Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Thursday, October 6, 2005

Web 2.0 Examples: A Mini-Guide

Web 2.0 is a catchword for the new internet paradigm that is just starting to shaping the way you work and interact with information on the web.

Web 2.0 is not a specific software or some registered trademark of Microsoft or Google, but a buzzword describing a collection of approaches to using the net in new and very innovative ways.

Photo credit: Cheryl Empey

Web 2.0 refers to technologies that allow data to become independent of the person who produced it or the site it originated on. It deals with how information can be broken up into units that flow freely from one site to another, often in ways the producer did not foresee or intend.

The Web 2.0 paradigm allows net users to pull information from a variety of sites simultaneously and deliver it on their own site to achieve new purposes.

But it is not a world of stealing others' work or pirating information for one's own gain. Instead, Web 2.0 is a product of the open-source, sharing notions the internet was founded on, and makes data more connected. This allows new information and business opportunities to be built upon the shoulders of the information that came before.

Web 2.0 lets data act as its own entity, which can be changed, altered or remixed by anyone for any specific purpose. When data is an entity, the net moves from a collection of websites to a true web of sites that can interact and process information collectively.



Web 2.0 is built on technologies like Ajax, a web development approach based on JavaScript and the XML programming language. This mix of technologies allows pages to function more like desktop-based applications rather than as old-fashioned static content pages as we have been used to find on the Web.

Tim O'Reilly has a great article explaining in great depth what Web 2.0 is

With Ajax-powered sites, users can interact with information inside individual pages as if they were using a software application, leaving the old web metaphor of a sequential navigation path among static web pages.

Dion Hinchcliffe writes in his Web Services Journal:

As important though, is the tangible value which the Web 2.0 provides today:

- Leveraging The Long Tail. Amazon and eBay used this idea to build companies worth billions and billions. This is how. Web 2.0 provides both the audience and the services.

- Small Pieces, Loosely Joined. Monolithism is dead, we can't build big stuff like that any more. It's not agile nor can what you build be aggregated, deliver sustained value, or even survive for long.

- Self-Service and Participation. Fostering this lets you capture new value in your Web 2.0 apps 24 hours a day. Examples: Tagging, ranking, trackbacks, reputations.

- Radical Decentralization. Single sources of function are single sources of failure and are unacceptable now. And they don't scale to either deliver or capture significant value.

- Emergent Behavior. Your Web 2.0 functionality can be reused, remixed, aggregated, and syndicated and the resulting value reintegrated back into your application.

Web 2.0 thrives on another cool technology called RSS. As many of you already know, RSS allows users to get automatic updates when a site changes instead of checking it all the time to get the latest information. One simply subscribes to the site's RSS feed, and as content changes the information is automatically delivered to your RSS reader or aggregator.

With Web 2.0 RSS kicks in the turbo and becomes widely used to syndicate, filter and re-mix news, articles and other types of content into new information items. It is in fact in the remixing, in the skilled selection and juxtaposition of existing content and information that the greatest potential of the Web 2.0 paradigm truly lies.

Here is for example our new web 2.0 public RSS news aggregator, powered by Ajax scripts developed by Dutch company BackBase.

The power of open APIs provides the Web 2.0 revolution with access to large propietary databases of information that once again can be used to create new mashups and business combinations that would have not happened otherwise.

Amazon, Google, Yahoo, eBay/Skype and many other web companies (even Microsoft is doing this), all have open APIs allowing developers to invent and design new applications leveraging existing data and information.

In essence, with Web 2.0 the web becomes a "platform" for development in and by itself.

"For corporate people, the Web is a platform for business. For marketers, the Web is a platform for communications. For journalists, the Web is a platform for new media. For geeks, the Web is a platform for software development. And so on."

Source: Read/Write Web - Richard MacManus

Some great examples of this Web 2.0 approach include, a site that analyzes sales information from eBay and provides it to users so they can best take advantage of the auction site. Another is, a site powered by and Google Maps, but not officially affiliated with either. HousingMaps combines Craigslist's classified real estate ads with Google Maps ability to quickly view a satellite map of the exact address.

All of these web applications have created new services that build on existing information, data and services and re-utilize that information in ways not intended by the primary creators.

This evolutionary re-mixing creates many new business opportunities for both creators, as well as for consumers, making possible the creation of many new, innovative and highly useful services.

Here is a humble, hand-made mini-guide to the most interesting examples of Web 2.0 at work. From today onward, this guide will be a clearinghouse to the best and most interesting examples of Web 2.0 at work, with weekly updates and additions. If you are were searching for a showcase of the best examples of Web 2.0 applications and services out there, you have come to the right place. (And please do send in whatever you think should be included here that I have missed).

  • Robin Good's News Channels

    My latest Web 2.0 feat, Robin Good's News Channels are now operational. An Ajax-powered conglomeration of all the latest news from MasterNewMedia, Kolabora, MasterViews and The Weblog Project, this site allows all the news from the Robin Good sites to be viewed simultaneously from a single site that updates as new articles are posted. The page is constructed using technology from Backbase and really shows the power of Web 2.0.

    An uncommonly smooth interface, the page looks slick, works fast and updates in real-time without refreshing. It is adjustable to users' needs, allowing choice of which Robin Good sites they want to see, and it makes articles accessible on the page or in separate windows (equipped with print, email, forward and back navigation buttons). Included is also a powerful search feature that enables users to search all feeds at once, and the ability to save any search as an RSS feed.

    This news page also integrates an emailing feature, a print facility, a full archive of all my posts and real-time updates of the individual feeds. There is indeed no better way to get to all of my content at once from a unique place.

    Further, my readers can create custom feeds on their selected keywords and republish my own content and headlines on their news sites and blogs without need to ask me extra permissions (credit is all that is required).

    Read more about the Robin Good News Channels news aggregator right here.


    A truly exciting application, is a great indication of the potential of the Web 2.0 world, where existing sites and software can easily be manipulated or intertwined to provide a new service not possible with either of the original sites.

    The beauty of it is in its sheer simplicity: creator Paul Rademacher just took the power of Google Maps and cross-bred it with Craigslist's real estate classifieds to make a site where potential buyers can view satellite images of the property advertised. It allows users to visualize the property's exact location and simultaneously view information about the property itself.

    The site provides a unique and useful service and is built with almost no effort or capital investment, showing what is possible on the Web 2.0 when APIs can interact fluidly.

    Read more about Housing Maps here.

  • Meebo

    An Ajax-based tool for using multiple instant messaging services simultaneously, Meebo enables users to use AIM, MSN, Yahoo and other messenger services from a single screen, with a single buddy list. The site lets users simplify their IM experience into one platform, eliminating the hassle of using multiple programs at once.

    Still in the initial phases, Meebo currently suffers from some sluggish performance problems, but the site's designers pledge they are working out all bugs. Once that is completed, this will likely be a convenient, useful and popular use of APIs.

  • DropCash
    An site for organizing and monitoring a charitable campaign, DropCash makes it possible to set up a fund drive, monitor it, blog it and chart its progress.

    It is built over the the PayPal API, uses the TypeKey identification system for verification, and a DropCash Parser is also available, allowing users to customize the display of their drive's page.

    It is a useful tool for charities (as it was for this charity after Hurricaine Katrina), but also for software developers such as this developer who can use the charity site to pay for their work.

    DropCash also has implications in other industries as well. In fact, any field dealing with intellectual property that is easily copied (such as film, television, music or software), could ensure sufficient payment for their works in this way.

    For instance, producers of a film could specify an amount before releasing the print to theaters, and not release the material until the drive reached its conclusion. This way, studios would lose less to piracy, as the film would already be partially paid-for, and would not matter if it was copied via the net or bootlegged on the street. This idea could help solve some of the problems the TV and film industries are combatting, and could smooth the path for the future of Online TV.

  • Google Suggest

    A great example of a browser-based application is Google Suggest, an application (still in beta) that fills in the search field on Google with suggestions of similar searches. It is meant to make searching easier and more convenient by suggesting topics that users may find useful.

    But there is more to this seemingly simple application. It is a great example of using Ajax within a browser, as it delivers new information without refreshing, making information easier to access. The technology is also fascinating because the text suggestions react quickly to user keystrokes, constantly altering to the words forming on the screen. Although this was possible on desktop applications for years, Google Suggest's shows the ability to complete this via Web 2.0 technologies.

    It is also a useful tool for online marketers or bloggers, as it provides a reference to determine what phrases have the highest relative popularity, allowing marketers to tailor their titles to those key words.

    Read more about Google Suggest here.

  • Web 2.0 Mashup Matrix

    Mashup_matrix.gif">Mashup Matrix shows the existing mashups (remixing of content and/services into new ones) that leverage the access possibilities provided by 89 different web services with open APIs. A "mashup" is a web-based application built through (creative) combination of data from multiple sources. Sometimes a mashup uses APIs, sometimes RSS, or XML, screen-scraped HTML, or 'internal' data that's not publicly accessible. The etymology of the term mashup is assumed to derive from its musical/DJ community usage when two or more songs are mixed into a single track.

    Read more about Web 2.0 Mashup Matrix.

  • inetWord

    inetWord is a truly incredible Web 2.0 application. An AJAX-powered, online word processor and web page creator, inetWord features an extremely easy interface and powerful features that anyone can master. It functions intuitively with a familiar appearance and toolbar, allowing for WYSIWYG creation of documents and web pages.

    It comes with several predesigned templates so users can design their website quickly and professionally, customized with photos, specialized backgrounds and links. Templates are easy to select and include a wide range of formats, including fax, company homepage, personal letter, etc. Once a template loads, users can change any aspect of the page, tailoring it to their specific needs.

    inetWord is also a powerful word processor. It comes with many of the formatting capabilities MS Word users are used to, including font toolbars, numbers and bulleting, justified text, tables, dialog boxes, etc. Registered users can save pages and documents to their personal folder and make them accessible to others, making inetWord a powerful tool for collaborative document creation.

    But the utility does have its drawbacks. The complexity of the AJAX site makes it very slow to load, and it is a shaky platform that can suddenly freeze and shut down. This is worsened by the fact it is only accessible with Internet Explorer.

    But these problems do not change that inetWord is an extremely powerful and useful utility, and is indicative of what is to come in the Web 2.0 world.

To be continued.

Robin Good - Kevin C. Borgia -
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posted by on Thursday, October 6 2005, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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