Archive for May, 2012

The seventh pattern in O’Riley’s writings of the web 2.0 movement, leveraging the long tail is about expanding the internet market into previously untouched territory; focusing on the far and wide rather than the short and narrow of the world wide web.  This technique see’s the creation of many different web services that are of interest to a small and unique section of the web market.

With the abilities web 2.0 provides, lower cost of development see’s a huge number of online services being produced, all targeting a small market, or the ‘long tail’. The web provides an infinite amount of opportunity for new services with significant market opportunities.

The growing use of mobile devices and other platforms has further increased the demand for new innovative services; furhter stretching the long tail away from centralized highly popular web services.

The best practices in the long tail concept is creating new innovative services to further extend the long tail. Let the user’s be in control – by registering an account they are able to service and customize their own dashboard. By creating these long-tail applications on the ideology of self-managed accounts, these long-tail applications become viable and cost-effective with no front-end support required. With successful implementations of long-tail applications, the tail can be further extended and the growth and demand becomes even more great.

A particular example of a small, low cost, innovative long-tailed service is Slashdot. Slashdot is a social news website that targets a specific audience in the web, providing specific news on technology. It’s slogan being “News for nerds. Stuff that matters.” (slashdot.org). Slashdot’s administrators post articles on the website and allow user’s to comment on the threads, as well as +1 or -1 other user comments and flag them in a category. This opens a discussion on articles.

(Slashdot.org)

Slashdot.org utilizes best practice techniques derived from the leveraging the long-tail pattern through it’s targeting of a specific audience. The idea of the long-tail is to capture a service and deliver it to a marginal and unique audience. In this case people highly interested in keeping up-to-date with technology and discussions on trending technological advancements. It is a no-cost service to the user’s, attracting more subscribers, with non-subscribers being hit with advertising campaigns to produce revenue. The website is user-centric and users have the ultimate control over the website’s trend. This being the users control the popularity of articles and can participate in polls and discussion pages.

These long-tail web applications are the way of web 2.0. A never ending sight of new services pop up everyday with new innovative services being provided to users constantly. The old legacy web 1.0 applications of highly-hitted centralized websites are no longer the top priority requirement of the new-age internet user. With users now in demand of unique and specific services.

Another of the web 2.0 movement patterns as described in O’Reilley’s web 2.0 trend writings; lightweight models and cost-effective scalability is all about small web 2.0 applications adjusting to growth whilst maintaining functionality and availability at a low cost.  These models rely on advertising exposure and sponsorship as a source of income, providing a free service to users with the ability to upgrade to a higher level of service at a cost.

The idea of this concept is to do more with less. Create a service that is cost-effective, attractive for users and adjusts and scales to growth and upgrades. Usually these web 2.0 applications start off small with a few employees maintaining the product to a growing population of users. These web 2.0 models require low up-front costs to develop with little marketing to become vastly popular and grow. Anyone can create a web service.  Pre-existing hardware, reuse of services and online data libraries make it possible to develop online services at low costs with limited business resources.

Best practices surrounding this concept of low-cost scalable models includes:

  • Beginning small and expanding on user growth and demand
  • Target sponsorship and advertising
  • Outsource where possible for low-cost infrastructure
  • Offer tiered pricing with different levels of service
  • Employ new features regularly

Web services that have used this low-cost business model of start-off small and get big include MySpace, digg.com, DropBox, Wikipedia, Facebook etc. The opposite to this model would be old era websites such as Amazon that employed a big bang approach which saw it start of as a large company with many resources.

A good example to explain this lightweight, low-cost model technique is reddit.com which started off as a small lightweight model service with 11 employees and now is a viral sensation with millions of subscribers and thousands of posts a week.

Reddit is a social media/social news website in which subscribed users can post content while other users rank the content by pressing ‘up’ or ‘down’ to rank it’s popularity, following trends on the internet.

(reddit.com)

With relation to the lightweight model and cost-effective scalability concept, reddit is a good example through it’s use of the best practices and light model as described above.

Reddit, founded in 2005 began with 2 founders and a sponsorship deal with  Y Combinator with minimal funding (http://thenextweb.com).  The website continues to meet growth demand and follow user trends as a best practice.  User’s are allowed to view the website and news articles; registered users are able to form a customized page to view ‘subreddits’ of choice and are able to rank the articles to increase it’s popularity. However due to community change the front page was archived and now users see the main page with submissions displayed with a combination of rank, age and vote count; showing reddit’s ability to adapt to user demand.

The web service adapts a web banner type of advertising to see return of income. This meaning the advertising is encoded on the website and is delivered from an external web server. This meaning every time a click is made from a user on the source web page to the advertised web page, a small amount of money is paid back to the source (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banner_ads).

A significant part in reddit history was in 2008 where it become an open source project. This meaning all of it’s libraries are freely available to encourage future growth (Blog.reddit.com).

Due to Reddit’s continuing popularity, the website now offers a tiered levels of service at a cost. The website is freely accessible to anyone, subscribers are able to vote on posts and a new Reddit Gold service is available at a cost of US$3.99/month or US$29.99/year. This also encourages the development of new features regularly. This is an enhanced version of reddit that offers more sorting features and a friends option (www.techshout.com).

Reddit is a pure example of lightweight business models with cost-effective scalability as outlined above. These services are the new adaptive way of web 2.0 compared to legacy web 1.0 services that are infrastructure heavy with no cost-effective or scaling to user demand techniques.

Perpetual Beta, one of the core patterns in the web 2.0 movement, is the practice of moving from locked down package software to online services providing the same functionality through a web interface.

The web 2.0 movement will see the eventual extinction of home desktop PC’s to terminals providing access to online desktops and software as a service technologies all processed on remote location servers.

Users become the driver and act as developers in creating, updating and evolving these online services in order to make them better, based on how uesr’s use the services. User activity is live captured by developers and features are continuously added to services in order to evolve the application into something new, continuously over it’s life span; this can mean forever updating. Google, Amazon, eBay and many more services are examples of continuously updating services based on real-time use from user’s.

Good services that relate to the Perpetual Beta pattern will make best use of good practices through constant updating of it’s service through the capture of use from end users and evolve the service into something new, better and more inviting to users. Best practices for a successful web 2.0 service include:

  • Data management
  • Evolve products
  • User’s are the co-developers
  • Capture customer use
  • Release often

The key to success is harnessing the end user trend.

To further explain this pattern, Google Docs will be used as an example to compare it’s counterpart locked down Microsoft Word and how it employs good practices mentioned above to be a successful web platform service.

(http://techguruji.net)

Google docs is an online office suite that delivers processing applications to a user through a web-based service provided by Google.  It is a real-time service that allows user’s to create and edit documents in real-time and also collaborate with other users, powered by Java (Wikipedia.org).

Google docs came into production in 2006 and came out of beta in 2009. As with all Software as a service technologies, it is constantly being updated live and improving it’s features based on the way user’s are using the service.

(googledocs.blogspot.com.au)

Google docs in this example follows many best practices in relation to the discussed pattern. It is a live service that ensures user data management and protection. Running on java, it is able to run real-time and keep track of user activity for data protection and accidental closure of a document and many other features user’s have co-created. It also offers a 1GB storage space for users.  Google docs is constantly evolving, with it coming out of Beta testing after 3 years of development.  During this beta stage customers had access and use of Google docs, in which Google harnessed the trends of user activity to further enhance it’s capabilities, completely changing it’s home page interface in 2011 into a more button-click interface using Google Drive enhanced features for better sharing and collaboration with users; following the ever-growing trend of central software services. (Wikipedia.org).

Below shows a comparison between Google Docs and Google Drive (Docs with enhanced capabilities. Google drive enhances a more sharing orientated service that can be accessed across multiple platforms. It uses features and functions following user trends such as share, collaborate, access anywhere; compared to older Google docs which is limited in this capability. This shows Google’s ability to harness collective intellegence of the way users are using the service and enhance it continuously throughout the life of the product.

Google docs, compared to the traditional Microsoft Office suite, offers online collaborative abilities as discussed. This makes it a powerful tool and an essential technology in the web 2.0 movement offering Software as a Service. The future is everything in the cloud and packaged software will be a thing of the past.