Thursday, September 29, 2005

Web 2.0: versioning the web? Huh?

Once a topic becomes talked to death I tend to stay away from it. The recent discussions about how to define Web 2.0 is one such topic. But much as the conversation has been bugging me, I can't seem to resist adding a take on it that popped into my head during a bit of insomnia at 4AM this morning.

See, people are talking about what "Web 2.0" is: Complex. No, really simple. No, not that simple. And they're asking: What do you think it is? And they're saying, "Screw 2.0, let's leapfrog to 2.1!

And I'm thinking: Oh. My. God. Get. Off. The. Hypetrain!

Now, now, I hope no one gets their knickers in a twist, of course I mean that in the nicest possible way. But, honestly, why does anyone think the web needs a version to begin with?

I'll step back and tell you why the very concept seems so weird to me. In my former high-tech life one of my areas of expertise was product development processes. It was sort of a natural extension of running product management...since product management is caught between engineering and sales, yet somehow responsible for everyone, you tend to want to define and enforce processes. I'm not fantasizing that most companies are actually good at this, but most companies at least try.

So, let me tell you what versioning means to me, whether version 1.0, a newly released product, or version 5.a.d, the 4th bug fix dot release on a minor dot release.

It means that somewhere along the line someone probably defined what the requirements were...hopefully to serve the user. It means that somewhere along the line someone responded with a specification that was reviewed and approved. It means that, hold on to your hats, somewhere along the line a schedule was created, milestones were defined, and somehow it was defined when the version was ready for testing, trials and ultimately, release. There are usually measures for whether you have met your goals for a release or not. At some point a release is delivered, and the case is closed. Further requirements and bugs are collected for the next release.

So perhaps it makes me inflexible, and too literal, but I don't understand why we're trying to "version" the entire web as though it were some monolithic product to which you can apply any of the principles of product development or life cycle processes. I fail to see how this serves the average user of the web. I mean I can see it serves people seeking funding or consultants (yes, consultants like me, I know) or writers or any number of people immersed in the industry. I can see how we'd all like to talk about the big picture from our ivory towers. But how does it serve the user to define the undefinable? They won't be buying products that tout their "Web 2.0 compliance" will they? I feel like it's a big leap off the Cluetrain to obsess about this.

So, to answer Om's question: how do I define Web 2.0? I don't.

Is that so wrong?

Enjoyed your thoughts. And no, it's not wrong. Scoble would agree with you.

By the way, I tagged this article on to blogoposium1, which is where we are keeping track of the first blogoposium topic, "Communicating the Ideas Behind Web 2.0".
Thanks Ken. Yes, sometimes Scoble and I do see eye-to-eye :) Thanks for the link to blogoposium1...but how disturbing to see so starkly how much we're al talking about this!!! LOL
It's not about versioning the Web ;-) Web 2.0 is simply a term indicating that we are indeed in a new era on the Web - I think there's plenty of evidence to justify that. Take a look at my attempt at an elevator pitch for non-techies - I'm interested to know what you think.

cheers, Richard MacManus
Thank you!

I'm glad that not everyone is hyping up the every day developments of life.

"Web 2.0" implies that 1.0 was finished which based on my understanding of the writings of Tim Berners-Lee, we're barely scratching the surface.
Richard: I glean two words from your post:

Networked Collaboration. Meaning that applications & communications are multi-directonal, multi-functional...interoperable vs. 100% integrated.

Sure, it makes sense.

But I think I am agreeing with jpabad when I say that all this talk doesn't do much for users, doesn't even do much for actual developers, and in some ways the high-flung language may be more off-putting to the non-geeks among us than inspiring.
This issue is so deep and complex, I wish that I could gather all the meaning I have within a few words. Yes, I agree with you about the vaucous marketing hype, which is the subtle irony of Web 2.1

The thing is I agree with you, Richard and jpabad.

But I also understand the power of communications and trying to craft a simple message that sticks. Now it has taken me many posts to figure out exactly how to convey this idea, but I would be interested in hearing your comments on my "What is Web 2.1?" post which gets a little closer to clarity.

One of the other underlying reasons for thinking about Web 2.1 is that the current way people are using the term Web 2.0 is starting to miss the point. Originally it was about social computing and social media like Flickr and Blogger - somehow in the past few months the core ideals were lost to the fervered pitch of the meme hyping itself up...

So my take on it is that Web 2.0 is about technology, Web 2.1 is about people.

Here's Chris' post for anyone who wants to get a direct link:

Chris I totally love your brainjam idea and especially your contention that attendees will get "1000x the take away value for 1/1000th of the cost." I'm going to bet that is true!

Nor can I argue with any thing you contend will be good about ongoing web developments.

But I would contend there are some online apps or services that have ALWAYS been web 2.0 or 2.1, and some that will NEVER be. And that there will always probably be a place for both kinds, and that in and of itself makes it irrelevant to start versioning the web. And, I guess, at the crux of it for me: arrogant.

I still help escape feeling that all of this serves those of us involved in online communications and development philosophically, but not practically. And sure, there's a place for philosophy, but let's not pretend we're going to get a "spec" out of this.
I'm deeply impressed by your unintended words at that site.
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