I really like the idea of “the Web as a platform”, an idea that has been termed “Web 2.0” and has become pretty widespread. While definitions vary, I rather like this one (from Richard MacManus and Joshua Porter’s “Web 2.0 for Designers“):
This may sound like we’re in the Matrix, but in the words of Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos, “Web 2.0… is about making the Internet useful for computers.”
I think in the longrun that by making the Internet useful for computers, we can make it even more useful for humans. At least that should be the goal. Richard MacManus has an excellent collection of descriptions if you want more detail.
There are a ton of so-called “Web 2.0 companies” getting lots of love from the geeks in the crowd for being forward thinking and embracing this new idea of how to create web applications. Not sure which companies I’m talking about? Think Flickr, del.icio.us, 43Things, Google Maps, and A9 just to name a few. All of them offer an API, and so they make themselves a platform. These platforms have spawned some pretty cool services, like HousingMaps, Mappr, Colr Pickr, Cheap Gas, and many others. Very cool stuff.
The problem with most of the Web 2.0 stuff floating around right now is that it relies on the browser. If Web 2.0 is about relinquishing control, why are all the current examples and mashups trapped inside the web browser? Seems pretty backward for such a forward thinking idea to me. And yes there’s the argument that creating a web page makes the application independent of the platform – it’s not tied to Windows or Mac or Linux. Yet with all this Web 2.0 goodness, I can’t help but wonder where the rich clients are? (There are lots of reasons to want a rich client, which I have written about in the past.) Do we have to settle for a thin client just to take advantage of this new “web as a platform” methodology? If that’s the case, it’s not as great as I thought!
If Web 2.0 is about creating a platform, then Web 2.5 is about creating a platform that can extend beyond the browser. Flickr’s API includes support for SOAP and XML-RPC, so there’s no reason that it couldn’t be used by rich client applications on Windows (for example) without having to use the browser. And what about those services that only offer a REST api or otherwise make it difficult to use outside the browser? Well then they aren’t Web 2.5 ready, are they? 🙂
Web 2.0 has the potential to take the Internet to the next level, and it many ways it already has. And while it’s still very early in the grand scheme of things, I can’t help but wonder if we’re going to get trapped by the thin client. So please, platform developers and mashup makers, upgrade to Web 2.5!