It's a Web 2.0 Revolution 24 May, 2006 — Stuart Brown

Another web fad? Or just a case of history repeating...

Posted in Web Design
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It's hard to avoid the impact of some of the buzzwords and hype that's been circulating round the web: Web 2.0 has proven to be key phrase in web development since the O'Reilly / MediaLive conferences in October 2004.

These days, if your site isn't laden with AJAX and gradients, tags and social aspects, then it just ain't hip. All the latest & coolest sites are sporting fancy flourishes and interactivity elements - popular photo sharing site Flickr has soared in popularity, and 'meritocracy' based news sites such as Digg and Reddit have done away with traditional editors in favour of user-led votes to determine what is newsworthy and what isn't.

Even if you haven't heard of Web 2.0, you've probably visited a site that has been influenced by the trend in some way - whether it's the shiny shiny gradients or AJAX-led interactivity, as a web designer you're inundated with these cool, young 'trendy' sites parading around with their glossy features, and even now more and more sites are jumping on the bandwagon.

Spam 2.0

The web : now with more 'memes'

Of course, we've had 'social' features available since the earliest days of the internet, and most of what we've learnt from the web has been driven by users in the first place - if you start to dissemble the facade of the glossy newcomers they tend to closely resemble their progenitors, if only in intention. Photo-sharing ( la Flickr) has been popular since the days of the BBS, and regardless of technology, such interaction between people - sharing and collaborating images in this case - will remain perennially popular.

Sure, there's a surge of innovation inspired by these new technologies, and the benefits to these are becoming more apparent - but attempting to assign a version to something which is by nature constantly evolving is misguided at best.

There have been great changes and evolution in the popularity of the web - we're only just beginning to realise the possibility of new applications for the web, but there will always be change - it doesn't stop here by any means.

Bandwagon Ahoy!

I should point out that I'm certainly not opposed to the developments brought on by this new way of approaching the web - a lot of so-called 'Web 2.0' sites are branded as such because of their very success - but to label such a movement with a simple phrase is dangerous.

Like the <blink> tag and <marquee> tag, the new trend for hybrid rich web/desktop applications is neat when you first see it, but as more and more sites adopt this sort of idea, the sites which use this technology for technologies' sake begin to tarnish somewhat after the visual appeal wears thin.

A lesson often learnt in web design is that you can have the shiniest icons, logos, and the slickest Flash and Javascript - all that matters when it comes down to it is the content. No substance = no good.

Lessons from the past

Like all fashions and trends, Web 2.0 will eventually mature, stagnate, and then recede in favour of newer, more exciting ideas. The good ideas will remain and stay as part of common practice, and as fashion dictates we'll see another wave of fresh ideas come and then eventually mature. What must remain, however, is commitment to the basics of the world wide web.

Usability is now more important than ever - a broader spectrum of the population is online now when compared to ten years ago, so we have a broader range of user requirements. Usability is often the first thing out the window when

Web 3.0 and beyond?

The march of technology moves at a frightening pace, least of all for designers and developers who are expected to keep up with the trends. It is important to remember, however, that despite the allure of fashion and trends within with web industry, it is the core competencies beyond the technology involved that make a website a success.

Whatever happens in the next 5 years, here's to Web 3.0 - and may we carry the lessons and experiences of Web 2.0 with us!

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