Viva la web revolucion!
June 29, 2006 7:23 AM   Subscribe

What is this web revolution I see before me?

Over the course of the past year I have had a lot of time to surf the web and have come to the conclusion that a new era of web based communication is unfolding before my very eyes. It started when I stumbled across, which showed me a whole new side of the internet that I had never conceived of. From that point I began to discover websites that re-oriented the way I've come view information creation, distribution, and storage (Ask Metafilter being one of those discoveries). Some examples of websites I lump into this category are:

*Ask Metafilter
*Google (and it's all it's applications including Gmail and Gcal)

The list goes on and on and is constantly growing (thanks largely to Lifehacker discoveries). Obviously Google and Wikipedia were known to me prior to my new found web exploration, but only as straight forward tools. It's only in the last 8 months that I've come to understand the potential of their design (e.g. Google Map Mash-ups and wiki-technology as a whole).

Among the above listed websites and others I identify in my "web revolution," I see common themes. The use of tagging is widely present as well as the concept of the blog (In reality Lifehacker and Metafilter/Ask Metafilter are just widely popular blogs with no single author and Flickr is essentially a collection of thousands of photo blogs). I guess even deeper than that is the theme of individual empowerment through the web. Most of these sites were not generated by large corporations (although they may later have been aquired by them), but rather created by a single individual or small group of individuals in order to address an existing need they percieved.

So my questions. Does anyone else see the watershed that I speak of, or is this normal web progression and my "revolution" is simply a personal one? If this is an actual distinct movement within the internet, does it have a name or other identifying characteristics similar or different to the ones I listed above?
posted by Smarson to Computers & Internet (29 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: It's called "Web 2.0".
posted by dmd at 7:26 AM on June 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Web 2.0
posted by grouse at 7:27 AM on June 29, 2006

This is commonly referred to as "web 2.0", much to the annoyance of lots and lots of people...

All the pundits see it and have been blathering about it for a while. That and "AJAX", which seems to have fizzled out, or so I think.
posted by twiggy at 7:27 AM on June 29, 2006

Best answer: 2004 called - it wants its paradigms vertically monetized.
posted by meehawl at 7:28 AM on June 29, 2006 [2 favorites]

Loosely-coupled single-purpose web applications.
posted by beerbajay at 7:29 AM on June 29, 2006

AJAX hasn't so much "fizzled out" as it has become so pervasive that it doesn't need a special name any more.
posted by dmd at 7:31 AM on June 29, 2006

For a slightly cynical take (yeah who am I kidding):

See: web2.0 validator; brownpau's buzzphrase generator; web2.0 bullshit generator
posted by handee at 7:34 AM on June 29, 2006

Response by poster: Wow, I had no idea there was such a definitive answer. I thought this would provoke some sort of deep conversation concerning this new trend as the resulting outgrowth human individualism...yada..yada..yada...

I guess it just goes to show that whatever creative thoughts you think you have...the internet has already had them.

Thanks guys!
posted by Smarson at 7:35 AM on June 29, 2006

These widespread changes seemed unified didn't it? Web 2.0 websites became more socially orriented, they pretty much all incorporated tagging at the same time (ok, as far as I know, was first to call the usage of keywords "tagging") and all seemed to eschewed flash for cleaner design and a deeper functionality using AJAX.
posted by rinkjustice at 7:44 AM on June 29, 2006

the internet has already had them

What really happened was that broadband takeup in the US finally broke a necessary threshold for rich media tagging and compulsive networking to become faddishly popular.

Korea was here several years ago. Around 2001-2002 there was a similar vogue there for all things "Web 2.0" and MMOGs also went huge. Now, not so much. Still big, but the major growth phase has passed.

What we are seeing with "Web 2.0" rich media is still a hub and spoke model, with user content uploaded to major sites with big pipes. User upload speeds are still very unsymmetrical and capped. I expect a next growth phase to happen when fiber and other symmetrical broadband technologies enable seriously fat peer-to-peer transfers that don't rely so much on pirated content for their shimmer.
posted by meehawl at 7:52 AM on June 29, 2006

Response by poster: Meehawl - I agree. That would spark all sorts of new peer-to-peer oriented sites. Imagine sharing entire playlists of songs (lists including MP3's) for your ipod instead of just the designations and orders.
posted by Smarson at 7:59 AM on June 29, 2006

MetaFilter's membership has typically/historically been early adopters of new internet technologies. This has become diluted a bit as the membership has grown, but in the early days that was certainly the case. So many of the members here were exposed to this stuff before it got really wide acceptance. For instance I believe MetaFilter's founder (Matt Haughey aka mathowie) was working for Pyra labs back when was still small and owned by them, and I think he was there when he started MeFi*(back in 1999). So some people here have been exposed to all this stuff for years, and take it for granted.

* I'm just digging this out of my memory, so the exact timeline may be incorrect. I imagine someone will correct me if I'm off. Nonetheless, the general gist of it is correct.
posted by raedyn at 8:03 AM on June 29, 2006

It may look like a sudden shift, but a lot of the foundations were laid many years ago. AJAX, or something like it, is ~6 years old. The idea of tagging is a lot older than delicious, and blogging, certainly in its modern, broad, definition is not too different to some homepages circa 1997. User generated content has been driving the web since it's inception.

What you see now is not so much revolution as the result of a long process of web evolution; certain ideas and methods have gradually been explored and incrementally improved over years. Nevertheless, fundamental trends involved do seem to have come to head somewhat in the last 6 months or so, probably due in large part to the ever-increasing number people learning about the web and creating projects, the present state of market saturation, and the take-up of broadband.

Paul Graham has a decent overview of web 2.0 (several months old), touching on the origins and progress thereof.
posted by MetaMonkey at 8:17 AM on June 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

Imagine sharing entire playlists of songs (lists including MP3's) for your ipod instead of just the designations and orders.

...isn't that what a podcast is?
posted by Jairus at 8:29 AM on June 29, 2006

dmd: "AJAX hasn't so much "fizzled out" as it has become so pervasive that it doesn't need a special name any more."

That's a lame argument. Javascript is pervasive, and it has a name. Object-oriented programming. HTML. The Internet. Computers. All have names! Remarkable!
posted by Plutor at 8:31 AM on June 29, 2006

I'm so pervasive, most people don't know my name.
posted by dmd at 8:43 AM on June 29, 2006

More seriously, I don't think it's a lame argument. I think people have just stopped calling it 'AJAX' and started calling it "oh, so you do good web design with javascript and XMLHttpRequest".
posted by dmd at 8:45 AM on June 29, 2006

I hear references to AJAX all the time. Especially since it's equivalent to what you said, and eleven fewer syllables.
posted by Plutor at 8:55 AM on June 29, 2006

Then there's the "revolutionary" idea of shifting desktop applications to the browser. The whole Microsoft Office suite has multiple analogs in the so-called Web 2.0
posted by Hildago at 8:58 AM on June 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: MetaMonkey - Revolution in the eye of the beholder and all that. Good point. Thanks for the link!

Jairus - Yes, I guess in a sense you're right. I was thinking in terms of large broadband usage, a playlist containing something like 700 songs, etc., but yes, podcast fits the bill

So heres my question for the rest of what? Whats the next big shift? Meehawl threw in his two cents, anyone care to take a guess?
posted by Smarson at 8:58 AM on June 29, 2006

To add to handee's list, my favorite source of Web2.0 cynicism and snark is Also, browse items tagged "web2.0" for more webapps and articles on the phenom.

As for the next step, this AskMe proposes some interesting theories.
posted by youarenothere at 9:22 AM on June 29, 2006

Meehawl points to a serious problem: will all this turn out to be a swing of the pendulum which will now proceed to swing back, as politically powerful interests in the US would seem decidedly to prefer, or has it built up enough momentum to break out of that dismal cycle and roll forward to something even more exciting?
posted by jamjam at 12:46 PM on June 29, 2006

It's called Web 2.0, and mostly consists of websites with odd names and shiny boxes that you can move around with your mouse.

Of course, there are a number of (very) nice sites. But I have the strange feeling that the majority of the sites you listed in your question originated a while *before* "Web 2.0" and "AJAX" became so hyped. In fact, the first time I came into serious contact with the AJAX excitement was after Google Maps was launched.
posted by Harry at 2:13 PM on June 29, 2006

AJAX excitement

I recall working for a classic Bubble financial company around South Park in SF SOMA on a financial app in 2000-2001 that used XML, XSL, server-side J2EE, some JScript, and the XMLHttpRequest thingy. Basically, it grabbed data from Reuters and Bloomberg, ran it through some analysis, then massaged the output at display-time and presented it to brokers. It was interesting and user-flexible but had no mindshare. I'm sure there were dozens of similar projects in and around South Park in SF at the time.

Certain things held these implementations back from success at that time. Firstly, the companies were all running out of money. Secondly the apps only worked with MS IE on Windows (no implementation on Mozilla/Opera at that time and no cross-platform deployment). Thirdly, the fat pipes for end users simply weren't there - only big money could afford the "speeds and feeds" required.

But probably most important of all: no "odd names and shiny boxes that you can move around with your mouse" to give them some velocity.

What a difference a few years, some cash injections, and a bit of buzz can make...
posted by meehawl at 2:54 PM on June 29, 2006

What has happened is people have started to change their site designs to have more whitespace, larger fonts, more anti-aliasing, drop shadows, and simplified navigation. This, coupled with an over-abundance of asynchronous javascript requests, has led to a homogenous atmosphere of bland, uninspired web design called 'Web 2.0'.
posted by Web 2.0 is a hipster blogtard fad at 3:09 PM on June 29, 2006

meehawl: "What a difference a few years, some cash injections, and a bit of buzz can make..."

Your Bubble financial company in San Francisco didn't have cash injections or buzz? I think I know why it didn't take off.
posted by Plutor at 4:21 PM on June 29, 2006

didn't have cash injections or buzz

Oh it had originally had a stinking lot of cash and some buzz, but when the IPO market tanked there was no viable exit. And no appetite for VC injections or M&A to provide an alternative exit when the cash ran out. These things go in cycles - especially when you conside that VCs sit on many funds for specific time frames and can go a couple of years without forking out but then basically have to spend it or get ready to hand it back to investors.

Do you honestly think Flickr or MySpace or could have been sold for anything meaningful in 2001/2002? I doubt it. Look at how few deals were done then, and for how little. I remain convinced that a lot of what we call "Web 2.0" is an epiphenomenon of some mid-cycle mini-bubble froth. Then again, I also worked for a company that tanked when the "Multimedia PC" mini bubble burst in the early-to-mid-90s, so my view on this sort of thing is a bit cynical.
posted by meehawl at 9:05 PM on June 29, 2006

"Do you honestly think Flickr or MySpace or could have been sold for anything meaningful in 2001/2002?"

< singing> one of these sites is not like the other < /singing>

Putting MySpace in the same camp as Flickr or is plain wrong. MySpace is a top 5 Internet destination.

The other two are wonderful services but hardly the traffic monster that MySpace currently is.
posted by gen at 2:47 AM on July 3, 2006

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