Web 2.0 Cliff’s Notes: Tim O’Reilly’s Definition of Web 2.0

Synopsized vesion of Tim O’Reilly’s piece called:
What is Web 2.0? Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation of Software

http://www.oreillynet.com/lpt/a/6228
The key Points:

  1. The Web is the platform: The web itself is the OS. The value has moved “up the stack” from client-server commodity technology to the services delivered over the web platform.
  2. Harnessing Collective Intelligence: The central principle behind the success of the giants born in the Web 1.0 era who have survived to lead the Web 2.0 era appears to be this, that they have embraced the power of the web to harness collective intelligence.
  3. Data is the Next Intel Inside: Every significant internet application to date has been backed by a specialized database: Google’s web crawl, Yahoo!’s directory (and web crawl), Amazon’s database of products, eBay’s database of products and sellers, MapQuest’s map databases, Napster’s distributed song database. As Hal Varian remarked in a personal conversation last year, “SQL is the new HTML.” Database management is a core competency of Web 2.0 companies, so much so that we have sometimes referred to these applications as “infoware” rather than merely software.
  4. End of Software Release Cycle: As noted above in the discussion of Google vs. Netscape, one of the defining characteristics of internet era software is that it is delivered as a service, not as a product.
  5. Lightweight Programming Models: Once the idea of web services became au courant, large companies jumped into the fray with a complex web services stack designed to create highly reliable programming environments for distributed applications.
  6. Software Above the Level of a Single Device: One other feature of Web 2.0 that deserves mention is the fact that it’s no longer limited to the PC platform. In his parting advice to Microsoft, long time Microsoft developer Dave Stutz pointed out that “Useful software written above the level of the single device will command high margins for a long time to come.
  7. Rich User Experiences: Several years ago, Macromedia coined the term “Rich Internet Applications” (which has also been picked up by open source Flash competitor Laszlo Systems) to highlight the capabilities of Flash to deliver not just multimedia content but also GUI-style application experiences.

Other important concepts:

The Long Tail – Small sites make up the bulk of the internet’s content; narrow niches make up the bulk of internet’s the possible applications. Therefore: Leverage customer-self service and algorithmic data management to reach out to the entire web, to the edges and not just the center, to the long tail and not just the head.
Data is the Next Intel Inside – Applications are increasingly data-driven. Therefore: For competitive advantage, seek to own a unique, hard-to-recreate source of data.
Users Add Value – The key to competitive advantage in internet applications is the extent to which users add their own data to that which you provide. Therefore: Don’t restrict your “architecture of participation” to software development. Involve your users both implicitly and explicitly in adding value to your application.
Network Effects by Default – Only a small percentage of users will go to the trouble of adding value to your application. Therefore: Set inclusive defaults for aggregating user data as a side-effect of their use of the application.
Some Rights Reserved– Intellectual property protection limits re-use and prevents experimentation. Therefore: When benefits come from collective adoption, not private restriction, make sure that barriers to adoption are low. Follow existing standards, and use licenses with as few restrictions as possible. Design for “hackability” and “remixability.”
The Perpetual Beta – When devices and programs are connected to the internet, applications are no longer software artifacts, they are ongoing services. Therefore: Don’t package up new features into monolithic releases, but instead add them on a regular basis as part of the normal user experience. Engage your users as real-time testers, and instrument the service so that you know how people use the new features.
Cooperate, Don’t Control – Web 2.0 applications are built of a network of cooperating data services. Therefore: Offer web services interfaces and content syndication, and re-use the data services of others. Support lightweight programming models that allow for loosely-coupled systems.
Software Above the Level of a Single Device – The PC is no longer the only access device for internet applications, and applications that are limited to a single device are less valuable than those that are connected. Therefore: Design your application from the get-go to integrate services across handheld devices, PCs, and internet servers.

Core Competencies of Web 2.0 Companies
In exploring the seven principles above, we’ve highlighted some of the principal features of Web 2.0. Each of the examples we’ve explored demonstrates one or more of those key principles, but may miss others. Let’s close, therefore, by summarizing what we believe to be the core competencies of Web 2.0 companies:

  • Services, not packaged software, with cost-effective scalability
  • Control over unique, hard-to-recreate data sources that get richer as more people use them
  • Trusting users as co-developers
  • Harnessing collective intelligence
  • Leveraging the long tail through customer self-service
  • Software above the level of a single device
  • Lightweight user interfaces, development models, AND business models

The next time a company claims that it’s “Web 2.0,” test their features against the list above. The more points they score, the more they are worthy of the name. Remember, though, that excellence in one area may be more telling than some small steps in all seven.

Again, see the real deal here: http://www.oreillynet.com/lpt/a/6228

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