Darren Waters

Web 2.0 for all?

  • Darren Waters
  • 17 Jan 08, 16:43 GMT

Web 2.0 may have become old hat/ a cliche/ superseded depending on your point of view. But there is a lot of work still to be done in this area as we move from a rather static web experience to one that is richer and more interactive.

We may all think that that now sites such as Flickr and even the BBC homepage are part of our daily online lives that all the issues around Web 2.0 have been solved.

Far from it.

I've just been at a very interesting talk given by Rod Smith and David Boloker, from IBM's Emerging Tech labs, to BBC development staff and they made it very clear that a lot of work around standards for Web 2.0 work has yet to properly started, let alone finished.

Why does this matter?

Well, we live in a cut and paste digital world. For example - we all take it for granted that a piece of text that you copy in one web page, for example, can be pasted into a Word document, or a text-entry box on a website.

But in the Web 2.0 world it is not so simple. Standards are needed so that data from one website can be moved into another, added to a third site and then spat out the other end. It is what makes the Web 2.0 world so exciting.

Some of this work has happened. Things like RSS feeds, XML etc have made it simpler for computers to share complicated bits of data. But it hasn't gone far enough and it's not just data.

The Web 2.0 world needs to work across browsers, across mobile phones, across emerging connected devices like televisions, set-top boxes, gadgets like the Chumby (See picture)

For example - widgets have been the poster-boy for the Web 2.0 world. These mini-programs delivering news or weather, traffic details or cinema times can be used on your Google homepage, or your Vista desktop, your Mac and your personalised Yahoo page.

But a widget for Dashboard on my Mac won't work on my Google homepage and vice versa. Why not? Because we haven't got standards in the Web 2.0 world for this sort of thing.

IBM, along with other companies, is working on solutions that make this a lot easier. The company is also working on standards to make the Web 2.0 accessible for all.

There are standards that websites should adhere to, for example, to ensure that someone who is visually impaired can use a site.

But these standards only apply to the Web 1.0 world. What happens if someone is visually impaired and is using a hip Web 2.0 site? Will they get text information about the pop-up boxes, or drag and drop features inside the page?

Possibly not. And it's hard to web developers to know what they should implement in terms of technologies to support people with disabilities.

That's where standards come in. And IBM is working with the gatekeepers of web standards, the W3C, to ensure that Web 2.0 is for all.

So when anyone starts throwing around the term Web 3.0, remember that Web 2.0 is a long way from being a fundamental part of our daily web experience.


Unfortunately this is simply a case of history repeating itself. the It inductry has in some ways been negligent in not making sure that they not only think ahead but also learn from their and other experiences. We've or rather our great grandfathers went through the whole whitworth screw thread issue many many years ago.

Standardising and adhering to standards is simply not as important as making a sale. I know that if I buy a nut and a bolt they go together, if I obtain a piece of audio or video off the internet will it work without a seperate codec, or something else installed. Probably not.

It's a good step in the right direction, hopefully we can avoid the current situation. I saw best of british and heres to Joeseph Whitworth

  • 2.
  • At 05:08 PM on 18 Jan 2008,
  • Paul Ferguson wrote:

Alternatively don't use the term Web 1.0/2.0/3.0 at all, in my opinion it does nothing but generate confusion. The web has always been about gradual evolution of technologies rather than a sudden shift from one version to another, which the term indicates.
I would also argue that many existing standards are still not implemented properly; anybody who has used lesser known browsers, like firefox, will attest to how many websites can not be viewed correctly. This is because eveything is developed to work on the popular browsers.
Personally I believe the big future the web is a distributed one which moves away from the central sites to provide all the content, and ties it into our local environment and 2 way interaction between systems. This opens up the possibilities for functions we can actually use rather than the slightly novel 'Widget' model.

Web 2.0 is something that makes the Internet great. Yes we do needs standards and do need to be able to share and access content across all platforms, sites etc. Will we get there? Yes but it may take a while.

Web 2.0 is seeing a cultural shift in power from the corporate construct to the consumer. In the initial market-led model of the web, the corporation controlled both the data structure and the interface to access it. Web 2.0 is seeing the separation of interface from database, which disturbs the traditional means of revenue generation; consumers are no-longer required to visit the source content-provider to consume the data they demand. From a business perspective, if users can access their data without accompanying advertisements, the business has lost a revenue stream.

As more 'widget-'style applications arise, the demand to access data from multiple sources will increase exponentially. However, it is difficult to envisage a greater utilisation of semantic-web standards at present, as it removes more power from the corporate entity. Many websites are creating their own similar yet-distinct protocols for data exchange, but market these protocols as ‘open’. Yet these protocols are only as-open as their creator allows; control is retained by the source.

Look at Facebook for example. It is seen as a revolutionary social website, which embodies many of the principles of Web 2.0. However, access to data is mostly limited and controlled through a single interface:

It will be interesting to see if 'social software' (from an engineering perspective) will complement or conflict with the corporate body in the years to come.

I understand that your article relates more to accessibility from a user’s perspective. My comment is merely food-for-thought on some of the wider issues that are preventing quicker adoption of standards to accelerate ‘Web 2.0’ take-up and development.

  • 5.
  • At 04:36 PM on 20 Jan 2008,
  • Andrew Walker wrote:

Web 2.0 is just a meaningless buzzword.
The real issue is the threat to the open standards the internet was built on.
We all take html for granted but say that html was owned by Microsoft, would the web be so accessible then? The internet will only survive if the standards remain free and open, the reason websites don't work correctly on Firefox is usually because the standards have been 'corrupted' to suit Internet Explorer, not the other way round. Look at the acid2 test to see how compliant IE is to web standards.
A standards agency needs to be set up to ensure compliance to web standards, the alternative is fragmentation of the web.

Alex: Good point about history repeating itself, and yes - to many people owning web sites, the function of the sites clearly outweighs the importance of standardisation. The fact that a web site built to sufficient Web Standards will perform better, and work better in online searches by users/customers is something to seriously keep in mind though. It might appear that Web Standards (and Web 2.0) are just elitist buzzwords developed by the IT-industry, but they are really far more useful than that.

Paul: I think your comment is spot-on! Buzzword usage is quite confusing to some, and yes - existing standards are still certainly not implemented properly on the web!

Andrew: Web 2.0 is definitely a buzzword (unfortunately), but it is far from meaningless - as it represents a distinct shift in how the web is being developed. The Beta version of Microsoft IE8 has recently passed the acid2 test by the way, good point though: older versions of IE and Microsoft's approach to Web Standards in the past has been truly appalling, but there's strong evidence that they are moving on from that. I completely agree with you about keeping the (Web) Standards Open to all though.

This article does not quite address the fact that Web 2.0 is as much about the use of new and emerging web technologies, where there have been significant strides - and less about the Web 2.0 'looks' (a visual style only) - as featured on sites like the revised BBC Homepage. Web Standards is definitely needed to aid the successful adoption of Web 2.0 - but the wording of this article seems to link Web Standards and Web 2.0 in to being the same thing, which they are not! Web Standards has been sorely needed and heavily promoted on the web for over ten years is just a bit sad to see that it only finally getting some mention of the BBC web site.

Darren: I'd like to thank you for writing this article though, it certainly brings Web 2.0 and Web Standards to the BBC Site visitors (and there's quite a few of 'em - so it's a good thing!)

The only person I've seen use the term 'Web 3.0' in an online article so far, has been Web Standards Pioneer Jeffrey Zeldman (article featured on the 'A List Apart' web site)....and he meant that as a tongue-in-cheek reference to the buzzword-ness of Web 2.0!

  • 7.
  • At 01:43 PM on 21 Jan 2008,
  • Aaron wrote:


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