Monday, September 15, 2008

Notes on Web 2.0: Part1
Web 2.0 is one of the most popular buzzword around. Lot of people have written about it, lot of books are available in the market. I have tried to compile the variety of information available and give a multi-dimensional overview of the Web2.0.
This is a very easy to understand discussion and should be helpful to everybody who is interested in knowing more about Web 2.0. I will be providing lot of examples to support the information. The article might look like collection of disconnected information, I have deliberately done this because my aim is to act like a collector for information on the web 2.0 from various sources and dump it….A kind of aggregator
The article will help readers to get a starting point and a breadth of information about Web 2.0. Since there are too many things to cover I thought it to be a nice idea to divide the article into parts. Part 1 is a general overview of the Web 2.0 philosophy. In Part 2 I will be discussing about the business impact of Web. Like every Web 2.0 discussion starts with Tim Oreilly’s Web2.0 Diagram, I will also follow the tradition.

  • So what is it?

In simple terms web 2.0 is a set of patterns seen in today’s online sites and businesses that has radically changed the way the web used to be.Web 2.0 is a read and write web, meaning instead of users just reading the information presented to them, they are also allowed to modify the content of the site.

Rather than calling a website we call it a web application in Web 2.0 scenario. This is because earlier the content that was available on the web was just static pages, but now there is a wide variety of content available: web sites, web services, mashups, RSS, Social Networking sites, Video sharing , photo sharing. When we say that it is a Web 2.0 application, it means that we can find some of the design principles of the web 2.0 in the application which have been defined by Tim O’Reilly while coining the term ( ): . Since they are the design principles, they are just the guidelines on which your application should be based:

  1. The Long Tail: It is the first indication of User Centric approach. It means that the applications should be more targeted towards the masses than the niche. If a site is for very specific user set than the popularity will be just among those users, but if the site is for the common masses millions of users will be using it. YouTube( ) , Flickr ( ) are all the followers of this philosophy. The site is open to masses. We will see later that long tail is the reason why Web 2.0 businesses have grown from 0 to billions in a span of 2 years
  2. Data is the Next Intel Inside: Just like the core part of the system is the processor, similarly the core part of the web application is the data that it is providing. People go to Flickr because Flickr has got one of the largest searchable database of Photos. YouTube sits on millions of Videos that users can search for, and view them. Data has become the identity of the web business. We will discuss this in length in the next part of this article
  3. User Add value: This I would say is the core of Web 2.0. If the application has does not allow the user to add some kind of meta data or the content, then it is not a Web 2.0 application. I have discussed it in length in the later part of the article
  4. Network Effects by Default: The value of application increases with the growing number of users. Fax would have been useless if there were not many users ready to send and receive the fax. The value of the product is not what the product is but how many people are ready to use it. The users will come to a social networking site because they find their friends on the site (orkut, facebook), users visit ebay because they find buyers for their products. If tomorrow the buyers stop coming to ebay, the sellers will also stop. People are ready to write applications on facebook because they think that their friends are going to use it and appreciate them. So Web 2.0 applications grow because of the user base and their constant engagement with the site. In order to understand it more please refer to ,, Also “Web 2.0: A Strategy Guide: Business thinking and strategies behind successful Web 2.0 implementations” by Amy Shuen ( will be invaluable to understand some of the business implications of network effects.
  5. Some Rights Reserved: Normally people have Intellectual property rights which prevents users from modifying the content or using them in other places. Since Web 2.0 is all about people and their collaboration, strict licensing cannot be productive. The Applications are designed to encourage people to contribute…In words of Tim O’Reilly the Design for Hackability and Remixability
  6. The Perpetual Beta: Web 2.0 has introduced a new kind of development model called Perpetual Beta. The applications will be launched and called as Beta versions. This is because they are continuously being improved by following the users feedback. Some of the applications are building daily more than once. Flickr went from many iterations from what it was when Yahoo! Bought it to what it is now.Applications need no hard media to distribute since its all web based so the deployment means just loading the executable on the web server.
  7. Software above the level of a single device: Applications have to talk to various other applications to come up with a good use. Design the applications to integrate the services across handheld devices, PCs, web applications.
  8. Cooperate, Don’t Control: No Body is the boss. The stories published on Digg ( ) are what readers want to read and not what NewYork times want the readers to read. Wikipedia ( ) is a collaborative effort of millions of people towards building up a encyclopedia. Nobody contols Wikipedia. Web 2.0 applications give their user the resources to utilize in what ever manner they want. This has been reflected in growth of numerous businesses: YouTube, Flickr, facebook ( ), Amazon ( ) and list goes on.

A good web 2.0 application will have the 3 main features

  1. Good content, data: Data is what attracts the users. People come to Flickr because of the large database of photos, Amazon provides a rich database of the books and so on. The data is essentially easy to search.
  2. Social Architecture: Enable the users to interact and work collectively. For e.g. the users can view the photos of other users, they can write scraps, they can create their profile, express themselves on blogs, they can connect to different people gives a detail overview of what is social architecture is all about.
  3. Architecture of participation: Users can add content to the existing applications. Flickr allows them to upload photos, Youtube videos, wikipedia allows the user to add new wiki page and so on

In short the Web2.0 can be defined as:

intelligent search=Web 2.0

Web 2.0 is all about the buzz words and jargons. The following are some of them

We can categorize these buzzwords into few categories:

  1. AJAX
  2. RSS
  3. ATOM
  4. RIA
  5. SOAP
  6. REST
  7. CSS
  9. Ruby on Rails
  10. Open APIs

User Collaboration/Social Aspect

  1. Participation
  2. Trust
  3. Accessibility
  4. Remixability
  5. Folksonomy
  6. Ranking
  7. Social Networks
  8. Communities
  9. Forums
  10. Viral Feedback Loop

Content creation

  1. Wikis
  2. Blogs
  4. Recommendations
  5. Reviews

User Experience

  1. Joy of Use
  2. Simplicity
  3. Interactive media

Even though we say that Web2.0 is a read/write web but the number of users who really add the contents are very few.
We can divide the users into 3 categories
  • Users who create the content
  • Users who add the meta data information, so they add value to the existing content
  • Users who are just reading the content: more of a web 1.0 behavior but majority of the users is like this

Trust plays an important role in Web 2.0 applications.

  • Wikipedia allows the users to add the wiki pages on the various topics. Nobody is controlling the information, it is all about the trust that the users will not enter wrong and objectionable stuff.
  • ebay whole business model is based on trust. It facilitates the buyers and sellers to reach to a deal. Both the parties are unknown but still engage themselves in business
  • Social networking sites allow the users to add their personal information. The personal information plays an important role in connecting the people. Trust is the main factor why people are ready to enter their personal information and supporting the model of social networking sites

Web 2.0 applications are known for providing rich user experience: AJAX is almost necessary component for building the applications. AJAX provides the dynamic updates of the page without actually refreshing the entire page.The web sites will generally have components like maps, RSS feeds, videos, dynamically updating controls, glassy icons.

Sites are pushing information to the user. This is one of the major change from the earlier web sites and the current websites. Early websites (web1.0) required users to regularly visit the site to check if some new updates have been done. This is not a very clever solution since the probability of user doing this is very low except for the few websites. Suppose I am a fan of Linux journal , I might take the pain of visiting the site everyday to check if some new article has been published. But another user who is not that crazy about Linux might not take pain to visit the site regularly. In this manner the site is loosing on its users. Web 2.0 has a very well documented notification mechanism RSS which is all about updating the users about any changes on the site. So with RSS I don’t have to go to Linux Journal site. Instead I will just subscribe to the RSS feed from the site which keeps updating with any updates on the site. So I get the notification once the site is updated and so I can then visit the site.

Tagging/Folksnomy: Tagging helps users to categorize their content on the web. Delicious is based on tagging. The users bookmark the links by categorizing them with a tag. This helps in easy searching of the bookmarks later. Flickr allows the user to categorize their photos by giving meaningful tags. They can later search the photos based on the tags. Tagging has got lot of meta information which is quite valuable. Refer to my blog posting for the benefits of tagging

Web as platform: Web 2.0 is laying the foundation on which users can build the applications. It is providing the basic components/modules that are required to build applications. A typical application will require a Database, some APIs or libraries, messaging system to communicate between different components, UI, some kind of computation that is the brain of the application. Normally a person will use the Database from some vendor, APIs from other vendor, use a programming language for writing logic and bind them together. He will use some Hardware to run the application. So basically the different modules or technologies for creating an application are used from different vendors and assembled to get the final product.

The same concept is supported by the various applications of the Web 2.0. We have different type of modules that can be used to create new applications
1. Storage Services(equivalent to data storage in desktop applications): Amazon S3
2. Compute Service: Amazon EC2 which provide a computing facility. You can run your application on Amazon’s hardware
3. Information Services: A rich set of APIs providing specialized data. Like Google map, Flickr, Twitter, Delicious, Amazon, ebay
4. Messaging Service : They are like middleware concept passing the messages from one application to another. Amazon Simple Queue Service is one such example.
5. Various technologies like AJAX, RIA, SOAP, REST, CSS, XML, Ruby on Rails, Grail and so on

I have earlier posted the platform concept in depth on my blog which I would suggest will help a lot. Tim O’Reilly has discussed it in length in his classic Web 2.0 discussion.

Remixing and Mashups: Mashup means blend distinct data from 2 or more sources/APIs together to add more value to what was already there. E.g There are map APIs from Google which allows you to get the map based on Latitudes/Longitudes. They can be blended with a News data so that clicking on any place on the map will give the News related to that area. Now this is a blending of two data to produce something that is more valuable.They are one of the most popular reasons for the disruptive growth of web. Google Maps, Flickr, YouTube, Amazon provides APIs through which users create a new application making use of the data from these sites. For e.g. User might use the Google Map APIs to create a real estate agent site. User might love to see photographs of any place in the world. He can combine Google Maps and Flickr APIs to do so.
Apart from the fun part, mashups do have lot of business value in them. Real estate business has benefited with the sites where they can get the real time property rates and the geographic maps for the site so that the clients can see the property before buying it.

Web 2.0 applications generally display the 3 dimensions
  1. Technical: The Applications are created using some of the most advanced
    languages/software. SOAP, REST, RSS, AJAX, Ruby on Rails, GWT etc. The
    whole mashup thing has taken the SOAP and REST to new heights. (They
    are the new versions of SOA).
  2. Users Centric: User Centric aspect I have discussed a lot and will be revisiting later
  3. Business: Web 2.0 applications are running into big busisnesses. Youtube, facebook, mySpace made billions in a short span of time. We will be looking into the business aspect of Web 2.0 in the next part of the Notes.

The Web 2.0 is not only for the techie guys who are deep into coding and stuff. A web 2.0 application can be built by or owned by a completely non technical person. It takes just 5 minutes to start your blog site and start blogging ( check ). Any person can use Google Ads to start getting the Ads on the site. Google provides a very easy way to start you own portal (iGoogle). Even if there is a need for programming, it is very simple and most of the times the sample code is available, the user just has to make some minute changes to get it working.The most popular APIs are the ones which are easy to use. This is because the APIs are being used by a diversity of people (from techie to non techie).

Today almost every type of application is available on the web:
a. Videos/Audios sharing: YouTube

b. Photo Sharing: Flickr

c. Social Networking: Facebook, Orkut, MySpace

d. Books: Amazon

e. Storage: Amazon S3

f. Computing Facility: Amazon EC2

g. Trading: ebay,PayPal

h. Bookmarking: Delicious

i. Maps: Google,Yahoo!

j. Office Applications (word, excel): Google Docs, Zoho

k. Project Management: Zoho

l. Encyclopedia: Wikipedia

m. Messaging: Twitter, skype

And the list goes on. It is not too far when you need not install anything on the system, all software including OS will be web based. You will just require a very scale down version of say Linux to get the browser running and Web 2.0 will take it from there

Let me spend some time on how users have contributed in making the applications better.

  1. Wikipedia is the best example of user content that has helped in creating one of the largest encyclopedia.
  2. The search results on Google are very much dependent on how many users have referenced the links, popularity of the page, any meta information associated
  3. Flickr allows users to tag the photos. This has helped Flickr to improve their search results drastically
  4. YouTube is all about sharing the Videos. Users create the video and share it..Broadcast Yourself.
  5. Facebook is allowing the users to build up new applications and host them on facebook…as expected it is one of the latest craze among the facebook users
  6. Digg is all about users adding their votes to make the news to show up on the main page or not
  7. Amazon Product Reviews is one of the major ways how people get to know which is the better product. The users search keywords and shopping history help Amazon to find out the shopping tendency of users, so that they can “suggest” what is bought along a particular product. So you bought a book on Design Patterns by Gang of Four and there comes a Amazon suggestion saying those who bought this book also bought “Refactoring by Martin Fowler” All this is user added meta data that is helping Amazon to serve its user better
  8. Delicious tags are added by the users. They have a great value in making the links searchable. Find out more about the tagging from my posts and

This should give an overview of Web 2.0. I think I have touched base on all the key aspects of the philosophy. I will cover the business impact of web 2.0 in great details in the next part of the article. In case you want me to explain some portion of the article in more details kindly leave a comment.You can follow me on delicious for web 2.0 related links.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Why We buy ?

I had never thought upon this until I got this book in my hand.

The information given in the book is based on practical studies conducted in different retail shops, departmental stores. Data gathered has been analyzed thoroughly and findings put in the book. The stuff is kind of hillarious and mind boggling. While you are reading the book you will take some time to think ..Is Paco talking about me?
Paco for instance, discusses the implication of the trolley/baskets on the shopping experience, what happens if your shelves are oriented at an angle of 45 versus 90, what is the sales boost in having a merchandise displayed at the entry of the store versus in some middle section, A kid coming with his/her father is a better customer versus when he/she coming with mother and so on.
Paco has touched base on very common things which can significantly change the shopping and sales.
Buy Book at Amazon

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Monday, September 8, 2008

Download: A History of the Internet on Discovery Channel

A cool new series is being telecasted on Discovery channel. This is the great way in understanding the Internet revolution that happened in the last decade and which has changed our lives for ever. The Series will let us know some of the key events that took place, the key companies/products that changed the digital world and the people behind them. I am really excited for this.
More information on the same is available at
I also found a google video

Some of the key points from the Video:
  1. Internet is about connecting people
  2. Youtube: Broadcast yourself. There is not central control of the video--No master of the media
  3. DIGG: People digg (vote) the story so that its get featured on the main page. People are deciding what they consider exciting and what not
  4. facebook: Its all about relationship among human beings. facebook is trying to map the way man thinks he is connected to the other people..concept of social graph.
  5. facebook allows you to develop applications and host them on facebook so that others can see and use them.
  6. General pattern of the popular web 2.0 businesses is :
    1. started in college dorms as a fun project
    2. launched among college students
    3. through word of mouth gets vastly popular
    4. geek opts to drop out of the college
    5. starts a company based on the project
    6. A giant business buys it at an incredible rate
    7. college geek becomes extremely rich ......time involved for hitting this jackpot ~2years
  7. Some of the key acquisitions were Youtube by google (1.65bn$), MySpace by Rupert Murdoch(600million $), facebook by Microsoft,flickr by Yahoo, delicious by yahoo
  8. Digital media specially music has played a big role in bringing the people together
  9. It was because of the mp3 that the music could be compressed and easily shared on the net
  10. Napster laid the foundation of the new experience on the internet i.e. exchange digital media. Today Youtube allows you to share the video, flickr allows to share the photos but back in 98-99, Napster made the sharing of music a child's play and took the internet by storm
  11. Napster was the fastest spreading software at that time.
  12. The USP of Napster was if there is a computer on the internet which has got collection of songs and you want to download those songs...establish a peer to peer network with that computer and get the songs. Napster software helped in doing that. No computer is the central repository. Your home system can be a repository for somebody sitting in some part of the world
  13. Because of Napster people from different geographic locations , who had never heard about the other, no mails, no chat were suddenly exchanging massive data...This also laid the foundation of social networking
  14. An estimate says that 85% of the total bandwidth available in the college networks was being used to exchange music
  15. The internet usage suddenly raised and so the number of users... The user centric application theme got the first voice through Napster
  16. The popularity of Napster had raised the questions of copyright violation of the digital media which overnight became available for free. The record stores lost major market since the college guys (their major customer) were downloading the music for free.
  17. Unfortunately Napster company was shutdown after the court order..but it had showed the would be Youtube, flickr, digg how to get the people attention. Majority of internet users are not worried about the information about latest books, articles, conference,how stuff works. instead they want to play with media. They want to watch movies, videos, photos, listen to free music, communicate with friends. Its all about what are the most common interests of people and can you provide them over the internet..Bang you have a new rocking web business
  18. MySpace is another business that boosted the Social Networking idea in the sillicon valley and suddenly we had facebook, orkut coming up on those lines
  19. Youtube, MySpace, facebook have earned their founders a lot but there are some businesses which are as popular as these businesses but they are not earning any money: Craiglist, wikipedia
  20. The philosophy of craiglist is that they want to provide the newspaper classified sections for free. The advertisements are more organized , easy to search and available for almost all geographic loactions in the world. I can search for all advertisements for a house in NY,USA sitting in Bangalore,India.
  21. Youtube provide people to share videos , Flickr provided photo sharing, Digg provided people the ability to decide what they consider is the top news, facebook provided people opportunity to make friends and remain connected to people would also like to become authors,publishers and what not, so we have BLOGS
  22. Blogging is one of the most popular activity on the internet. People blog on various things. People feel excited that they can also write contents, and publish them just like any author in OLD days used to do. If you are reading this article then you know what I mean :)
  23. There is a whole lot of potential to become a new business on the internet...just need to find if it is user centric,how can a user participate in changing the content of your site. Today the User wants to become a peer in adding the content on your site rather than just a meek recipient of the content.

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Saturday, September 6, 2008

Brand Value: Silverlight versus Flex

How many people have heard of Microsoft? May be everybody who has a PC
How many people have heard of Adobe? I bet a very small fraction of the above population.
When Microsoft comes out with a product the user base is already there looking for that product. They launched Vista last year but people were already waiting for it since last 3-4 years.
This is the power of branding. Microsoft has clearly established in that perspective. Whether their offerings are really that cool or not is the other part of the story.
Microsoft, historically has bee bit passive in the internet technologies. The Browser wars(Netscape versus IE) is a classic example. WEB 2.0 is the current buzz word in the Internet parley and it is taking the world with storm. The companies are coming up with RIA (Rich internet applications) which offer very rich UIs, almost like the Desktop. Its all about user experience. The applications are marketed for their rich experience rather than their functionalities.
Anyways coming to the M-Aspect, Adobe (they actually coined the term RIA) came up with their Toolkit called Flex, to make the development of RIA easy and fast. Flex has been around for about 3 years and has become quite stable technology. A lot of people around the world have embraced this technology and are developing really cool web applications. Lot of big names in the market like Yahoo, HP, SAP are using Flex for their products. But even with so much support the common people have never heard of Flex or RIA.
2 years back Microsoft started working on Silverlight as their offering against Flex. Even though it is not being used in any commercial web sites but people are excited about it. If you discuss people about flex, the first question will be why don't you use Silverlight....Its from Microsoft. Even though they have neither worked on Silverlight nor on Flex, but they feel more comfortable to put their bet on Silverlight compared to Flex.
In my opinion this is all because of the Brand Value. People have a kind of faith in the brand they have been using. Microsoft has always been looked upon as a company which comes out with new programming languages, Operating systems, Office software...practically everything. So its obvious that they have come up with a RIA toolkit (Siverlight).
On the other hand Adobe, is known for software like PDF reader, Writer, PhotoShop...none of them is a OS or a general programming language. So when Adobe comes up with a language and a new paradigm of developing internet applications, people have doubts on their credibility. Another blow to the Flex popularity is the fact that it doesnot use javascript. Currently the general notion about the internet applications is: A website with javascript, XML, AJAX, CSS, RSS and so on. Now Flex uses actionscript which again raises people eye brows. Lot of javascript vs actionscript debate started in the recent years. Whenever such debate start, its likely that the people who are the supporters of one technology will start promoting it with full support. They will write blogs, give usage statistics etc. So now a person who is new to both actionscript and javascript when tries to decide upon which way to go, he follows an easy metrics of the popularity.
Silverlight is based on javascript so thats another advantage.
AJAX is another technology or I will say paradigm that has to be there in case your website has to get any respect. Flex never advertise much on the AJAXian capabilities. They advertise RIA more than AJAX. Web 2.0 is all about the jargons and clearly jargon AJAX is lot more popular and than RIA. Web 2.0 is associated with AJAX. I have heard lot of early Web 2.0 heros admitting that without AJAX there is no Web 2.0. So when you have a product whose sole USP is RIA, a new person who wants to have a web 2.0 type of website immediately raises doubt: If I use flex will my website be called Web 2.0?
Just to summarize Flex is a great product and is very easy to use, but from the popularity wise it will face tough competitions. One of the major factor that helped flex to reach upto the current state was the fact that was an early entrant. But with so many companies and specially Microsoft offering the same type of product, its going to be tough time for flex.

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