Web 2.0 and social overload
If Ajax was the most overused and misunderstood web term of 2005, I would guess that Web 2.0 is the equivalent for 2006. I see it everywhere and I hear everyone talk about it, but most seems to miss the point anyway. There are Web 2.0 companies popping up everywhere and web sites are flooded with mirrored logos and other trendy graphics, without any real sense of coherence. If you are unsure whether being really Web 2.0, I suggest using the Web 2.0 validator (it would be funny if it weren’t so awfully close to the truth).
Funny as it may be, this is however not a rant about the thing commonly referred to as Web 2.0 but rather a look of what follows in it’s wake. The social explosion of the websphere has introduced a lot of intricate and complex situations, as well as simple human issues. How many web accounts do an average citizen have today? Can you from memory name all sites that you have personal passwords for? I sure can’t, and I strongly suspect I’m not alone in that regard.
Sure, I love to share my photos in Flickr, add my latest bookmarks at Del.icio.us, check out the latest entries at Digg, watch funny videos at YouTube, discuss wine at Cork’d, browse photos at Zoomr, network at Linkedin, evaluate shopping options at Crowdstorm, say hello at Socializr, scrobble at last.fm and much much more at the thousands of sites that attract me with social interaction on the web. In addition to the big sites, there are a lot of clones out there. For instance, Del.icio.us has over 50 counterparts and growing.
You are also encouraged to tag the stuff you visit, using a plethora of social bookmarking tools. How many of these icons can you put a name to, or even better, explain what they do?
(For the interested reader, the answer can be found here.)
Apart from all the hyped “2.0” sites, there are thousands and thousands of good old sites such as communities, forums, newsgroups, bulletin boards, guest books… Even though they are perhaps not as sexy as their modern counterparts, they are still alive and well.
See where I’m getting at? There is just too much of the stuff, even considering the fact that I love to work with web development, both professionally and during my precious spare time. Is the very number of current web applications overwhelming, or is it the impression of access to different systems? What will happen if (when) some of the large sites will merge user databases, creating the mother of all web apps where you can do anything with a single login? Do you really want to put all of that in a single system, or is it better with several independent companies? These are complex issues and to my knowledge there is no short definitive answer today.
Am I overreacting? Is the social web a perfect addition to mail and RSS feeds, providing the bored web citizens with something to do? Either way it’s here to stay.