Tim O’Reilly on “What is Web 2.0”

Marvellous article by Tim himself. Excerpts:

At bottom, Google requires a competency that Netscape never needed: database management. Google isn’t just a collection of software tools, it’s a specialized database. Without the data, the tools are useless; without the software, the data is unmanageable. Software licensing and control over APIs–the lever of power in the previous era–is irrelevant because the software never need be distributed but only performed, and also because without the ability to collect and manage the data, the software is of little use. In fact, the value of the software is proportional to the scale and dynamism of the data it helps to manage.

Google’s service is not a server–though it is delivered by a massive collection of internet servers–nor a browser–though it is experienced by the user within the browser. Nor does its flagship search service even host the content that it enables users to find. Much like a phone call, which happens not just on the phones at either end of the call, but on the network in between, Google happens in the space between browser and search engine and destination content server, as an enabler or middleman between the user and his or her online experience.

As a result, DoubleClick proudly cites on its website “over 2000 successful implementations” of its software. Yahoo! Search Marketing (formerly Overture) and Google AdSense, by contrast, already serve hundreds of thousands of advertisers apiece.

Overture and Google’s success came from an understanding of what Chris Anderson refers to as “the long tail,” the collective power of the small sites that make up the bulk of the web’s content.

BitTorrent thus demonstrates a key Web 2.0 principle: the service automatically gets better the more people use it … There’s an implicit “architecture of participation”, a built-in ethic of cooperation, in which the service acts primarily as an intelligent broker, connecting the edges to each other and harnessing the power of the users themselves.

In other news, InformationWeek is featuring “The Future of the Web“, a collection of short writeups on “the fundamental changes playing out on the World Wide Web”. Includes the Google-Sun agreement, the Web 2.0 conference, and Yahoo’s role. The last one is particularly interesting. With so much of the focus on Google and its supposed plan for “world domination”, Yahoo’s plans are being somehow overlooked. I’ll probably have more on this shortly.

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