In the build-up to next week’s Web 2.0 conference, technology observers are debating what web 2.0 is (I’m speaking at the conference on a couple of topics). I think the term web 2.0 has reached a tipping point in Silicon Valley in the last couple of months. People have been prognosticating a shift in the evolution of the web for a few years now. The shift is towards the web as a computing platform on which to build applications (and away from a publishing platform for web pages). This new computing platform will consist of open and easily accessible web services such as search results, news data feeds or people’s shared photos. Software developers will use these services as building blocks to rapidly create whatever new products they can think up. I think the tipping point for this idea was Housingmaps. Built by a single developer in his spare time over the course of a couple of months, it makes the concept immediately obvious to people. Take two web 2.0 building blocks, in this case an RSS feed for Craigslist real estate listings and a maps API from Google, mix them together and you get a cool new app. Now have a few hundred thousand web developers repeat this process and you get a explosion of new ideas and products.
Housingmaps was quickly noticed by bloggers and written up in the NYT. Since then, I hear web 2.0 everywhere. As is typical when Silicon Valley is in the grip of a new buzzword, lots of ideas and people are piling onto the bandwagon. All of a sudden, every company with a corporate blog and an RSS feed is “web 2.0″. Conferences and roundtables are popping up. VCs are working overtime trying to figure out where the money will be made. I guess this is all part of the process of vetting an idea and finding the core that will enable true long term value. In the end, I believe we’ll find that this is a real and important trend that will be driven by a handful of building block service providers such as Yahoo! and Google and thousands of software developers who will be building new products such as Housingmaps. Incidently, an important part of my job at Yahoo is to create the building blocks, so I’m obviously totally unbiased.
PS: If you couldn’t get tickets to Web 2.0, check out Web 1.0 to be held across the street!
Update: I like this web 2.0 definition by Tim O’Reilly: “Web 2.0 is the network as platform, spanning all connected devices; Web 2.0 applications are those that make the most of the intrinsic advantages of that platform: delivering software as a continually-updated service that gets better the more people use it, consuming and remixing data from multiple sources, including individual users, while providing their own data and services in a form that allows remixing by others, creating network effects through an “architecture of participation,” and going beyond the page metaphor of Web 1.0 to deliver rich user experiences.”