There have been a lot of excellent posts and articles this week about APIs, the Web as Platform, web sites as software companies, and so forth. Here's my own mash-up of some of the highlights:
The Philosophy of Web 2.0
To set the scene, let's consider what the essence of Web 2.0 is. Peter Merholz has been thinking about this: "The point isn't the features, it's the underlying philosophy of relinquishing control." He pointed to Barnes & Noble's failed attempt to replicate Amazon's features and also cited Blockbuster trying to copy Netflix.
"Web 2.0 presages a freeing of data, allowing it to be exposed, discovered and manipulated in a variety of ways…
Web 2.0 permits the building of virtual applications, drawing data and functionality from a number of different sources…
Web 2.0 applications work for the user, and are able to locate and assemble content that meets our needs as users…
Web 2.0 applications are modular …
Web 2.0 is about sharing; code, content, ideas…"
So the philosophy of Web 2.0 is to let go of control, share ideas and code, build on what others have built, free your data. It's actually a difficult philosophy to live by, when you consider how capitalistic Western society is. But more on that in another post...
btw, I've gotta love a new blogger that puts me on their v0.1 blogroll alongside just 3 other people: Clay Shirky, Kevin Kelly, Tim Berners-Lee. :-)
ZDNet is calling the current generation of the Web the "recombinant Web". Although that term is too much of a mouthful to catch on, the explanation is spot on:
"...the recombinant Web, Web mash-ups, Web 2.0 or just the next phase of Web evolution heralds the use of the Web as a platform for creating new kinds of user experiences and businesses. Jon Udell calls it remixable Web applications."
In a CNET article entitled Catching up to Web 2.0, Martin LaMonica gives us his definition:
"Now programmable Web sites are becoming more widespread, a change that unleashing all sorts of intriguing combinations, or "mash-ups." Some people call that Web 2.0."
LaMonica wrote more on that theme in a follow-up CNet article entitled From Web page to Web platform. His bottom line:
"Experts predict Web site owners will increasingly resemble software companies: To generate traffic and sales, they will encourage add-on products and Web services."
Hmmm, there is an overarching theme developing here. In CNET's words:
"The effect is to put a great deal of power in the hands of outside individuals and to transform Web sites into programmable machines."
Web sites as software companies, programmable machines... I like that way of expressing the power of Web 2.0 sites/entities such as Google and Amazon.
Web as Platform implementations
The second CNET article also has a paragraph devoted to eBay's use of APIs. Apparently 20% of eBay's listings come from the APIs - mostly for "high volumes". There are now 18,000 people in eBay's developer program, up from just 300 in 2003.
Robert Scoble recently visited eBay and was so impressed he was moved to comment:
"I think we're about to see a revolution in retailing. Someone could build an interesting new store using a combination of Google Maps or MSN Virtual Earth, Amazon, eBay, and other Web services."
But as usual, Robert's commenters had some interesting counterpoints. Developer Morgan Schweers said:
"There are some questions to be asked about the openness and design of eBay's API. [...] As for the people who are making $1Mil/mo., they are most likely spending $750+K/mo. to make it."
On the topic of implementations of API services, Feedburner has just released its FeedBurner Feed Management API. It's described as:
"...sort of like a universal remote control for FeedBurner services. You can create, manage and remove feeds in your account without ever visiting feedburner.com."
The quintessential Web 2.0 application
Flickr is certainly a great example of a small company using Web 2.0 technologies to its advantage, although on a larger scale I don't think you can go past Google, Amazon and eBay as quintessential Web 2.0 entities. I also liked this line by Jon in the comments to Rashmi's post: "When web sites start acting like software companies, then you have your Web 2.0."
The Future of the Web, according to its Creator
Finally, to end this mash-up on the topic of mash-ups, let me go right back to the original source of the Web - Tim Berners-Lee. In a recent interview with the BBC on the topic of the read/write Web, Sir Tim had this prediction for the Web in 30 years time:
"My goal for the web in 30 years is to be the platform which has led to the building of something very new and special, which we can't imagine now."