is a good idea?
    Please tell me what you think.
    Kindest Regards,
    Your devoted reader, Greg

  40. Unfortunately, the whole “Web 2.0” buzzword extravaganza has gotten out of control, we (as an industry) have the marketing folks and team leaders spouting off the words with no comprehension of what they’re actually talking about (yeah, this is nothing new I know). The problem comes when in 6 months when the “new hotness” comes out and the customer is wondering why you’re still working on their “Web 2.0” site, but now your sales rep is telling him how he should go ahead and pony up for a complete recode for “Web 3.0” standards… This will confuse and infuriate the customers (the businesses, not the users) past the already bulging vein on their foreheads. However, first we need to define what Web 2.0 *is* before throwing it around so haphazardly. Ok, that’s my $0.02 and I’m getting off my soapbox now…

  41. In response to the difficulties in wireframing AJAX, perhaps a new paradigm is in order. Or more accurately an old paradigm applied to a new medium. Requirements documents in software engineering are sometimes burdensome and involved, but they are proven ways to document software applications _including_ expectations of the user interface. Perhaps as the web moves towards similar behavior as confronted by traditional software, we on the development end should be moving towards similar techniques for documenting and accomplishing that behavior. However, I understand that the last thing a web “designer” wants to look at is 120 pages of specifications.

  42. This has got to be one of the more interesting articles posted here in a while now. I really enjoy Zeldman’s take on this. Why exactly does everyone want to jump on this Web 2.0 bandwagon, it’s like saying .com this .com that, we all should remember how that buzzword loving time in our economy ended. So try to nip this one in the bud and not throw around Web 2.0 to everyone you want to invest in your development startup, be modest, let them ask you about Web 2.0 and explain to them what it really is. Instead try to focus on making a good product, not one for the sake of throwing around a buzzword.

  43. Web 2.0 feels a lot to me like DOS applications of yesteryear: each application had different UI idioms for doing everything. It is very easy to build something that can totally confound users.

    This was almost impossible to do with Web 1.0.

  44. Personally I loved how each DOS app was different… back when programs had personality, the games especially. We didn’t use the mouse much back then.

    I downloaded and reviewed hundreds of DOS applications back then for my BBS… edit boxes with shift-arrow selections, pulldown menus, hotkeys, not much has changed… Right now I’m using a 1980’s IBM keyboard, still works like a charm 😉

  45. First of all, a big wahoo! to Zeldman for writing the book that got me started on building web apps. It’s amazing what a $30 purchase at Borders and 6 weeks in Hawaii with no friends can do to a guy’s web skills.

    Now that I’m doing this stuff full-time and constantly presenting to clients, I can tell you that all this web 2.0 hype is just for the true nerds at heart. The technology behind Flickr and Google Maps is truly innovative and cool as crap to me, but when your typical end-user sees the stuff that web apps can do today, all they say is, “well that’s nice, but can you make it do THIS?”

    To echo what Zeldman conveys, the bar must continually be raised. I’m thankful for the hard-core geeks who blaze new trails so the mid-core geeks like myself can build better applications, challenge usability designs, and provide stronger solutions to the problems that seem to never go away.

    The web is not going away anytime soon, so if we don’t work to improve it we’ll be constantly wading through our own $#@%.

  46. Buzzwords are a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it’s inevitable that we’ll come up with names for more involved ideas; on the other, replacing complex concepts with simple terms inevitably results not only in hype, but in confusion among well-meaning people.

    With that in mind, I’d like to clarify terms so we’re all talking about the same stuff. I think my definitions are accurate but I imagine someone will correct me if they’re not 🙂

    I’ll preface the whole thing by saying that while I think AJAX and Web 2.0 are worthwhile and even exciting, the hype is irritating and I enjoyed the article.

    *AJAX* (formerly _remote scripting_) is a JavaScript technique that allows a Web page to communicate with a server without refreshing. It’s _not_ the same thing as DHTML or client-side scripting. Indeed, it allows Web developers to do _more_ server-side processing without sacrificing interactivity. It’s particularly exciting for Web application designers because it allows us to move toward a smoother, more app-like interaction model. It is less important for basic Web sites (which are page-based to begin with and don’t require frequent action), and like most new technologies is being overused in some circles. I would also argue that for complex Web apps, Flash is still a better choice, but AJAX narrows the gap.

    The current hype surrounding it is indeed annoying, but I will say it’s probably easier to sell a client on AJAX today than on remote scripting two years ago. It will be even easier when AJAX isn’t so hard to implement, when Web app frameworks support it more fundamentally…but that’s coming.

    *Web 2.0* is a simple word that tries to capture a fairly complex concept, a bunch of things happening at once. There’s an “O’Reilly article”:http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/a/oreilly/tim/news/2005/09/30/what-is-web-20.html that goes into details and is worthwhile reading. At its heart is a decentralization: Small developers making a difference, sometimes by combining data from existing sources; small publishers (bloggers) making themselves heard instead of a few monolithic sources; vendors catering to a large number of small businesses instead of a small number of large ones. Sort of a grassroots thing. How it will play out, I don’t know…but what’s exciting (to me, anyway) is the empowerment of the little guy, and a greater realization of the strengths of the Web medium (as opposed to a simple adaptation of preexisting patterns to it). Naturally, if Web 2.0 turns into an excuse for another VC-driven craze that tends to diminish its worth…but chances are the folks behind it, the ones O’Reilly originally noticed when they coined the term, will keep plugging away regardless and survive the hype.

    AJAX relates to Web 2.0 in that it serves as a vehicle for more advanced functionality and a handy differentiator. But in many ways I think AJAX is the least interesting aspect of Web 2.0 and certainly not necessary (again, Flash accomplishes the same thing more elegantly, and many sites need neither to provide a great user experience). O’Reilly cites companies like Amazon who were thinking in Web 2.0 terms long before Web 2.0 was a thing, and before browsers had evolved enough to make AJAX a reliable option.

    Anyway, I hope this has been useful to someone. I really enjoyed the article, and am sad to see the hype machine at work distorting something I see as pretty worthwhile. But I suppose it’s inevitable…

  47. Dave:

    Thanks for the comments on AJAX. My description in the article may understate the degree of client/server interactivity involved.

    The O’Reilly article’s characterization as you summarize it is exactly what I object to:

    bq. Small developers making a difference … small publishers (bloggers) making themselves heard instead of a few monolithic sources

    None of this is new. None of it is “Web 2.0.” This is how the web has always been. That people are waking up to it is nice; that they think it’s something new is rather jarring. It’s like they just found out that people get married and they think they invented babies.

  48. I especially like the closing.

    “… _and maintain your sense of humor whether you get rich or go broke. Especially if you get rich. Nothing is more unsightly than a solemn multi-millionaire._”

  49. IMO, the hype around Web 2.0, AJAX, and pretty much most of the modern web today is just hot-air.

    It is hot-air because the largest portion of Internet users don’t fully understand what the Internet is.

    The users who do are far too small to make a difference and so the Internet will continue to develop in a commercially-oriented way. It is seen as a broadcast medium by the powers that be and I think it will continue that way. Partly because of mindshare and partly because of financial necessity.

    So while Web 2.0 will continue to grow (hype or no hype) — those that do know can either remain steadfast or go with the flow.

    Personally, I remain steadfast. I don’t believe the Internet is a publishing or broadcast medium — it’s not convoluted, but there is more to it than that.

  50. Jeffrey, I read _DWWS_ and thought it was great. I read your technical articles on _ALA_ from time to time and usually find them comprehensible and useful. This article, however,I could barely even comprehend. I think it might contain some good information, but the prose is simply undigestible to me.

  51. AJAX is really a buzz word and perhaps there is too much hype in it. But the bottom line is that when used and implemented well, it does indeed help user interaction and can be compliant with most browsers (IE, FF, Opera, Safari, etc.). I wouldn’t write it off as useless buzz words.

    I have recently discovered CakePHP. It is not a port of RoR although it does use some of the same concepts. In addition, it has a built in AJAX helper that uses Scriptaculous (http://script.aculo.us).

    I have an app where people can order multiple sized portraits of the same picture. So, why if all they are doing is adding a record and refreshing only part of the screen should the WHOLE page be requested from the server? By using an AJAX.Updater it sends the form in XMLRequest, processes the add, and returns the information to update the corresponding div. This makes my application MUCH faster and help to save on precious bandwidth. It also helps dialup users and broadband users alike feel more like a normal application.

    AJAX can be grossly abused, but if used wisely and taskfully it can enhance user experience. And if you use CakePHP there is no need to create the frameworks from the ground up. It is there for you.


  52. Back in the mid-nineties, just as the bubble was starting to form, my friend’s middle-aged dad who has little interest in computers started asking me about the web. Since then, he has pretty much stuck to whatever shows up on the first page of any Google result list, Amazon.com, and the two or three travel sites that he loves.

    A few months ago, though, he asked me about this thing called Web 2.0. Now he is more apt to leave the “safe” neighborhoods of the Web and venture out into its darker areas. He’s not doing anything special, but he’s doing more with the web than before. And the only thing that got him curious was the marketing of Web 2.0.

    That’s where the strength of it comes in. It’s reintroducing the concept to people who got stuck in the web ala 1999.

    Sure, you can be all elitist and say, “This is how the web has always been — that they think it is new is jarring,” but to them, it is new.

    Of course, there’s a difference between the person who “hears” about Web 2.0 and the person who won’t shut up about it, but the people who haven’t heard about it yet – the people who are still confining themselves to the “safe” web because they don’t know any better — they need the people who won’t shut up about it; otherwise, they may never realize that there’s more to the web than Amazon and MSN.

    Dismiss these people if you like, but that doesn’t seem very web-like to me, since the web is supposed to bring people together, not separate them into lists apart.

  53. bq. Sure, you can be all elitist and say, “This is how the web has always been—that they think it is new is jarring,”? but to them, it is new.

    That’s being elitist? Dude, I’m not saying your friend’s middle-aged dad should have known better what the web was, I’m saying journalists whose job it is to study the matter should know better; experienced technologists should know better — or do know better and are cashing in disingenuously.

    bq. Dismiss these people if you like, but that doesn’t seem very web-like to me, since the web is supposed to bring people together, not separate them into *lists apart.*


  54. Seems that Web 1.0, or Web 2.0 are the results of certain mentalities.

    Or maybe, just maybe, Web 2.0 isn’t about versioning any more (I’ve wanted to pull those numbers away from the moment I saw them). The Web [!], to me, seems to be about evolution – a quest for more exciting and responsible methods of delivering the same information.

    Versioning seems strange… am I a “1.0” Developer? Or, a “2.0” Developer? I don’t use AJAX (which isn’t to say I haven’t goggled at it and said “coool”), but I do swear by Accessible and Standards-based sites developed with KISS (a philosophy: Keep It Simple Stupid) – does that mean I’m “1.0”, or “1.5”? We’re quick to split the Web in two, but what if its impacting on developers, particularly those who might be considered “1.0” and are trying to move to “2.0”? The smoke and mirrors don’t help.

    Thanks for the article Jeffrey. Very interesting stuff.

  55. Every year (on and off the web) managers and investors catch a whiff of the broken-wind of the latest overused lingo and beseech their marketing departments to make the most of the latest “tickle me elmo” technologies (TMET) usually reducing them to easily remembered but equally meaningless acronyms (ERBEMA) in the hopes that, without any degree of understanding, they have happened to hop on board an emerging technology that will make them rich (or richer, as is usually the case).

    Often, the most mundane and ridiculous garbage will spawn vast seas of followers that will somehow add legitimacy (and desireablility) to a product or service – Where do you keep your virtual pet’s corpse?

    So why should the web be any different?

    Ooooo! It’s web 2.0! (Must be something new!)
    Ahhhh! AJAX! (Must be a new technology!)


    Case in point, Flickr.
    Don’t get me wrong. I like Flickr, I also like several other online photo galleries (WHICH IS ALL IT IS!!!). The problem? Tagging. Much like “Blogging” it’s significance has been VASTLY overstated. Go ahead and do a flickr search for something arbitrary like…earwax.

    What do you get? half a dozen pictures of ear coning (okay that’s kind of relavent), two pictures of the substance in question (ick, very appropriate), and…? A lot of irrelevant pictures of unrelated people, places and things. Much like the concerns of Wikipedia’s critics about unfettered editing of articles (at least the Wiki articles get reviewed), the usability of “tags” depends on the intelligence and insight of those assigning them (anyone want to start uploading cow-girl pics of Madonna tagged with “pathetic hick wannabe” yet?).

    Hype; however, is always good for making a buck, and that is what is driving Web 2.0. Vacuous lingo and meaningless hype.

    The same tech (or similar tech with a bit of a face-lift) is still powering the same useless, dull crap (okay, I happen to like Ruby on Rails, but still haven’t had a need to utilize it for a client’s project — I actually wish I did).

    In fact, the only bits of this article I take exception with are:

    a.) Web 2.0 has almost nothing to do with DESIGN, and therefore will be of little interest to designers who will continue to use the same tools (or the latest ones from Adobe-macromedia-whomever-we-acquire-and-defile-next). It’s almost all about the back end. So a little wider perspective is necessary to see it’s real value (which is a lot less than the hype would indicate).

    b.) Because of “a” and because nothing ever really changes; Jeffrey Zeldman’s statement that, “…and clients are more likely to request good (usable, well-designed) work instead of the usual schlock”. Is total crap. Clients DON’T request good, usable, well-designed work. They never have. They STILL want “Flash”, they just want a more secure and robust back-end (which web 2.0 (tho’ I would never refer to it as that) might actually be able to provide).

    So whether it’s Web 2.0, AJAX, Mr. Clean, or whatever the latest newest brightest “thing” is; just remember it will be dictating the technologies, look and functionality of most of the sites we’re creating until the NEXT newest bestest thing “emerges”.

    Just don’t get too riled when your next client asks you to use “the next Flash” to build an interface in the style that is “the next Aqua” and to stuff your own creative instincts. You can choose to laugh your way to the bank, or cry. It’s up to you.

  56. Fantastic post. I would like to know how you created the image of the bottle in the beginning of the post.

  57. Is it sad that it’s becomming increasingly difficult for me to tell which sites are really trying to hype “Web 2.0” and which sites are simply a parody of the hype?

  58. All I have to say is thanks. I still find myself having to convince clients that building with web standards is a good idea, and frankly, I’m tired of it. I’ve now resorted at times to buying a copy of your book just for the first section and giving it to them as a gift for considering me.

    But this article has just given me a boost. I’m not one of the brilliant designers who comes up with a million dollar idea, but I do care about my clients, their goals, and making sure as many people can learn about what they have to say as possible. So thanks for pumping that side of the business.

    I love Flikr and the like, but while 90% of the sites out there are still crap, there’s still a whole lot of work to do, and frankly, I believe the information dispersed here, is worth more to the world than 10 Flickr’s.

    So thanks for the article, and everything you do for the world. This site as been nothing less than a mentor to me, and I intend to pay it forward in every way I can. I hope all of the rest of you who read this site regularly are doing the same.

  59. What honorable Mr. Zeldman has laid out before us in this article is a hint as to how to be ahead of the rest in everything related to the Web.

    By perceiving correctly the objective of Web’s existance we can understand how to develop it correctly thus being able to create great solutions.

    Great solutions, in turn, bring money!

  60. Thanks to Zeldman for a solid article.

    Where I work (non-agency), they’ve gotten all steamed up about AJAX. It takes just a day or two and all the developers are swooning over this (not-so) new technology, whether they’ve actually looked beyone the shiny packaging or not.

    It’s taken me six months to get these same people to consider the benefits of putting a doctype in their HTML!

  61. Kudos to Zeldman for a great article and lots of great insight (and funny anecdotes).

    As Padgett seems to be implying above, developers should concentrate on conforming to web standards before they try and jump on the AJAX bandwagon. The only reason that AJAX is ever a “bitch” to wire-frame is when your JavaScript doesn’t follow the correct DOM, or your markup doesn’t fit a standardized doctype.

    Even Google doesn’t conform to standards–by far! Most of their sites don’t even have a doctype (gasp!). This holds true for almost all corporate or enterprise sites out there. AJAX is much easier to incorporate if you follow strict XHTML and the DOM.

    And a side note–PHP and (especially) Ruby on Rails are never anything that Google, Yahoo, or any of the bigwigs would ever want to use. Most use Python as the back end, along with JavaScript and the DOM, of course.

  62. I really hate these moronic “articles” about semantics, design, ethereal thoughts about position absolute and relative, accessibility is paramount but validation can suck my ass. I like the way you write, it makes a lot of sense and you don’t have googleads or whatever in the middle of your page, a lot of people have taken advantage of your influence, you need to make yourself clearer so to speak.

  63. As a web design hobbyist with almost a decade of partially completed projects under my belt, I have jumped on a few bandwagons. Looking back, it seems that just as soon as I’d even begin to get the hang of something, it was time to drop it like yesterday’s soiled underwear and race on to the fresh virginal scent of tomorrow’s homecoming princess. Since I don’t get paid for web design, I have lost some of my early feelings of urgency to ‘keep on top,’ particularly since I began frequenting excellent resources like ALA a few years ago and discovered the joys of xhtml and css (along with the agony of a few hundred frustrating hacks for making IE work). I must say I am very glad to see web standards finally gaining some of the attention they deserve, even if that attention comes from fads or greed.

    But I have another major interest, this one going back as long as I can remember, which has greatly matured and expanded over the past few years as well. I am a map geek. From the age of about 5, I could spend hours (later days) at a time simply spinning my globe, looking through atlases, poring over road maps, grabbing every last tourist brochure with any sort of map or location image at the ferry terminal, and even standing in the rain at a bus stop, memorizing the routes. Then I became a commercial fisherman and diver through most of my twenties, and I got hooked on nautical charts. So when I discovered GIS mapping (basically mapping databases) in the late 90’s, I knew this sort of thing would be in my future, at least as a hobby. I never have minded that people think I am strange for my map obsession. We all have our quirks, and that isn’t something that people are generally bothered or scared by. Although circumstances have prevented me from jumping headlong into GIS as I had hoped, I have plugged away at increasing my knowledge and skill in this fascinating field.

    Then, in the past couple of years, the lid blew off. With Google Earth, now everybody thinks they like maps. Actually, they just like to ‘ZOOM,’ but that is a discussion for another forum. As a frequenter of the NASA WorldWind community forums and IRC channel (I write docs sometimes and help a little with tech support on occasion), it seems now that hardly a day goes by without a new development or bandwagon startup in this once comfortably geeky field. Now, when I hear the word AJAX, it makes me cringe to think of what new application somebody is going to come up with in one of my two main fields of interest, and how much further will I suddenly fall behind in the mad rush.

    Sometimes I feel like Poe’s condemned prisoner lashed beneath the pendulumn as it slowly cuts deeper . . .

    . . . At the very least, I miss my geekiness.

    Thanks for the insightful article, and the last 5 years of consistently great reading (on my part).

  64. First of all, thank you for this wonderful article! It’s really comforting to know that not everybody is on a plain hype cloud number 7. As a Web Developer I am also a little puzzled why people are pushing technologies that are up to 5 years old as the latest buzz and the Web 2.0 in general. But on a second glimps I have to say, it’s just marketing. It’s nothing special about it, it’s just that there is a little more money for web development than there was in the last 5 years and marketing guys are taking advantage of that.
    So what can the tech guys do about it? As for me, be happy. The latest development on the web gives us much more possibilities to experiment and try to develop new application models. One example is social software, as done by flickr or del.icio.us. Let’s be honest, there wasn’t much interesting stuff hapening in the last 5 years, which you liked so much. We might have had the technologies (DHTML, flash, etc.) but nobody was willing to take the risk of trying something new. And the crowd of students doing our work (not quite professional but in a good-enough manner) at a price of a chinese sweat-shop worker wasn’t too comforting at all.
    Web development seems to have a kind of up and down manner. Either hype or flop. As soon as a hype starts, the marketing guys get in and find some fancy words that sell (by the way the vocabulary on the 90’s hype wasn’t any better). From a technical perspective, why should we care? We can go and propose our engineering ideas and visions to the marketing guys and they will say: “oh yeah, we call this blabla. It’s the new bla.”, but whatever they call it, we can develop it, because there finally is the money and will for it. So this really is a cloud number 7 I like to be on and I am pretty sure that developers have had enough great ideas in the last 5 years which they finally want to go for.
    So whatever web version we want to call it, let’s just say we don’t like marketing too much, but we gladly take their money to develop want we think the web needs (hey, finding something chilling and new is always kind of trial and error, for anything else humankind has proven just not to be smart enough). I like my field of work wheter it’s called web, web 2.0 or web.flop and I am looking forward to some great new applications out there!

    By the way, for all technical guys on being ask what you do: just tell them you are a software engineer, then you’re neither seen with disgust nor adored, you’re just the good old nerd.

  65. I am just rounding the corner to the finish line of WEB 0.5. At this pace, I’ll never catch up, or be hip! I’m getting too old for this crap.

  66. Uh oh… get ready for Library 2.0. Lucky library-types like myself can gain fabulous insights from individuals who refer to themselves as “information mavens”. I suspect the Library 2.0 phenomenon will be just as irritating as Web 2.0. Don’t get me wrong. There are a lot of fine, fine web 2.0 apps out there and there are great ideas behind library 2.0. But, the smug hipster mentality drives me nuts. How do these librarians find the time to continually blog and comment on fellow hipster-librarian’s blogs? Don’t any of them work at public service desks? Manage staff? Catalog? Provide hands-on tech support? Manage online databases? Maybe my library is sadly underfunded. We do manage several library 2.0 type services, but just barely.

  67. When I think of Web 2.0 Ajax is certainly part of the equation. But I think the hype pertaining to Web 2.0 is far more than about using javascript and the DOM to create pages that refresh inline. It is about community, commenting, tagging, and users creating a website versus a company creating it for them.

    One example that comes to mind is google. Google has built this fantastic infrastructure around indexing the web. Still, if I want to search, say, Ajax or web design, I could be better off at Delicious. Delicious is just a platform and the community builds the product. Same with flickr, digg, technorati, etc.

    I certainly share your disdain with a lot of the hype surrounding Web 2.0, but I think it is more than fancy inline forms! (BTW, this live preview is very cool!!)

  68. This site has a great user driven list: koolweb2.com

    Best of Web 2.0 sites ranked by actual users. Drag & drop sites to desired spot in the list and submit rankings. Overall rankings reflect cumulative average of all user submissions. Recommend a new site as well..

  69. I think is possible to respect some rights to the produced contain, but after some years, I think it will be more interest to show that to world .In this way that information could bring knowledge to some many people in so many country.

    That is the main reason to defend this kind of projects

  70. i couldn’t agree more. only until recently did i de-mystify the core piece that makes AJAX do what it does — and if someone had told me two years ago that all it was, is clever usage of XMLHttpRequest as yet another way to reduce the number of trips a client (browser) makes to the server, i would have started injecting it into nearly every application i’ve built from scratch in recent past.

    as it were, the hype had me believing it was a far more complex thing than it really is, requiring coursework i, a mere freelancer, could not nearly afford.

  71. Well said!
    Like the great Mr. Zeldman I too loved the web for it’s own sake, distained the “irrational excuberance” of 1998-2001 as blind capitalist love held sway over our open source-based shareware/freeware-birthing world weird web. When the house of VC cards crumbled, relief came with a giant thud as my bank account bottomed out… and ideas flourished. Great things are afoot, yet, lest we have learned nothing, let not the money mongers steer the ship: do good webs–simple, clean, human and inspiring (like this site) and good will come… again and again. Else “meet the new boss same as the old boss.”

  72. So what was that all about anyway. I did read the whole article, but by the time I got through 85 or so comments I forgot what hell it was about… oh that’s right, I was searching Google for “web 3.0”

  73. You can say that again, Jeffrey. Thank you.

    Before AJAX, RoR and all this other ‘new’ stuff hit earth, I made up my mind and coined the times we experience right now the time of Self Publishing. Before, the web was a very technical thing only a few could master. Nowadays it takes you 2 minutes and an e-mail address to get a site going and start publishing.

    THIS is what Web 2.0 is too me.

    All the technical stuff, this ain’t Web 2.0. These are just tools. (And as the saying goes, a fool with a tool is still a fool.) Mighty tools, ok, but still they remain tools. Web 2.0 is not about the technology it is build with, but what the people can do using services created using these tools.

    I know web geeks tend to see everything from a technical point of view. But that’s not enough. What is it that attracts thousand of people at Flickr or YouTube or myspace? They don’t give a damn about AJAX, JSON, XML, RoR and whatever fancy acronyms we geeks come up with. They care about content, about the possibilites they have.

    Anyway. All this, even this discussion, ain’t new. It will pop up again and again when something ‘new’ hits earth.

  74. I’d like to make one thing is absolutely clear right from the outset: Web 3.0 isn’t just about shopping, entertainment and search. It’s also going to deliver a new generation of business applications that will see business computing converge on the same fundamental on-demand architecture as consumer applications. So this is not something that’s of merely passing interest to those who work in enterprise IT. It will radically change the organizations where they work and their own career paths. I’ll write more on that in a later posting.

  75. Take a look at an online storage service like IBackup (www.ibackup.com) that is a dominant player at this age of Web 2.0 boom. IBackup’s success shows that remote and online backups of even mission critical data will continue to grow despite all that have been written against the economic viability and data security concerns.

    Besides regular backups and restores, IBackup’s flagship product IBackup for Windows (www.ibackup.com/ibwin_new.htm) allows regular scheduling of backups, multimedia streaming and file management. It also performs incremental and compressed backups that do not consume too much of your network bandwidth by transferring only portions of file that were changed. All backups are secure with the highest level of 128-bit SSL encryption on transmission.

    The best thing I like about IBackup is IDrive (www.ibackup.com/IBDrive_new.htm) that maps my online account as a local drive on my computer. Sitting in front of my computer I can drag-and-drop, open, edit and save files in my online backup account. Operations using IDrive, which is a variation of network drive technology, enjoys 128-bit SSL support. IDrive can also be used to stream multimedia content using your favorite media player. It also supports concurrent operations for Access and other office applications.

    IBackup lets you share data with both IBackup users and those who are not. For this you have to use Webmanager (www.ibackup.com/webmanager.htm). All you have to do is to create a few sharable links and then email these to your friends, partners and colleagues. The `Private Share’ feature allows an IBackup user to instantly share data with another IBackup user. Also view the data another user has privately shared with you. You can disable the `Private Share’ feature any time.

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