On.. Internet 1.0, Web2.0, 3.0, 4.0…..

Well being a web based tech-centric blog I should probably nail my colours to the mast in regards to this whole Web2.0 thing. So here goes.

Sixteen years ago a program was broadcast on BBC 2 in the UK called Hyperland. In it Douglas Adams, who also wrote the program, tried to explain all about this thing called The Internet and how it would change our lives forever. How all the information in the world could be connected and shared, how hypertext would allow us to find definitions of words we didn’t understand as we read the text. I think Douglas Adams would have been very pleased to discover that you can now view this video online via the wonder of Google Video: Hyperland.

Now let me make a few suppositions here, firstly I would say that Web2.0 as it is understood by O’Reilly et al. is not the Semantic Web that Tim Burners Lee is currently pushing forwards, it is a half step towards it, but its not even a transitional technology between the initial version of the web and some new Semantic Web. I would say that Web2.0 is not in fact a new paradigm of the web, it is simply achieving finally what people have had as a vision for it from day one. Web2.0 isn’t a new direction it is simply a matured application. I guess Mature Web doesn’t sound as sexy,.. how about MaturWeb(beta) ? No?

My issue with Web2.0 as a principle is that it implies that it is some superior to Web1.0 (whatever that was). However in the original Web2.0 article there was a table equivalency between Web1.0 and Web2.0, so all we can say for sure is that the Web2.0 principle is different from Web1.0. Is tagging better than directories? When effectively what they are doing is informing a directory of information? Are Wikis better than Content Management Systems? Are blogs better than personal web spaces? Or are blogs just a different personal web space tool.

What I do think we have finally achieved despite all this Web2.0 hyperbole is the interconnection of information that was envisioned back in 1990. We’ve taken 15 years and millions of man hours to achieve the original goal, and we’re so proud of ourselves we’re going to say it is a whole new thing. However Web2.0 doesn’t do anything to address any of the outstanding issues with Web1.0; spam websites, link rot, online security and website speed. Something you’d expect a whole new version of something to atleast attempt to do.
The thing is that Web2.0, if that’s the term you want to use, is still based on Internet1.0 and that is its limiting factor. Whilst we’re giving version out, Web2.0 is also restricted to the latest HTML standard, 4.01 at the time of writing. The idea of using Javascript to break out of the limitations is defeating one of the greatest things about the internet, it’s accessibility. We are taking backwards steps here. For me the real Web2.0 will be somewhere in the interaction between applications and the Web, as discussed.

However if we are versioning the web, where do those versions actually start? What about Flash? Rich front ends for websites which people are now using Ajax to mimic, was that Web2.0? It launched in 1996. I guess XML is really the backbone of this mature generation of websites, so that’ll be 1998 when that launched. Was that really when Web3.0 happened? How about iTunes? Marrying desktop with web based resources? Web4.0 in 2001? Then there are SOAP requests? Remote web services serving content, in 2003, was this what started the mature web? Or Web5.0?

Where are we really in all of this? We’re utilising a constantly shifting platform, arbitrarily saying “now things are different” is as redundant as saying “the future will happen”. The Web is a dynamic platform which has only just begun to meet the vision that was laid out for it when it first began.

Perhaps it is time to look towards RDF and OWL to see where we can push it. Web3.0? Or is that 6.0? Who cares, we’ll keep developing regardless of who is trying to sell us books based on ideas or trying to generate marketing hype for their VCs. We’ll keep developing because as web developers that’s what we have to do, our platform is dynamic.


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