A look back at the week that was in the world of Web 2.0. This week: Google's AutoLinks feature, IE7, NY Times buys About.com, more Big Media blogging coverage, Bloglines hacks.
AutoLinks and Annotation
Ever since Google made it big, many people have been looking for a chance to pin the 'evil' label on them - especially as one of their company philosophies is to 'do no evil'. This week some folks pounced on Google for adding an AutoLink feature to its Google Toolbar. The issue? It has similarities to a controversial old Microsoft feature called SmartTags. According to Google, AutoLink is this:
"The online review of a great new restaurant has the place's address but no map. You could type the restaurant's street, city, and ZIP code into the search box, but why bother, when clicking the Toolbar's AutoLink button will automatically create a link to an online map (US addresses only)? AutoLink can also link package tracking numbers to delivery status, VIN numbers (US) to vehicle history, and publication ISBN numbers to Amazon.com listings."
What's getting folks riled up is that AutoLinks enables Google to create links to their own content, using your webpage as the context. According to CNet News:
"...trademark attorneys and security experts say that AutoLink could face problems, because Google modifies the underlying HTML of a Web page to deliver the added links."
There's a beauty of a conspiracy theory attached to this too. Slashdot explains:
"Jeff Reynar - was the lead SmartTag Program Manager while at MS and is reportedly now a Google Product Manager who's being credited as AutoLink's creator."
The most interesting thing about this for me is the annotation angle. Annotation has long been a desired feature for web browsers - e.g. the W3C's browser/editor Amaya has extensive annotation features. Anil Dash is one person keen on annotation in this manner - he suggested on his blog (also quoted by CNet) that "once your HTML page gets to my machine, it's mine to rip, mix and burn.".
Is That IE7 In Your Pocket, Or Are You Just Pleased To See Me?
Speaking of browsers... the much anticipated Internet Explorer 7 was announced by Microsoft this week. Only trouble is, there's little evidence of innovation. The upgrade seems to be mostly about improved security. Also the beta IE7 won't be available until "this summer" (US summer that is). So, like, what's to get excited about? Or as I mentioned in Scoble's comments section: "What, no read/write browser? No RSS aggregation? Where's the innovation, c'mon..."
To be fair, maybe there will be some innovation in the backend - as Jeremy Wright suggests. But I'd like to see some real ground broken, for a change...
NY Times Buys About.com - Gains Web 2.0 Street Cred
The New York Times announced they will buy About.com for $410 million. There was a great meme going round the week leading up this: About.com represents blogging 1.0, whereas the likes of weblogsinc and Gawker are blogging 2.0. My take on that theory is here. Nevertheless lots of people think the NY Times deal was a good one for the venerable newspaper. My picks for in-depth analysis: Susan Mernit, paidcontent.org (plus audio interview), VC Fred Wilson, John Battelle (great headline too! "About The New York Times: Deep Into Web 2.0 Now"), Jay Rosen, NY Times article.
Nisenholtz, CEO of New York Times Digital: "The model we've acquired is a web 2.0
model; it's not a centralized model, it's a decentralized model where the content is
created by passionate individuals who have a competency and a desire to reach the public
and that scales into many, many categories and it scales potentially
Fred Wilson nails it: "If the content that is created on the edges starts to show up in the middle and the content that is created in the middle starts to show up on the edges, that will be a big deal."
John Battelle: "I think microcontent is key to winning in the Web 2.0 publishing world." [and] "As Martin told me when I pinged him after the deal: 'We're deep into Web 2.0 now.'"
Jay Rosen: "The second life of content, made possible by search, is of critical importance to journalists whose work is on the Web. (That's almost all journalists.)"
Big Media Blogging Coverage - Chicken Bloggers Outed
Ahhh, a warm fuzzies Associated Press article about SixApart: "The couple's odd chemistry cooked up Six Apart Ltd., a startup that has helped popularize the "blogging" craze, with millions of people worldwide maintaining online personal journals that dissect everything from politics to poultry."
Commenting on the above two stories, Slashdot notes: "Business Press Pays Attention To Blog Industry".
Techy Web 2.0 Highlights
Rather than a single techy post, it was two bits of Web 2.0 hackery that caught my attention this week. Firstly, Erik Benson managed to convert his entire weblog into a Bloglines API-powered site:
"I made a folder in Bloglines that has all of the RSS feeds around the web that have stuff that I've written/done. Then I used the Bloglines Web Service to get an aggregated, normalized feed of all my content in one stream..."
He explains how he did it in a later post (nb: I noted in the comments that it'd be cool to make this available to us non-programmers via an easy-to-use web service).
Speaking of Bloglines (which I nearly always do in these weekly wrap-ups), Joshua Tyler has created a neat app called Chameleon, built using the Bloglines Web Services. It's basically an alternative interface to Bloglines and has some nifty personalization features, such as keeping track of "which feeds you read, how often, and when". I've had a play round with it and it's a great example of value-add using a publicly available API.
That's it for another week. As always, I value your feedback. Please leave a comment or send me an email at readwriteweb AT gmail DOT com.