Archive for the ‘INB347 Web 2.0’ Category

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.

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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.

Mobile and wireless devices have allowed us to connect in ways we never have before. With the recent advancement of mobile devices into smart devices, we are able to connect from anywhere at any time to the world wide web.  This has allowed for the advancement of web 2.0 applications to be enhanced for mobile devices, harnessing the user and enhancing data in ways never before possible.

Data is continuously being collected in many different forms to enhance the web experience and with mobile devices the rich data comes in forms of GPS, location, mobile upload, live data stream, and all on-the-fly.

The concept of this web 2.0 pattern is that software on a PC is not the only practical medium of communication across the web; and that resources are now gathered centrally through many forms of devices.

A prime example of moving from the PC to mobile devices, is the cellular phone such as iPhone, Samsung galaxy and Windows phone 8 for typical examples.  These mobile deviecs allow seemless communication to the web in many different forms such as location services, Facebook, eBay, Google and Twitter and many other mobile format applications.

As a good example to discuss, the Windows phone 7.5 will be used in conjunction with the Microsoft SkyDrive; explaining the concept of moving above singular devices and allowing user’s to gather their resources, share and communicate from anywhere they’re connected. The windows phone with the SkyDrive application allows the user’s to move from the PC and access word documents, presentations, photos, emails and hotmail through SkyDrive. SkyDrive is a cloud service allowing user’s to upload, share and store files on a hosted web server (Wikipedia.org). This can be easily accessed from mobile devices, especially Windows 7.5 phones with enhanced SkyDrive connectivity capabilities, allowing user’s to upload and share media straight to the cloud service from within the Operating system.  With the use of Windows 7.5 phones comes enhanced SkyDrive features that allow desktop word processes to be viewed with almost full capabilities on a Windows 7.5 Phone.


The Windows Phone 7/7.5 combined with SkyDrive capabilities makes use of the best practices with relation to the pattern introduced above as it ensures good capabilities on the phone device. This allows for GPS tracking on shared photos, and full Micrsoft Office capabilities unique to the windows phone. What’s unique and a best practice is it’s use of social networking in-built into the OS; with Facebook and Twitter built-in for quick shares.

SkyDrive from the phone view:

(http://www.threedifferentdirections.com/blog/nokia-lumia-710-the-smartphone-with-an-amazing-social-life.html)
The Windows Phone and SkyDrive could quite possibly be the best multi-platform software on the market today. With it’s functionality capabilities of Microsoft office suite, Outlook, photo sharing through an easy in-built SkyDrive functionalities within the OS, makes this software above a singular device one of the best on the market. It makes use of good practices with easy interface and transfer of applications across platforms, free-to-use and available anywhere through a ‘lite’ app or web interface. SkyDrive is just beginning in the development of cloud services and looks to be Microsoft’s finest cloud service, with many useful features available on whatever Windows platform you choose.

Rich User experiences, one of the core patterns based on O’Riley’s writings of the web 2.0 trend. Rich user experiences in the web is all about high levels of user interaction through dynamically designed web applications.  These rich user applications break down the walls and close the gap between desktop and internet. Bringing together many of the features of a local desktop application that is delivered via a web browser in a rich format in a way that the user may feel when using a desktop application (Auston web design and development).

Further more, what makes the experience ‘rich’ is the web applications ability to engage users in a dynamically changing environment to achieve a desired outcome. For example the use of Java as the engine to power and run real-time apps using the local desktop resources.  The key-term here being ‘real-time’; as apart of the web 2.0 concept, web pages are able to change ‘on the fly’ and adapt to clicks and drags, or anything a user may input on the web page, delivering a ‘Rich Experience’.

Examples of well formed platforms that entail rich user experiences, that make use of good practices include; Google docs, Amazon, flickr, Google Maps, Microsoft SkyDrive, Digg, Twitter, del.icio.us, and many more.

The reason these applications are such successful rich user applications is their coherency to best web practices.  These essentials include the ability to combine the best of both worlds from the desktop form and internet browser form.  Taking the best elements a user experiences using a local desktop application and transforming it into a workable browser-based application (Ryan Stewart, February 9, 2007).  The successful rise of web-based applications such as the ones mentioned above are easy to use online application that maintain user engagement, simplicity and personalization.

One specific example suited to explaining this pattern well is a simple and easy to use application called PopUrls.  The simplicity, mobility and usability is what makes this application so successful. PopUrls is a simple mashup website that gathers the webs most viewed social news in near real-time and was included at number 5 in Time Magazine’s top 50 websites in 2009, making it a great example for this blog.

The user interface delivers a rich experience through it’s usability and simplicity, which as discussed is a core aspect of the pattern. A user visiting the website is confronted with the web’s most hitted news, scrolling over topics will expand the bulk of the article for a quick read, or scroll further down to quickview the most popular YouTube videos and Flikr photos. All headlines are simply linked to the original source, accessed at the click of the mouse.  PopUrls also offer user profiles that can be created to enhance the user experience for more dynamically driven, personalized feeds and also makes use of it’s own search engine to find search related content.  Due to it’s simplicty, it also makes for a good mobile application, with a handy iPhone app making it widely available across multiple mediums.

To conclude this weeks pattern topic, RUE’s or Rich User Interfaces combine good practice designs of simple, dynamic, rich interfaces that close the gap between web and desktop.  With the increasing trend and development it is clear to see that the desktop may become a thing of the past as more rich interfaces are created.  The use of the cloud in web 2.0 is making all of these things possible with the ability to centralize and consolidate services into one and the rise of online desktops that offer a Windows-like experience purely through online services.

References:

    1. Rich Internet Applications, Auston web design and development. Retrieved from: http://www.autson.com/website-design/rich-internet-applications
    2. User Experience, Rich Internet Applications and the future of software. Ryan Stewart, February 9, 2007 Retrieved from: http://www.zdnet.com/blog/stewart/user-experience-rich-internet-applications-and-the-future-of-software/256
    3. 50 Best Websites 2009. Time Magazine. Retrieved from: http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/completelist/0,29569,1918031,00.html

Innovation in assembly, one of the core component patterns in the shift to web 2.0 is all about offering platforms as online services.  There is a slow but certain transition from desktop computer and hardware components delivering applications to online resources powering applications through an external vendor.  An online service or software as a service (SaaS) is the idea of offering application platforms to an end user from a service provider over a network, in most cases the internet (Search Cloud Computing, March 2006).

       

Figure 1.
Anton Blotskiy, Softheme. February 16th, 2011

The root of this movement is through the use of open standards and free licensed sources which foresees the transformation from strict desktop platforms delivered from a vendor and powered by hardware, to online services. This means eventually the need for hardware power and expensive licensed software such as Microsoft Office and virus software will no longer be in demand.

Innovations of third party applications sourced from vendors are being made available through the concept of an application programming interface (API) and dynamic web services.  This is the idea of moving from static unchangeable web pages with standard Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) designs with basic request and response protocols, to web services, or API’s (Nicholas Quaine, 2001).

From this movement to web 2.0 with API’s comes database driven, stateless and dynamic web services using Representational State Transfer (REST) Communications architecture. API’s allow for multiple REST style web services to be interchangeable and programmable to communicate with each other using a standard of code-based language such as XML (Russell Kay, 2007), thus becoming an application service.

A related example of this movement is Amazon’s S3 (Simple Storage Service) which allows for developers to source their resources from Amazon’s hardware infrastructure, and provide a web platform to their customer. The users of the S3 platform pay a certain monthly fee (“pay as you go”) for storage, or what they call a “Bucket” and are free to use the space for whatever they desire to provide third party applications to an end user. This can include a source of media files, backup storage or web developed applications as part of a business or for a customer.

Figure 2. Amazon Simple Storage Service Developer Guide (API Version 2006-03-01)

To elaborate on the concept and give an example of the above picture, Amazon provide the open space data storage, database engine and backbone resources to a customer to build an API based platform. The third party provider then delivers its API platform to the end user using cloud computing services.

All parties benefit from the innovative movement in its architectural structure, all Amazon, The third party vendor and the end user.  API’s open the door for everyday developers to express their skills in creating something new out of existing services. For example the Apple App store. Developers take an existing application and transform it into a useful application, for example taking Twitter and using it specifically for an external use such as Cricket Australia’s website, which as a section that takes posts from Cricketer’s twitter accounts and displays them in a live feed on the web site’s page.

A specific example to the topic discussed is how Amazon builds a level of trust with the users of its S3 architecture and opens the door for easy innovation of third party API’s.  The third party developers benefit from using cheap, existing resources to develop their web services to the end user rather than building their own infrastructure. The end user benefits from the ease of use through API developed applications. Finally Amazon benefit from both the trust built with its reliable services to users paying money, and oversees how its services are used for future growth.

Such innovative technologies can also have their drawbacks however.  There are clear disadvantages of third party vendors hosting their applications on an external source rather than their own infrastructure, creating huge risks and potential disaster.

Amazon for example state in their service level agreement (SLA) that they have an uptime of 99.9% per month. This equates to 40 odd minutes of down time (Amazon S3 Service Level Agreement, 2007).  This down time can cause major disruptions for third party vendors that may require intense resources at the point of an outage. Although Amazon offers a compromise if this service level agreement isn’t met, offering credits in accordance to extra down time, this could be the difference between a successful API and the failure of one, potentially putting a business at risk.

Another interesting note to point out about the service level agreement is the fact that there is only one requirement Amazon strives to achieve and that’s uptime.  The only agreement stated in amazon’s SLA is that 99.9 percent uptime must be met per month, any other figure below this and the user will be funded with credits (Amazon S3 Service Level Agreement, 2007).  In the SLA statement, Amazon strictly state it will take no responsibility for any negative impact on users due to any technology not sourced by Amazon itself.

It is clear that innovation in assembly is pushing the web into a new era of less and less software and hardware components.  It is clear to see that in the near future, user’s at home will not have the need to purchase expensive licensed software to install on their PC.  Rather every user will have an online desktop, powered by resources from an external vendor.  The need for personal computers will become obsolete as the push for innovative online services becomes greater, more reliable, faster and easier to develop and use.

References:

  1. Software as a Service, Search Cloud Computing. March 2006. http://searchcloudcomputing.techtarget.com/definition/Software-as-a-Service,
  2.  Figure 1. Anton Blotskiy, Marketing Consultant, Softheme  February 16th, 2011. Is SaaS Office Safe? http://blog.softheme.com/is-saas-office-safe/
  3.  SOAP Basics, Nicholas Quaine, 2001. http://www.soapuser.com/basics1.html
  4.  Russell Kay, August 6, 2007. http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/297424/Representational_State_Transfer_REST_
  5. Browser-Based Uploads Using POST, Amazon Simple Storage Service Developer Guide. API Version 2006-03-01. http://docs.amazonwebservices.com/AmazonS3/latest/dev/UsingHTTPPOST.html
  6. Amazon S3 Service Level Agreement. Effective Date: October 1, 2007. http://aws.amazon.com/s3-sla/

Data and data structure is one of the most important aspects of web 2.0 but how to control it but let it grow freely? Who owns it and who decides what to do with it? Data is the next topic of patterns discussed in relation to web 2.0.  Data in web 2.0 is a key aspect in an internet platform’s success and has many benefits as well as draw backs and controversy seen in privacy issues.  Here will be a look inside on what data is inside web 2.0, how it is structured and controlled, manipulated and made profitable in web 2.0 platforms.

Data is the key in web 2.0. Without growing data from user input a platform remains static with no room for change and expanding capabilities. Much like Amazon’s growing catalogue database, Google’s search engine and Wikipedia’s articles.

Opportunities in data control exist in two extremes. The control and creation of data on one extreme, and the way it is manipulated on the other. For example on one extreme you have NAVTEQ’s enormous map database created from scratch, and on the other Google manipulate it in a way that’s useful to user’s.

Using an example that fits this pattern will be used for further explanation. The technology used in this example is Google maps and mashups technologies.  A ‘mashup’ is a service that combines pre-existing platforms and combines them together to create a new service; taking data from two or more external services and ‘mashing’ them together at the user’s discretion to create one superior service.

For example, a mashup service used by the New South Wales government has been used taking existing map data from Google maps as the lower end of the internet stack, and combining it with live update services from the top of the internet stack to create a mashup service. This mashup shows the live traffic incidents and flooded roads of New South Wales.

http://livetraffic.rta.nsw.gov.au/desktop.html, NSW Government; www.nsw.gov.au

Each web 2.0 platform will incorporate a certain strategy to control its data, these strategies can be one of the following:

  • Creation Strategies
  • Control Strategies
  • Framework Strategies
  • Access Strategies
  • Data Infrastructure Strategies

Mashup technologies line up with the Access strategies area. This is because of its use of gathering and combining data and information from other sources to create access to one superior service. This type of service does not require any new framework or data like platforms using the other strategies listed, but simply utilizes existing framework and existing data sources to provide users with a new service created by the users.

The advantage of the mashup technology is the freedom to utilize existing framework already provided by other services.

The different services that user’s “mash” together benefit from user input and exercise trust to improve the services. For example the use of Google maps and places; in which a user will search for a place or landmark they desire and will find reviews and ratings other people have submitted previously. Also present will be the company or organisation’s website to entice users to visit.

Google Maps

To summarise this topic; simply having the data or being in control of the data is not enough to succeed in a web 2.0 environment. An organisation needs to let the data it possesses or manipulates be free for user’s to control in order to grow into something unique and hard to replicate. Following a data strategy that aligns with the desired outcome will help establish what core practices are required for the application to succeed, and therefore the benefits from users is  realised.