10 October 2009

 

Web2.0, a definition

People ask me what Web2.0 is. This is my explanation, hope you find it useful. It's hopefully a bit more readable than the definition on wikipedia. I also follow this with some information about Web3.0.

You may have heard the term Web2.0, a term first used in 2004. If you ask an expert what it means you'll probably get differing answers depending on who you ask because there is no real clear definition of it. So this is my one.

There are two main feature of Web2.0 which distinguish it from sites that aren't Web2.0.

  1. Web2.0 is about people creating their own content for publishing online

  2. it is also about the supporting technology for this content


It is easier to explain Web2.0 if you set it in context of what there was previously.

In the early days of the web, despite it originally being conceived as a document sharing and editing environment, the editing part rarely happened. Early sites were generally about a company, organisation or individual producing content, publishing it on their website and then people reading that content or transacting with it, e.g. reading the news on-line or buying a book.

However, following the emergence of blogs it became easier for larger number of people to author their own content and have others comment on it, just as you can do here. Similarly, Amazon allowed others to post their own reviews. This activity, together with the very long standing Internet tradition of news groups, forums, bulletin boards and so on going back to the 1970's - all these came together to form the early implementation what we now call Web2.0.

When you consider that most people think of Web2.0 as twitter, facebook and other similar sites they think of it as a social platform which allows them to publish their own content easily and share it with their friends. However, this facility has been around on-line for almost 30 years. In 1979 with the invention of usenet groups it was possible to easily share content online and from my own personal experience I used to run a mailing list called Gaelic-L that was founded in 1989 and allowed people with similar interests to share content with their online connections even way back then. In 1990 I also proposed an early browser with user generated content and personalised news, based on the fact that many people were by that time doing much of that anyway.

Web2.0 is therefore more than just being able to publish content and share it with your friends, this has been possible for decades, it's about the types of technology that make it happen as well and how these combine together. In the early days if I wrote an article in a newsgroup, people might reply to it. With Web2.0 you can not only reply to it but you might be able to vote on it and even edit the original, this is how wikipedia works - people collaborate together using a wiki as a tool for sharing information. The articles in a wiki are often authored by several people rather than just one. Similarly it wasn't just that blogs made it easy for people to write their own content, the platforms they used to write their blogs held and published the content in a structured way and this allowed the content to be easily reused in other contexts using a technology called RSS (Really Simple Syndication). What this means is that you didn't have to go to the blog to read the post, you could pick up the notifications of new posts via an RSS reader or another website entirely. Sites can also publish a programming interface called an API which can support the same functionality as RSS and more besides. RSS feeds are particularly useful at following new content - e.g. new news article, new blog posts or more specialised searches such as new jobs matching your requirements on a job board. API calls are better for more generalised searches e.g. "how many twitter users are based in Edinburgh" or "Who posted the first tweet about Michael Jackson's death" or "give me the data to plot a graph of the number of times President Obama's Nobel prize was mentioned in the hours after the announcement was made", etc.

As an example of RSS in action, my posts here automatically feed out to twitter and friendfeed. My friendfeed is then published on my facebook pages. This sharing of data across many sites and applications and interpreting the content in different ways is one of the key distinguishing features of web2.0 over web1.0. This is quite a long post, too long for the 140 character limit for twitter, but the connection between my blog and twitter takes care of that. Similarly when I post something new to the photo sharing platform Flickr, it also appears via a link on Twitter even though twitter doesn't directly support photos - the sites all interact with the same content but in different ways.

Taking this example of data sharing further you can combine (mash) information from different sites to produce something new, this is called a mashup. An example might be pulling in data from Google maps, geotagged photos from Flickr, public rights of way information from the government or council and accommodation information and reviews from a hotel booking site. Combining this information together using the publicly available data would allow you to show walks overlaid on a map together with examples of the views you could expect to see along the way and recommended places to stay en-route.

So Web2.0 is about people creating content (blogs, photos, statuses) together with the supporting technology (facebook, wikis, twitter) allowing this content to be shared, connected and reused in many different ways. It isn't really about endless "beta", rounded graphics, pastel shades and large fonts although these are incidental elements of the Web2.0 scene.

Just as there's no single definition of Web2.0, there is even less clarity about what might come next for Web3.0. The leading consensus is this will be about the semantic web. This represents a bigger challenge than web2.0 because it is about taking the largely unstructured and often ambiguous content on the web and tagging it in ways that allow it to be more clearly defined and reused. For instance if I type London Bridge into Google, there is no way at present to distinguish if I meant the actual bridge itself, the railway station with the same name, the underground station with the same name, the hospital with the same name or the bridge that got shipped to Arizona. Another example is differentiating text with a particular meaning from the same text that occurs by coincidence - e.g. a Digital Will is a type of Will (a legal document for when someone dies) that covers digital assets such as your emails, photos, MP3s, on-line contacts, etc. However, if you search for this term in Google you get some references to both the legal document but also the same phrase occurring in entirely different contexts such as "Digital will overtake print" and "Western Digital will move to Irvine". The semantic web will not only help to classify how words are used from a linguistic point of view but it will also allow content to be queried as data - for instance on a restaurant website you could mark-up your opening hours and this would allow people to search using a semantic search engine for restaurants open at a particular time of day. The biggest challenges faced by Web3.0 are in agreeing the common vocabularies and then deploying them effectively across the billions of web pages that already exist.

As you can see, although Google is quite good at being able to find pages containing certain terms it is currently very poor at making sense of the data in a structured way. This is because without the data being marked up in a semantic way (either through the use of markup directly or by attempting to deduce the context), it is an exceptionally difficult task for a search engine to provide this functionality. Web3.0 will make this job a lot easier but the means by which Web3.0 will emerge is still unclear. What we do know though it that it should make searching for information a lot more powerful and specific. Google is also exceptionally poor at searching sites that already have structure - for instance if I wanted to find a hotel room for tonight I would use an accommodation search engine and Google would find me the site which listed the accommodation rather than the accommodation itself. Google can't tell me what rooms are available tonight but it can point me towards sites that are likely to have this information. This will all change with Web3.0 and the use of intermediary sites will significantly decline as the information they hold begins to open up to more generalised search engines.

I hope this has been helpful. If anyone is looking for a Web2.0 or Web3.0 specialist, please get in touch via craig@siliconglen.com, twitter, facebook or linkedin.

Craig
I do Internet things, manage large websites, play around with language, campaign for good causes, try to explain things and have fun singing along the way (not all at the same time!).

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17 July 2008

 

Using twitter as a free trade platform

Buy and sell anything online using Twitter for free.

I thought this was worth a try. Twitter has taken off because it is short, simple, easy to use and readily accessible from a number of different platforms. It's so easy to post a short tweet when that's all you want to say rather than a long blog article. It's more immediate and like SMS is particularly useful when you have a short message or series of short messages to put out quickly. Microblogging is taking off, even the Prime Minister uses it. Having received a twitter message from a government minister earlier today, it seems to be an effective way to reach people.

However, rather than considering Twitter as the SMS equivalent of blogging, what about using the Twitter API via sites such as tweetscan to scan the entire twittersphere for anything of interest? Twitter needn't just replace blogging - the free posting to a large audience via Tweetscan and others could rival other free advertising platforms such as Craigslist (ugh) and Gumtree (also ugh), both owned in part by Ebay. It needn't stop there - if enough people set up twitter wanted feeds you could list for free on Twitter rather than paying to list on Ebay.

Paying for such a service is a problem with no feedback mechanism but it's no worse than currently exists with Craigslist and Gumtree.

However, let me suggest a format. This is based loosely on the XML content I receive in RSS feeds for jobs etc and seems to work well enough for that.

You have 140 characters. I suggest the "tweet trade format" as follows (illustrated by examples)

<WANT|BUY|SELL|LIST>:<ITEM NAME> :<PRICE> <Tiny:ITEM URL> <CITY/LOCALITY/COUNTRY> <EXPIRY>



Supposing you have a mobile phone for sale in Mt View California. The listing would look like this:
SELL: Nokia E61 (Used) :$50 http://tinyurl.com/siliconglen Mountain View/CA/US 2008-07-20

Maybe you want to buy a house?
BUY: House 4 bed :$500000 http://www.example.com/moredetailshere Sunnyvale/CA/US 2008-08-31
The price here being the maximum

Supposing you have a job listing, this is a service listing so comes under the LIST category. Contract Project Manager in London, UK for £500 per day.

e.g. LIST: Contract Project Manager Agile PRINCE2 :£500pd http://tinyurl.com/siliconglen London/UK 2008-07-20

The "where" would end with the 2 letter ISO country code (ISO3166). If the item is relevant to a global audience then WW could be used (world-wide) as in WWW (world-wide web).

e.g. WANT: Domain for Web2.0 startup :$10000 http://www.example.com/contactme 2008-08-21
The price here being the maximum price willing to be paid.

Dates would be in international ISO8601 format. That way Americans and Europeans will have the same format and we don't get confused over 04/07/2008 being the 4th of July or the 7th of April.

The URL could of course point to a page on your own site, your blog, a listing on Ebay, a listing on Craigslist or Gumtree or for an item wanted, you could give more detail about what is you want by linking to a similar item on Ebay, Amazon, whatever. It could also link to an openID page for people to contact you, mine is https://getopenid.com/siliconglen

If you think this is a great idea, drop me an email - I'm compiling a mailing list of interested parties who think being able to list products and services on the internet and sell them /effectively/ for as much as it costs to list a webpage in Google (ie nothing) is the way to go and I'm keen to build up a userbase to convince prospective investors that this will take off. It has a long way to go past twitter listings, this is just an early toe in the water.

If anyone wants to build a tool to build up the listing in the standard format via a webform, then drop me a line.

Then with these listings, you can search for them simply using http://www.tweetscan.com or use Tweetscan to sign up for email alerts when something matches what you are looking for (just like eBay favourite search notifications). You can also use tweetscan to search up a search and associated RSS feed for it.

I can see this format evolving over time, but that seems enough for a starter. Comments welcome.

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16 July 2008

 

Yahoo: How to take on Google and Microsoft

If I said that I know of a way in which Yahoo could dramatically improve its search capability, take on Google in areas that Google is currently completely hopeless and become the market leader in a global area of search far more valuable than searching for mere web pages, do you think someone from Yahoo would look up my LinkedIn profile to see that with my background I might know what I'm talking about, pick up the phone and invite me down to London to 125 Shaftesbury Avenue London WC2H 8AD for an informal chat with the view to hiring me on a contract basis to implement this?

Google's obviously not too far away at 76 Buckingham Palace Road London, SW1W 9TQ so if there's no call then it's a short tube ride away to both Google and just round the corner Microsoft at 100 Victoria Street London SW1E 5JL if Yahoo aren't interested in turning themselves around.

Worth a try eh? Might even be as far ahead of its time as a touch screen browser and personalised news in April 1990.


Craig (craig at siliconglen.com)

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27 April 2008

 

basic search engine failure

Why is it that 14 years after search engines took off, and millions of pounds of research later that in 2008 you still can't do something as basic and necessary as typing in your postcode to find out where the nearest chemist is that opens on a Sunday?

Even the NHS don't publish this info online, yet somehow they manage to give it to their contact centre staff. Staff who require to know your name, address and date of birth to answer a query.

How is this data collection justifiable when the information should be freely available online?

You can't search for post offices open on a Sunday either!

Craig

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12 December 2006

 

Search for accommodation in London?

When attempting to use the Internet to search for accommodation in London, it seems that despite 10+ years of e-commerce no-one appears to have a usable website to do this basic activity adequately. Perhaps I'm missing something here but I tried the popular sites, I tried various terms on Google, I tried various types of searches but nothing was adequate.

What I was looking for:

1. An en-suite double room in Greater London, ideally within about 5 miles of the City of London.

2. Less than £60 a night, including breakfast. This appears to be too complicated for some sites since some quote you without breakfast and then add it on as a surcharge.

3. Available on the night I want to stay. This is again a problem for some sites that do a cursory search then only check availability when you actually go to book the room only to find there isn't a room available to book. Other sites tell you they will get back to you by email in one business day, which is no use at short notice.

4. Wi-fi access would be a bonus but no-one seems to have invented a way of searching for it yet.

5. A place which has been favourably reviewed would obviously be good as many of the cheaper hotels are reviewed as dirty and substandard. Being able to filter for positively reviewed places rather than getting Fawlty Towers would be great. It would be even better if I could filter out the comments that were in languages I don't speak.

6. Searching by star grading would be a bonus, but isn't essential

7. A check in time of 1pm or earlier is a bonus, but isn't essential

8. Clearly the capability of quoting you an entire price, including any applicable credit card booking fee, is beyond the capability of any website in the year 2006 so I gave up on that one.

9. Being able to look at the matching results and see where they all were on a map is a very big usability bonus.

10. Being able to search for somewhere that has a shower. Saying there are en-suite facilities is not enough as some places are bath only.


Having spent ages wasting my time searching the various sites, the only one that even came remotely close to doing 1-3 and actually had available accommodation within my price range (and it has feature 9 too) was priceline. So there you go. Maybe there is a better search out there that can look for cheap availability but I couldn't find it. If anyone knows of one, please let me know.

I eventually found somewhere that was £40 for a double room including breakfast but some of the reviews are rather mixed so we'll see how it goes. I would have paid a bit more if I could have actually found somewhere suitable.

One positive thing from all of this is it's given me a really great idea for a Web2.0 start-up and no, it isn't an accommodation search.

Craig

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28 September 2006

 

Recommended job search site

As someone currently looking for a job, (anyone hiring for Technical Lead / IT Manager or CTO at the moment?) I have been using a wide variety of job search sites with mixed results. Incase anyone else is in the same situation, the site I have found that consistently returns the most relevant results and has the most flexible search (especially for Scotland) is ScotRecruit, the Scottish branded version of Jobsite who brand themselves as "The original, award-winning UK job search and jobs by email service". I guess my computerised job matching service I thought up in 1989 and got an award for in the Shell Livewire competition and my picture in the local paper doesn't count then? :-)

Seriously folks, there are loads of sites out there. Try this one first.

They have even lead the field and created a very useful page on the age discrimination legislation which is about to come into force in the UK.

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29 April 2006

 

Scotland Search Engine

The Scotland Search Engine, supplied by Rollyo and compiled by me. This one seems to work quite well, enjoy!

I also tried building a search for UK shopping sites and finding a job with mixed results.

Roll on the semantic web and being able to make more sense of these pages.

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08 April 2006

 

The Anatomy of a Search Engine

The Anatomy of a Search Engine. This is the original paper describing Google, an interesting read for those interested in Internet history. As the article comments "Google is designed to crawl and index the Web efficiently and produce much more satisfying search results than existing systems". I guess they missed out the bit about making its founders fabulously wealthy in the process...

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04 April 2006

 

Searching for enlightenment

In the beginning there were the pages. Then the next creation came to pass and there were two links and The Creator did link the pages together and saw that the links were not broken and were alone in the net. The links were whole and complete even though they were naked and without style or script to adorn them.

And the web was formless and void, and darkness lay in the minds of the web seekers and the spirit of Godgle was moving over the surface of the net. The sun and the sisko did come together as a mosaic and there was light.

And the trinity of W,W,W said let there be standards, and there were. And thus didst W3 see that the standards were well formed and created a multitude so users may prosper and their work may bear fruit in the garage of eternal riches. In the book of Job, it is written that the apple caused him to be cast out and go to the next place.

The standards separated the webbers from the gophers. And from the mosaic there came the 1st commandment of search, thou shall have indexers. The directories did bring order to the web and the tribe of Yahoers didst flourish. And the gates of the web were opened, people did navigate and explore and the net was excited. It was written by the followers of the ring that there shall be a link for a link.

Then, the sequel begat data and brought the 1st commerce order. There were created places in the valley such as Echo Bay and Amazone where users may practice their trade.

Thus was Web 1.0 created.

And then there came the 2nd commandment of search, thou shall allow robots. The spiders came and swept through the clouds of the net visiting each page and didst make a feast of plenty to the users. From this sorting the users were guided by the AltaVStar which led the way and brought order to the chaos.

Yet there was an exodus of truth and bowing down before the profit of doom and so came a torrent which did cause the curtain of newconomy to crash down, exposing the check of reality so that all could see it. Thus there was weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth. And those that the crash and wytookay did passover were blessed for they could see through the hanging windows to the land of reboot.

Then, from the midst of the 2nd search order it was written in the book of numbers that the Godgle came to live amongst the seekers. The Godgle brought order to the chaos that remained. And Godgle said, Let us search our images, desktops and email and let us have dominion over the over all the earth, and over every thing upon the earth that can be searched, and all the things in the heavens that can be searched also. The Godgle didst sent its robots to spread the word, and the weighting of the links would become known as the great ranking. Each site whether ancient or newborn will be routed out and numbered according to its family of links.

And Godgle saw every thing that it had made, and, behold, it was very good. And with Godgle came services and the consumers gained power over content and control over their lot. The users did abbadon the path of propriety and sought the openness of the Deemoz and Wiky for their web and they did adopt the Fox and Bird as their icons. The users praised these and behold, Web 2.0 was created.

And from the Web 2.0 the users did take their produce, mashed it together and went forth to feed the multitude.

Yet the search was still without meaning and the babel of words did confuse the results. In the many languages of the search there was despair. And the power of the Godgle was great and people did praise it yet the openness of the second coming and Web 2.0 had not yet come to pass upon the ways of the search spiders and the open users did question the Godgle and their data that lay within and its mysterious ways that were kept apart from them. Godgle only spoke to the Eagle and the Dragon in these matters.

And so it came to pass that in the search was found the path of open knowledge and the trinity of XML, OWL and RDF headed toward the Ontology that was to be found within and cradled there in a stable environment as it was only a beta.

And behold, in the book of Timothy didst W3 see the creation of the Semantic Web and so the net began to have true meaning. And the methods were open and the users did have power over their content. The users saw that their will could be done by the web.

And after the 2nd search order and web 2.0, thus came the 2nd categorisations. The Esperonto did bring meaning to the web, yet the work was great and the webmasters and their disciples did toil greatly to bring order to the chaos. The holy grail of search 2.0 did remain far from the disciples of open search and seven years of famine before the harvest were foretold.

And so it shall pass that the 2nd robots will come, and this shall be the first great vision of revelation. The users shall be immersed in search 2.0 and converted to the path of openness. The second robots shall heal the broken searches, and every seeker shall praise them. The spirit of openness will be with them and their order and the users shall have power over their form and function. And the users shall not be afraid and they shall have control over their web and its meaning. And thus the power of the users shall cause the Godgle to fork open and within the covenant of open search ontology the Promised Search shall be theirs.

And Godgle so loved the net that it gave its begotten search, that whosoever believeth in it should not be confused, but have everlasting results. And the spirit of the open search said I am in each one of you and ye shall have the power to decide between open search and closed and between a central search with its mysterious ways or the revelation of the truth and to do no evil.

Blessed are those who seek for they shall inherit the net. Thine is the power and the glory.


You don't have to be a prophet to see what's coming. Why not join us? Those who can make order from chaos particularly welcome.

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22 March 2006

 

A new search for Scottish Accommodation

A new search facility for Scottish Accommodation has now gone live here http://www.visitscotland.com/advanced/

The most comprehensive Scottish accommodation search on the Internet.

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12 March 2006

 

The Definitive Scottish Search

Please give it a go. Scottish Search

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