Web 2.0 - Singularity to Networks! - a knol by M.

Ishak Ziaee

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Web 2.0 - Singularity to Networks!
How Web 2.0 will reshape information and its management.
The transition of Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 is an evolution from micro to macro, from singularity to networks. In a way, if Web 1.0 was the evolution of web capabilities in siloed clusters, Web 2.0 is the first real glimpse of its power due to networks.
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Nomenclature and Beyond Web 2.0 is another title, in a long line of titles, taking advantage of the feel good factor attached to a second home coming. To be more specific; its the ideal comeback name for the resurrection of the internet after the Dot-Com burst occurred, and all doom and damnation was forecast for the web. Officially, Web 2.0 was coined by Tim O'Reily, then popularized by the mainstream media and eventually spawned many suffixed version 2s in its wake. Even by any other name, it would not diminish the radical change that happened. What was this change and what does it foretell? Web2.0, its components, its meaning, its transition from web1.0 - all deal with one thing - information and its flow. Information turned commodity from the time man first started communicating and became its consumer. Most of the era after the industrial revolution - and some might say before that too - put a price on information and so its been a constant but steady drive to perfect and find better ways to trade this commodity. From word of mouth to written form, from simple words to complex diagrams; the methods to carry these words and sounds and pictures and actions have evolved as have their carriers. The arrival of the Personal Computer was heralded as another in the line of revolutionary cariers. Powerfull yet completely subversive to human inputs, a single unit could outperform humans in certain areas with amazing nonchalance. But at the end, that was what it was - a single unit. Eventually its real power would emerge only when more than one unit were combined or networked. Just as the true purpose and value of information lies in its flow – the device's value progressed as it started connecting to other devices. Enter the Web, or to be more precise Web 1.0. As a way to collect and consume information, Web 1.0 had content and relevance, but as an interactive medium, it needed better delivery mechanisms and better form. This state of the web where function was mismatched with form, and delivery meant dial-up, heralded a change. To borrow a real life example, the Wild Wild West in North America, at the time of the pilgrims, was a land whose resources became productive due to two main changes – Railroads and Settlers. The connectivity, accessibility and networking that the Rails provided, drove the settlers in. And the more settlers came in, the more connections occurred. Similarly, Web 1.0 always had potential, but it is now, with Web2.0 that the potential is finally being realized. With Flash and Ajax, Social Worlds and Virtual worlds; Mashups and Wikis, Podcasts and WebCasts; the web is literally being defined and populated by its networked users... who are settling in droves. In a way, Web 1.0 was a precursor - a laying down of the wires, protocols, systems, guidelines and possibilities, and Web 2.0 is the realization of those possibilities; where instantaneous connection, communication and collaboration are its sine qua non. Moore, Metcalfe and Kurzweil By conventional wisdom, the whole is almost always greater than the sum of its parts. For the Web this is multiplied many folds. Take the main players - the users, the computational elements at their disposal, and the web. Gordon Moore famously predicted 40 years back that the number of inexpensive computer transistors on a chip

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Web 2.0 - Singularity to Networks! - a knol by M.Ishak Ziaee

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will double every two years. And it has been true ever since. The power held in the palm of one's hand today - in PDAs, Cellphones or Laptops - is so much more than what resided in top secret research facilities, filling a whole room, just a decade ago. And as Moore's law predicts, the pace of related innovations follows through. Adoption and Inclusion do not remain an issue any more - everyone’s logged in! Robert M. Metcalfe, co-inventor of the Ethernet, and founder of 3Com phrsed his Metcalfe Law saying "The value of a network is proportional to the square of the number of users of the system (n²)". Pointing out the similarity between a human neural network and the Web he further said "Just like a synapse between two neurons; the web spreads ideas from one person to another, connecting one brain to the second". Over the course of time both these laws have helped shape technologies; physical hardware constantly gets smaller and cheaper to produce, fuelling more uses/users for devices - that’s Moore's Law. On the other hand, software is becoming increasingly user-driven, user-centric and user-friendly - making it easier for Networks to expand and evolve between these technologies - that's Metcalfe's Law. Another pioneer, this time in artificial intelligence - Raymond Kurzweil - estimated that the human brain's networked intelligence produces the equivalent of 1016 computations per second. In fact its superiority is pricesely not because of its neural capabilities, but because of its networking capabilities. In other words, the brain is 106x104, or 1010, times smarter than it should be, all because it is networked. As a sum of its parts, Web 2.0 is a more composite and functionally relevant tool today than ever before. And because this kind of connectivity lets you extend beyond geography and time, the talent pool at its reach is phenomenal, with collaborations and connections that can happen across geography, age, sex or race. In no other era of human civilization has there ever been a platform - for ideas to be shared or conversations to be had - with such ease and instantaneousness and without the other senses getting in the way. The transition of Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 is its evolution from micro to macro and from singularity to networks. In a way, if Web 1.0 was the evolution of web capabilities in siloed clusters, Web 2.0 is the first real glimpse of its power due to networks. The Big Picture Picture this - the biggest collective memory of ideas, actions, thoughts and feelings. Web 2.0 is soon becoming the best realization of a collective memory of human history and endeavor. Of course, that's overstating it a bit, but let the data speak - a Terabyte used to be big until recently - well, YouTube contains 530 Terabytes of videos as of end 2008. Hold the press! - We have the Peta Byte? That’s the amount of data that is processed by Google servers every 72 minutes! The English Wikipedia is 25 times bigger than the next largest English-language encyclopedia. As the July edition of Wired termed it - “The quest for knowledge used to begin with Grand Theories. Now it begins with massive amounts of data. Welcome, to the Petabyte Age!" In this age of information overload; the basic flow of information - top-down since time immemorial with gatekeepers managing the flow of information - is changing, and fast. In whichever field you look at - science, art, literature, commerce, and entertainment, the browser has changed the dynamics. Imagine a million minds with a billion ideas able to express, connect, collaborate and then create. In the book "The End Of Science: Facing The Limits Of Knowledge In The Twilight Of The Scientific Age-John Horgan ", spoke to top living scientists who surmised about their dilemma of grappling with the reality of a slow down in discovery and inventions. So when the fundamental source of empirically derived knowledge looks like drying up, where do you go? The Rock in the Pond Was the Web a different place before Google? It might just be true. You had search engines and content but somehow you could never get what you were looking for because you couldn't exactly search, or search exactly! Google put an end to that, allowing users to talk to the net, for what they wanted, without the pretense of being all things to everyone. It was the first and still is the best marriage of form to content, and interestingly, when Google first came online, the interface was a big draw and design enthusiasts as well as professionals commented on its Apple like austerity. The fact was, the makers of Google did not know HTML, and just wanted a quick interface (3). Nevertheless from that hermetic visage, what has spawned is a whole new way of experiencing the web. Since it became the de-facto Yellow Pages for the web, everyone started setting shop and waited to be found. If Microsoft represented the flag bearer of the Web 1.0 world - standardized, Static, Desktop bound, Google is the masthead for Web 2.0. And more than that, its presence and story have been inspirational to individuals with nothing to show but ideas. The effect of all this, has been a phenomenal lowering of the entry barriers to putting your 'stuff' online, and virtually, new technologies being born a minute. The impact has been so ruthless in some areas where middlemen operated that there was literally a wipeout - ask the ticketing agents, and teh real estate agents! But Google could not do this alone, sure it provided a mechanism to search but for the web2.0 interactive element what was needed was a relevant form for the tremendous potential. The Wild Wild Web needed Rails. Enter Ruby

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Web 2.0 - Singularity to Networks! - a knol by M.Ishak Ziaee

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on Rails. Ruby on Rails “Ruby on Rails is a breakthrough in lowering the barriers of entry to programming. Powerful web applications that formerly might have taken weeks or months to develop can be produced in a matter of days.” -Tim O'Reilly, Founder of O'Reilly Media

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Ruby on Rails was written by David Heinemeier Hansson and is an extremely productive web application framework. It is a pure object-oriented programming language with a super clean syntax. Ruby's success has been phenomenal along with some scaling problems, but even then its single most persistent achievement has been its adoption and use by some of the best web 2.0 apps online. There is no doubt there will be better ones to follow, but each successor will only add to the demystification of web programming - and that's a big achievement! The Ripples in the Pond All predictions are pointing towards integration, to a point where the line between disparate services and applications might blur so much that integrated offerings employing multiple applications & tools will become seamless. This is already the case with personalized pages like iGoogle and NetVibes, but new technologies have added a whole new dimension to this concept. Mashup sites like Yahoo Pipes, and radical new versions of search sites like Cuil, Google Base are all stretching the boundaries of the Web. WIth ever smarter devices on one side and ever expanding and intricate networks on the other....the stage is being set for a new web, where the twin hurdles of geography and time will somehow be eleminated. If it does, maybe then it'll be time for another version change. Till then, more power to Web 2.0!

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