Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Web 2.0 and beyond

Whenever you talk socially to people and say you work with computers and the web their question is always 'So what do you think about web 2.0'?

There is no such thing. Web 1.0 works. We don't need a web 2.0! The people that tell you we do are trying to sell you something.

When I return the question and ask what people think web 2.0 is - the answer is always these virtual life websites like Second Life. I have never logged into one. Also they run on the normal web, and display a website normally in a normal web browser. You can't call something Web version 2 without changing some infrastructure (Ie hardware), protocols (Ie http) and/or browsers.

This website trys to be a virtual world where you can interact with other non-existant fake people. To me that is electronic social networking. And their PR company have decided to try and sell it as web 2.0 to get more press.

End of rant. :)

Let me define what the web actually is. This really is basic stuff but I bet most readers wouldn't be able to explain it.

We start with lots of computers. They are connected together by a single network that allows them all to communicate with other instantly regardless of how far apart they are physically. This network is called the Internet. Some computers 'serve' data, and the majority download data to use it. The term data describes anything a computer can store or use. For my discussion of the web I will refer to 2 main kinds of data - Email and Webpages.

Email is an electronic letter sent directly by a sender to one or more named recipients. Anyone can send an email to any other net user for negligible cost. Whenever most users think of email, they also think of spam. Unfortunately spam is big business, and over 70% of all emails sent on the internet are spam. Spam is basically unwanted direct email. Usually marketing. Nothing can be done to control spam because it is untracable back to the sender, and it may have come from abroad where our legal system doesn't apply. Every spam message appears to be from a different sender on a different network, so blocking it is very difficult.

Webpages are nice looking pages of formatted text and graphics. To access them you need a computer connected to the internet. On this you start a web browser and enter the address of the web server you want to read from. If you don't know the webserver address there are sites that search the web for you and tell you the address. The reason it is called the web is because webpages can and pretty much always do contain links to other pages on the internet. This complex and unlimited interlinking of all webpages to each other is like a web, hence the names World Wide Web and webpages.

Moving on, having defined the web you should agree that what we have works. And it works well. Anyone can easily and cheaply publish anything to the world. It does not need upgrading or enhancing. What it does need is controlling. Controversial but true.

When something is controlled there is an extremely fine line to draw between policing it to protect people and prevent illegal activities, and censorship. In a country proud of allowing free speech, censorship is bad - its basically someone saying I don't like what your saying so you can't say it.

The two issues that need addressing with the web are:

One, it is beyond the control of the law. Illegal information and opinions can be published and this cannot be stopped. It is not always possible to trace people across the internet and hold them to account. Hence the problem mentioned with spam. The web is impossible to police. If anyone tries all the hackers scream 'but that infringes our privacy'.

Two, if a computer is on a network it may be possible to break into it remotely and change or access data you should not have access to. This also covers making changes to someone's computer by installing nuisance software like spyware or a virus. Vista's claims to help with this are pretty shallow.

When someone has addressed these two issues successfully, I will let them call what they create web 2.0.

Over and out.


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