Today’s guest blogger is Sunil Kelkar, a programmer, author, trainer and speaker. A recognized expert in the field of software development with over 15+ years of I.T. experience, Sunil has consulted and trained teams at various companies in India and the US. He has been involved with Rails for the last two years and Java since 1997. He also imparts Free Online Rails Courses for world-wide participants. Sunil is based out of Pune, India. This article is a collection of some of his own thoughts, findings and reading between the lines while surfing using Google.
Hurry, speed, fast cars, fast lanes, fast trains…
……..still it takes 2 hrs to reach office!
while in the villages, farmers just need 10 min,
……..that too in their bullock carts!
Well, if you leave aside this contrast (due to traffic and other things), time, and speed is the core in the business/social world. Every problem begins with a need and right now there is a “Need for Speed”. This speed, in turn changes the way we used to do business before.
It’s a networked world.
Sun has been saying “The Network is the Computer.” It’s one of those rare vision statements that is becoming more true over time.
The dot, in the “Microsoft .NET” framework, could be suggesting, lets stop development for a moment and lets network existing technology together!! ?
Internet is a network of networks.
Reed Hastings, founder and CEO of Netflix, stated a simpler formula for defining the phases of the Web: “Web 1.0 was dial-up, 50K average bandwidth, Web 2.0 is an average 1 megabit of bandwidth and Web 3.0 will be 10 megabits of bandwidth all the time, which will be the full video Web, and that will feel like Web 3.0.”
While we are riding Web 2.0 (Web 1.0 is a history now) currently, Web 3.0 is somewhere near but yet to make it’s impact.
What is Web 2.0 really? Is it the technologies like podcasts, blogs, feeds, social community sites like ‘Facebook’, social content sites like ‘You Tube’? that help individual socialize and keep his/her personal identity?.
It’s a collection/combination of these, actually:
- RIA (Rich Internet Applications)
- Social Web
- Web Services
But the fact remains. Any technology developed, for social or for personal use, companies must see how to leverage on these technologies/ideas to take a competitive advantage. In turn we need to see, how these technologies impact business, directly or indirectly.
How do companies get returns on this technology? What are the risks associated in using web 2.0 technologies in the enterprise?
Let’s try and find some answers. Before we proceed, I request you to take a look at the following railway reservations sites: http://www.indianrail.gov.in/ and http://erail.in/. One based on Web 1.0 and the other on Web 2.0 technology respectively.
Though I know, there are thousands of better Web 2.0 sites available and we shall talk about them later; I just wanted to give you a feel of how transition is happening and to point you to one clear fact that the web browser is getting more and more powerful day by day.
RIA (Rich Internet Applications)
The www.like.com site has many interesting search paths into the merchandise, rather than just choosing â€˜watchesâ€™ or â€˜bootsâ€™.
Simplicity is a feature.
Under any definition, Web 2.0 applications leverage advanced Rich Internet Application (RIA) technologies (such as Ajax and Adobe Flex), along with enablers such as RSS and blogs. From an end-user perspective, these technologies allow a richer, faster, more interactive experience with browser-enabled applications and services.
The difference is usability, simplicity and speed.
If you observe all these successful sites, apart from the simplicity and some unique selling proposition, a common platform is also there.
I remember reading an article which said, in Web 2.0, the popular web sites are the ones that help in either:
- Make individual/companies earn money (Media companies like Google/Yahoo/..list goes on)
- Help individuals network and socialize (Facebook/Orkut ..list goes on)
- Help publish their thoughts/work/art (Flickr.com, WordPress.com ..list goes on and on).
This enhancement of Web 2.0 technology is a result for the need for speed. It does not just impact our networks, it impacts our psyche too! We need everything fast.
Users expect fast responses to the requests made on the web. The study shows that users tend to opt for competitor web sites if the original site takes more than 3, 4 seconds to respond. Users expect a desktop kind of look and feel to the applications which run on web.
The same philosophy if you project further, I feel, resulted in the emmergence of â€˜Agile developmentâ€™ or scrum methodologies, and of course, these have inherent advantages http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scrum_(development of their own.
The Social Web
Companies take advantage of another aspect of Web 2.0, the social web, in two different ways viz., external facing and internal facing.
The internal facing web 2.0 features are:
- Executives blogging to employees
- Corporate communication thro RSS
- Intranet applications etc.
1. The external facing web 2.0 features:
Social Networking for awareness:
Please visit http://my.barackobama.com
An Official Website of Barack Obama’s 2008 Presidential Campaign. The site invites supporters to create a profile, blog their campaign experiences, plan and attend events, find other supporters, and help raise funds for the campaign. Obama already has an official presence on Facebook and YouTube.
2. Corporate messaging through blogs:
A blog called fastlane from General motors http://fastlane.gmblogs.com/ where customers can directly communicate with top officials and get their personal views on the developments in the company.
How do companies get returns on technology?
Using Social networking for brand awareness:
VocalPoint is a unique marketing tool designed by the Procter & Gamble Company, http://moms.vocalpoint.com/.
It’s aim is to help companies better design their products by getting feedback from Moms through surveys, product sampling and previews of products and services, while building word-of-mouth among other Moms.
After all, they are usually the ones buying and using the products, so why not find out what they think? They then use the information to generate valuable knowledge and insight for their clients. This branding then helps reach 15 million people worldwide saving millions of dollars in its Supply chain network.
Side note: The power of social web is so powerful that, there is a web browser called Flock, that dubs itself the “Social Web Browser”. It is a derivative of the hugely popular Firefox/Mozilla browser, but with “social network” features added.
How web 2.0 technology can impact adversely?
There was a new product launched by Sony, knows as PS3, “Play Station 3″. Just after the release, a different company came out with a video on YouTube (you can watch it for yourself and decide to buy PS3 or not). More than 2.5 million users viewed the video and the impact on the sale was devastating. This one example says it all about the direct impact of technology on business.
This leads to the next question, about what are the risks involved in using Web 2.0?
- Possibility of Excessive socializing
- Users could spend more time writing blogs instead of their core responsibility
- Duplication of information
- Though, the concept of mashing is available, it’s power is yet to be optimized, so, currently it might lead to maintaining up-to-date information at multiple places
- Inadvertently or intentionally, posting information that’s private could lead to worries
Bottom line: Where there is power, there has to be control.
In my next section, I will just give a brief of the web services aspect of Web 2.0, and where the web technology is heading.
Software as a Service (SAAS) and Web as Platform are only two of the larger mantras of Web 2.0. We can go on talking about web services, RESTful web services, but here, I would like to make a note of one specific web service, Amazon, S3. I feel like saying, its not just ‘Amazon’ but it’s, ‘Amazing’ web service. Please take a look at http://www.amazon.com/gp/browse.html?node=16427261, if you have not already done so.
It’s a Simple Storage Service (S3), providing Web Service based storage for applications. Based on this web services, the Amazon team has developed, an innovative search engine: http://www.a9.com.
One search result on “Ruby on Rails” gave me the following result:
Of course, the Google ‘BigTable web service‘ is not behind at all. BigTable is a distributed storage system for managing structured data that is designed to scale to a very large size: petabytes of data across thousands of commodity servers. Many projects at Google store data in BigTable, including web indexing, Google Earth, and Google Finance.
Now that they are opening these web services to general public, I am sure many applications will maximize this opportunity.
A Mashup is a new service, that combines functionality or content from existing sources. These existing sources can be Web Services (through the use of APIâ€™s), RSS feeds or even just other Websites.
We see a growing trend of adding ‘maps’ to our web based applications. If you try and generalize the behavior, what we see is two or more diverse applications getting together (through web services) and sharing data for obvious advantages. http://flickrvision.com/, http://chicago.everyblock.com/crime/ and iGoogle are some examples of Mashup applications.
WEB 3.0, an age of Images and still… Imaginations, More Interactivity – More Personalization – Visual – Speed
We learnt that Web 2.0 is known as a social web and as per Wikipedia, Web 3.0, is called as semantic web. How is the transition, just due to speed? Definitely not.
For that we just take one step backwards and observe Web 2.0 content. Millions of blogs, podcasts, web pages are being put up everyday. The information, though related is being put-up in a piecemeal fashion. If this is collected, collated and mined properly, new details could emerge, most probably, that’s why the word, semantic web!!
Please take a close look at the site http://www.eyetools.com/.
Eyetools can test your homepage, website, email campaign, landing pages, or shopping cart. They can also test your competitors for you.
By supplying them with a URL or A/B mock-ups, along with a description of your demographics, they can deliver to you eye tracking data on those pages, typically within 10 business days.
Expert interpretation and advice is included – they review your data with you to combine their expertise in Eyetools data with your expertise in your business.
You will observe how the same web page can be analyzed with advanced biometric technologies like the one above or by companies like http://www.iristech.com/.
I just want to bring these things to the notice of the reader, how companies are working and taking things forward. Let me give you one more example.
For a naked eye, differentiating between the dog and a girl below, is not at all difficult. But can an image processing software, do the same?
That’s why on http://www.fliker.com without the ‘tagging’ feature, it is just not possible to search the right images, but just wait, technology companies like http://www.numenta.com are working on these lines and we can expect a new paradigm getting evolved in the near future.
So, there you are!! Generating, keeping, cleaning, collating, (mashup-ing ?),analyzing and progressing.
Read, http://arstechnica.com/journals/microsoft.ars/2007/1/28/6781 an article of what visionaries such as Bill Gates see the future as. I liked a comment somebody put, as a feedback to the same article which read:
“A good internet/computer experience is software that removes the limitations and annoyances of the real world, while taking advantage of the things that only a computer can do. Start with a real world metaphor, but don’t be chained to it!”
Sometimes I imagine, like the one below:
Well, everything is possible in dreams and even in reality!