Sifting through the different versions of the Web

Tony Patton reflects on the concepts of "Web 1.0," discusses Web 2.0, and ponders the future version of the Web. He asks that members post their thoughts about what developers can expect as the Web continues to evolve.

During a recent meeting, a client demanded his application be Web 2.0 enabled; it was clear he had been reading many of the articles out there about Web 2.0. I responded by explaining the evolution of the Web and its technology, and the fact that the Web 2.0 is only a concept. In the end, the application does utilize Web 2.0 concepts, but it got me thinking about applying version numbers to the Web.

Where did 1.0 go?

The early days of the Web were hectic, with businesses and developers figuring out how to utilize the new medium. The impetus was delivering information to users. Various content management systems were developed and used to manage the delivery of information in a timely manner. In addition, personal Web sites were a common vehicle for users to express themselves. The paradigm shifted as both the Web and its technology evolved. Users went from mere content consumers to creators, while the Web was being broken up into data chunks and services that were easily accessible by other sites.

The current landscape: 2.0

The impetus behind the Web 2.0 movement is using the Web as a platform. There are various aspects to this concept with the key ingredients being user involvement; a rich user experience; the importance of the data; and a loosely joined Web fueled by Web services. A sampling of successful companies/sites demonstrates these concepts in action.

Weekly development tips in your inbox
Keep your developer skills sharp by signing up for TechRepublic's free Web Development Zone newsletter, delivered each Tuesday.
Automatically sign up today!
  • Google: Is there a more successful company utilizing Web 2.0 concepts? Google's business model rests on their data about the countless Web sites freely available. Google allows users to easily find information, as well as customize the user experience via various options. In addition, numerous Google services are accessible via Web services.
  • Amazon: The number one resource for book information. Amazon revolutionized book selling by allowing users to post feedback on the numerous titles available, as well as titles being ranked by sales. In addition, Amazon has developed their database of book information to the point where other sites utilize it. Its data is accessible via public Web services.
  • eBay: No site provides a better demonstration of user involvement than eBay. It grows organically with user (buyers and sellers) activity, and the various features of eBay are available via public Web services.
  • Wikipedia: This site is the ultimate example of online collaboration. It allows users to easily add and/or edit its data. The sheer number of users using the content works to ensure valid entries.

These examples demonstrate the basic principles of the Web 2.0 concept. A notable feature of the first three is the ability to seamlessly integrate their features into another Web application via Web services. This promotes the loosely joined nature of the Web by breaking it down into components.

Another great example of collaboration and placing content creation in the hands of the user is blogging, which has evolved from a simple way for users to create and maintain an online diary to a full-fledged system for delivering information on the Web.

While collaboration and community are key Web 2.0 features, they are also a key aspect of the open source and free software movements whose rise has followed the move towards the Web 2.0. Open source brings together a community of developers to build and improve software. Bugs are also reduced, as issues are quickly resolved due to the size of the open source community and the number of eyes and hands on the software.

Another example of a technology or approach to come out of the Web 2.0 push is AJAX, which defines an approach to building a rich client interface. It takes advantage of proven technologies (JavaScript and XML) that have been used to build powerful Web applications over the years.

The sample applications and technologies are just a sampling of what is currently available, but it does provide an idea of what is expected from applications that embrace the Web 2.0 model.

Is 3.0 around the corner?

The Web 2.0 concept has been with us for some time, so it begs the question of what to expect next? Web 3.0 is the logical choice for the next version, and it has received some coverage. So, what would the next version bring to the table? Some core concepts might be: making the technology more accessible; exploring the idea of always on and always connected; and addressing privacy needs as the amount of personal data on the Web continues to grow.

What do you think?

There are no official release numbers assigned to the Web as a whole, but the community has come together to place numbers on the stages of its development. The Web began with 1.0 with information delivery as the key concept that evolved to strong user involvement in Web 2.0, so what can we expect as the Web continues its rapid evolution? Share your thoughts and ideas with the Web development community by posting to the article discussion.

Miss a column?

Check out the Web Development Zone archive, and catch up on the most recent editions of Tony Patton's column.

Tony Patton began his professional career as an application developer earning Java, VB, Lotus, and XML certifications to bolster his knowledge.

By Tony Patton

Tony Patton has worn many hats over his 15+ years in the IT industry while witnessing many technologies come and go. He currently focuses on .NET and Web Development while trying to grasp the many facets of supporting such technologies in a productio...