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Sunday, October 2, 2005

Is Google Web 2.0?

Tim O’Reilly tries to define the popular term “Web 2.0” by example, writing: “If Netscape was the standard bearer for Web 1.0, Google is most certainly the standard bearer for Web 2.0, if only because their respective IPOs were defining events for each era.” Tim explains:

“Netscape framed “the web as platform” in terms of the old software paradigm: their flagship product was the web browser, a desktop application, and their strategy was to use their dominance in the browser market to establish a market for high-priced server products. Control over standards for displaying content and applications in the browser would, in theory, give Netscape the kind of market power enjoyed by Microsoft in the PC market. (...)

In the end, both web browsers and web servers turned out to be commodities (...)

Google, by contrast, began its life as a native web application, never sold or packaged, but delivered as a service, with customers paying, directly or indirectly, for the use of that service. None of the trappings of the old software industry are present. No scheduled software releases, just continuous improvement. No licensing or sale, just usage. No porting to different platforms so that customers can run the software on their own equipment, just a massively scalable collection of commodity PCs running open source operating systems plus homegrown applications and utilities that no one outside the company ever gets to see.”

It’s an interesting approach to the term, even though Google isn’t completely Web 2.0 in my book – for a long time, they’ve lacked blogging, didn’t embrace RSS, and didn’t care much for web standards like XHTML or CSS (not when you judge their homepage, anyway). Google also doesn’t have the image of being the most out-spoken company. These are all things I associate with the “2.0” term though.

There’s been movements in the right direction, of course. By now, Google has a real blog (which itself moved from Web 1.0 to 2.0, starting out as yet another channel to push press releases, and now becoming more and more blog-like), many services implement web standards (’s try at XHTML), or even lead the web into new directions (Google’s use of Ajax/ XMLHTTP on Google Maps and other applications made it really take off). They’ve also been one of the first to offer a web API (using SOAP, which is sort of Web 1.5 compared to REST – not as KISS as can be, to continue in acronyms).

Much of the 1.0 is – or was – Google Inc, the company. Google the web search engine, on the other hand, made complete sense on the web since day one. There’s no lock-in, even when it has the most loyal users. There’s no big marketing campaign, and yet Google is one of the most well-known brands. Google the search tool is uncluttered, smart and light-weight, commercial yet free, and user-centric. And it’s not evil. Isn’t that what 2.0 is all about?

[Via Andrew Baio.]


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