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This week: Walled Gardens, Ajax backlash, Widgetmania, Asia update, The Web - Past, Present and Future.
The Walls Come Tumbling Down
Lately there's been some progress towards overcoming one of the main issues of Web 2.0 - data lock-in. It's also known as the "Walled Garden" approach, or the "Roach Motel". The gist of it is: a traditional way for websites and apps to 'lock-in' their users is to make sure their data can only be maintained and used from within the site/app. So even though users think they 'own' their data, in reality it's not easy to export it to other systems. A classic example is Amazon reviews - once you enter a review of e.g. a book, the data is essentially locked up inside Amazon's site.
"Yahoo tells us tonight that users of their Yahoo 360 blogging/networking service can now publish content to their personal pages from other blogging or bookmarking services, such as LiveJournal or del.icio.us, using RSS. What is more, 360 users will still be able to alert friends and family members of new content on their 360 pages, even if the content is from somewhere else."
The Yahoo 360 Team explains more. Reactions: The Blog Herald thinks it's an "acceptance from Yahoo! that 360 is a failure is a blogging platform". Michael Parekh is more positive. Jon Turow has some interesting thoughts on Walled Gardens in other systems.
As for me, I think it's a positive sign that Yahoo is opening up its platform for data to flow into 360 from other systems. But what about allowing data to flow out? This reminds me that I never did get a response to the question I posed on the Yahoo My Web 2.0 Messageboard. Here's what I asked back on 3 July:
"Out of curiousity, is it possible to export your My Web 2.0 data - just as you can import, say, del.icio.us data?
The reason I ask of course is that it's a sign of a trustworthy Web 2.0 app if users have the option of exporting the data that they 'own'."
It'd be nice to get an answer to that. It's the main reason I'm still using delicious for my social bookmarking - because delicious allows me to export my data.
Which brings me to AttentionTrust, the initiative run by Steve Gillmor and Seth Goldstein and others. Their mission: "promoting the basic rights of attention owners." It's a bit nebulous as to what that means exactly, but I don't doubt it's a worthy cause. If it's got anything to do with crashing down the Walled Gardens of web apps that lock-in our data, then sign me up!
I've noticed some folks are questioning how relevant Ajax is to Web 2.0. Jon Boutelle came right out and said it: AJAX != web 2.0. Jon wrote:
"Web 2.0 is about making websites machine readable so that content can squirt seamlessly between unrelated sites. Technologies like RSS, RESTian APIs, and XHTML/CSS are the core of Web 2.0. Social networks and tagging and attention are at the core of Web 2.0. Not rich client technologies like AJAX."
While I agree with the general gist of Jon's argument, I do think Ajax is an important technology for Web 2.0 because it gives web apps the type of rich functionality that desktop apps are known for. So in that sense, Ajax is an enabling technology for Web 2.0 (the Web as platform, or Web as OS if you prefer). But it is just a tool, with good and bad sides to it - e.g. Jon made a good point about Ajax making things less machine-readable / linkable.
As Anil Dash pointed out recently, in response to a new Web 2.0 service fueled by Ajax and Ruby on Rails:
"A lot of the links to the service say things like "full of AJAXy goodness!" or "guess how small the dev team was?" or "it's Ruby on Rails!". People, this is a tool for helping your business make more money."
News this week that Yahoo bought widget-maker Konfabulator. Widgets are little desk-top apps, but one interesting Web 2.0 use for these is as a branded RSS Reader. My previous sponsor ThePort Network is in the business of providing skinned RSS Readers than sit on a user's desktop. RSS Reader widgets are also popular with news media organizations, as a way to get involved in the world of RSS without losing their branding or influence (they get to choose the default feeds, as one example). Ron Jeffries has an interesting take on the Konfabulator deal:
"Konfabulator, now part of the Yahoo empire, is a frontal assault on Microsoft desktop dominance. The future is web services, and Konfabulator provides VERY easy to develop desktop widget technology with a completely open API."
I noticed a couple of Web 2.0 and RSS things happening in the Asia region this week. Firstly Feedburner announced what looks to be a highly strategic partnership with China's biggest blog network Bokee. With 2 million blogs and apparently growing at a rate of over 10,000 new blogs a day, Bokee is a huge new customer for Feedburner. But more than that, it gives them a great foothold in the Asian market. Thinking globally is going to be become ever more important in this Web 2.0 world (which admittedly sounds odd coming from me, Mr 'I-Wanna- Move-To-Silicon-Valley'!).
Another company making moves in Asia is Pheedo, who this week made a presentation in Tokyo. Pheedo discovered a growing and ready market for RSS:
"RSS is growing in Japan with no promotion. The Japanese RSS adoption rate is higher compared to the US market. Overall penetration is lower but according to Tsukada, "the environment is ready.""
I decided to ask for some feedback from my Asia correspondent and blog buddy, Taewoo Danny Kim. In an email, Danny pointed to the growing number of Chinese and Japanese titles on the del.cio.us/tag/web2.0 feed as evidence of a ramping up of Web 2.0 fever over there. Blogging is big in Korea, where Danny lives, but he said RSS and Web 2.0 is still nascent. This is the same feeling I have for the New Zealand and Australia markets. Of course, this means a whole world of opportunity to early adopters - such as people reading mine and Danny's blogs!
Post of the Week
If you're looking for a thought-provoking article about the Web as a social tool - past, present and future - Kevin Kelly's effort for Wired magazine is highly recommended. He wrote that the "destiny of the Web" is:
"As the OS for a megacomputer that encompasses the Internet, all its services, all peripheral chips and affiliated devices from scanners to satellites, and the billions of human minds entangled in this global network. This gargantuan Machine already exists in a primitive form. In the coming decade, it will evolve into an integral extension not only of our senses and bodies but our minds."
Later in the article, he has this prediction for the Web in 2015:
"By 2015, desktop operating systems will be largely irrelevant. The Web will be the only OS worth coding for. It won't matter what device you use, as long as it runs on the Web OS. You will reach the same distributed computer whether you log on via phone, PDA, laptop, or HDTV."
That's a wrap for another week!