Web 2.0 and social overload
If Ajax was the most overused and ubiquitous 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 many 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).
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 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.
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 distributed login? Do you really want to give all that power to a single company? What will happen when all these systems are connected and people’s data can be cross-referenced? These are complex issues and will likely take some time to work out.
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.