I originally posted this at http://www.318.com/TechJournal
Chances are, with all of the hubbub surrounding overnight success giants MySpace.com and Flickr, youâ€™ve undoubtedly heard about the second coming of the internet, commonly referred to as â€œWeb 2.0â€ . Bloggers are frequently commenting on â€œWikiâ€ this and â€œtaggingâ€ that. But what is this Web 2.0 phenomenon and how can it improve how we manage our lives and businesses in a digital world? While there may not be a simple answer to these questions, there are a few suppositions that can be made as to what Web 2.0 is shaping up to look like and how its changing the way we exchange information.
In very general terms, Web 2.0 is commonly referred to as the upsurge in development of web-based services and applications utilizing open-source development platforms such as Ruby on Rails and Ajax. Which doesnâ€™t really mean very much to, you and me, the non-developer community, except that what these developmental tools actually allow us to do on the internet are shaping up to be rather interesting prospects, indeed. For instance, last year, using their own Ruby on Rails technology, a company called 37 signals, released a completely internet-based project management and collaboration suite called Basecamp. For a rather nominal licensing fee, small businesses can manage projects and the people assigned to them in real-time, all within a web-browser. No more confusing licensing issues with project management software. One licensing fee, unlimited users. Thatâ€™s it. Simple, easy. Itâ€™s the perfect example of what many developers are banking on. No more confusing licensing issues and expensive support.
What makes this technology so alluring, besides cost-effectiveness, is the collaborative capabilities inherent in tagging technology. In a nutshell, â€œtaggingâ€ or â€œWikiâ€ is the ability for users to link information to make it available to whomever they see fit. For example, Flickr.com, one of the more successful Web 2.0 outcroppings, gives users the ability to upload their pictures to their own personal Flickr website. They then tag their pictures, inserting keywords that describe the picture, which are then enabled as hyperlinks, making them searchable to other users that have similar tags. Other users have the ability to tag your photos, if you so desire. Allowing you to accept or deny these tags, thereby giving your pictures less or more visibility depending on what your level of participation might be. Essentially, the more you contribute, the more visible you become.
Taking online collaboration to a more global level, Wikipedia, a free online encyclopedia, allows registered users to contribute to articles in encyclopedic entries, essentially tagging them with additional information they deem important to that article. Volunteers, or Wikipedians, as theyâ€™re referred to in the wiki-sphere, edit these entries and collaborate on whether they should be included or not. True global collaboration.
But this technology is not just reserved for the internet. Software developers are feverishly developing web 2.0 applications for the enterprise. SocialText, a Palo Alto based developer has just released server software that will facilitate easy online collaboration for documents and projects in an enterprise environment. Companies like design firms and media firms that rely heavily on collaboration for the success of their enterprise will probably want to take a good hard look at these kinds of collaborative solutions. Another interesting development comes from Joyent, a Marin County, CA start-up that is targeting small businesses with a completely web-based network server solution, literally, in a box. For just around $5K and a $65 monthly service fee for updates and support, this â€œout-of-the-boxâ€ server plugs into a companyâ€™s intranet and via a web-browser, hosts email, file-sharing, contact management, and calendar publishing, with tagging supported across the whole suite allowing for a true online collaborative environment.
If this kind of solution catches on, software development of this sort wonâ€™t be going away any time soon and is the stuff that might make server giants such as Microsoft and Apple rethink their strategies toward the small business market. Web 2.0 is still in its infancy; weâ€™ll have to wait and see which of the many services and technologies being offered catch on and which will waste away in the cloud of cyberspace obscurity. But one thing is for certain, Web 2.0 development is paving the road for the future of online collaboration and productivity.