Web 2 0 An Analysis Computer Science

Essay add: 14-11-2017, 15:01   /   Views: 60

Over 15 years ago scientists at CERN research center in Switzerland developed a new use for the Internet called the World Wide Web. The three major standards that support web use are URL, HTTP and HTML. These standards create a decentralized structure that produces an environment for content sharing. It is becoming easier and easier for people to tap into the web thus creating the growing network effects of the web (Raman, 52). These standards have produced the web's exponential increase in popularity and types of uses, and it has grown to play a huge role in the daily lives of billions of people. The web has historically been used as a tool to view and write content in a sharing capacity from computer to computer (Anderson, 2). However, over the past 10 years the web has rapidly shifted into a new, more social and innovative stage. Tim O'Reilly first coined the term for this new phase as "Web 2.0" after a series of conferences in 2004 (Ritchie, 1).

Critics including Sir Tim Berners-Lee argue that Web 2.0 is merely an expansion of the original web and does not deserve a new name (Anderson, 1). While Web 2.0 is not the emergence of one new technological innovation it does involve using technological trends to experience the web differently (Hinchcliffe, 3). The older version of the web, often referred to as Web 1.0, used static html based web pages to deliver and create content from the server to the user. Web 2.0, on the other hand, involves the adoption of dynamic user focused web based applications. These new applications utilize technologies and platforms to create collaborative and continually updated services. Web 2.0 moves towards more user oriented programs and strives to deliver a better user experience (Gilman, 1). Other ideas behind Web 2.0 include openness, utilization of networks, participation, and content created by the user and data on a mass scale (Anderson, 14).  There are numerous examples that illustrate the growing popularity of Web 2.0 applications such as social-networking sites, video-sharing sites, blogs, and wikis.  (Gilman, 1). These new services based on Web 2.0 are considered "user processes". (Anderson, 7). The growing number of services and applications in the Web 2.0 world are spread over every discipline including education, healthcare, social, and security.  While the value of these new services cannot be denied, they do raise new issues of security, reliability and flexibility.

Key Ideas Behind Web 2.0

The main driver behind these developments is the notion to use the World Wide Web as a platform (O'Reilly, 1). This decreases the need for software installed directly on a computer and increases the use of the web to run applications. The web began to be used as a platform in the late 1990s by large companies creating a variety of end-user services. An integral part of using the web is the idea of URL or a way to label and find content on the web; thus, as web services developed, it became imperative to develop simple URLs or Representational State Transfer (REST). Another integral part of using the web as a platform for programs is web Application Programming Interfaces (API). API's in a Web 2.0 context developed informally in an open nature. There purpose is to allow components of programs to work together in a flexible manner (Raman, 56). API's are also essential to the popular Web 2.0 practice of "mashups" or combining components of different programs to create a new application (Anderson, 31). The developments of Rich Internet Applications (RIA) in browser technology and Software as a Service (SaaS) have allowed the web to evolve into a platform (Hinchcliffe, 3).  RIA pertains to web applications that have similar attributes as desktop applications that have been installed on the user's hard drive. When RIAs are correctly implemented they can have significant efficiency benefits for users. Along with the benefit of RIAs some concerns about the security, scalability and required resources are brought to the forefront (Payne, 2). One of the technologies that enable this delivery is known as Ajax or Asynchronous javascript + XML (Anderson, 27).  

Technological Foundations and Development Techniques

Ajax is a group of technologies that facilitate the concepts of Web 2.0 websites and applications by harnessing existing technologies to create a new structure (Ritchie, 1).  The core behind the dynamic web page is the Ajax engine, which is technically the "client side code" that enables communication with a server (Ritchie, 5). The Ajax engine performs like a middleman between the server and the user's browser and creates asynchronous communication. This technology solves the problem of users having to wait on pages or content to load, and it refreshes the browser from the server (Anderson, 28). Ajax sends back and forth small amounts of information to and from the server once the user initially loads the page. This creates a more real-time updating ability of web pages and applications (Anderson, 29).  The asynchronous updating allows users to be more participatory and collaborative in their operation of the web. Ajax must also use standards of scripting language such as javascript and XML to enable the client to reach the web browser object (Ritchie, 5). Other Ajax technologies include Document Object Model, XSLT, HTML/XHTML, CSS and XMLHttpRequest. These technologies support data retrieval and interchange between the server and the browser (Anderson, 28).

Ajax may be the most widely used implementation of RIA and Web 2.0 services, but there are also alternative technologies and standards in which developers are able to use as well. One of most popular of these alternatives is Flash from Adobe. Flash enables the quick download of graphics and videos that are displayed on the browser. One downside to Flash is that it requires plug-ins to work properly; however, with the growing popularity of the application most computers are able to easily support it (Anderson, 28).  Another RIA implementation based on Flash is OpenLaszlo. This tool is growing in popularity because of its open source nature. Some other technologies that are not based on Flash but are used as a display mechanism within a browser include Microsoft's WPF/E, XBAP, and Mozilla's XUL (Anderson, 29).

The user-end focus of Web 2.0 can also be found in searching and processing on the web. The term, semantic information, means to use the rational information content as opposed to the actual content. Developers have started to use micro formats to embed information on the meaning of content within web pages and applications. The micro format is not necessarily shown to the user on the browser but can be utilized by search engines (Anderson .30).

           The combination of applying existing technologies in a new way and developing new technologies over the past decade has completely shifted the way we use the web.  This new focus on interactive platform delivery as opposed to static content delivery has been called Web 2.0.  The new web applications and services are developed for the user and encourage participation and creation.

Examples of Web 2.0 Services

The three most popular Web 2.0 applications today are Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. These services are unique in their purpose and application however they all share key ideas of Web 2.0 and utilize technology and standards commonly associated with Web 2.0 services. The massive number of social media users has caused businesses to start to employ the Web 2.0 channels in their marketing and sales strategies.

Facebook allows users to connect with other users in different networks and update their information and pictures while also viewing other user's uploaded content. Many companies have started to use Facebook or an internal application similar to Facebook to connect their employees (Burns, 17-18). Facebook uses an API called Graph API to simplify the way developers read and write data to Facebook. It allows for a consistent view of the social graph of Facebook, which connects friend relationships, shared content and phototags, using unique IDs for every object. Graph API supports real time updates of changing data which is the hallmark of a Web 2.0 website. Graph API supports introspection of objects allowing you to see all of the connections an object has. Graph API also allows users to publish to Facebook application access tokens in order to issue HTTP Posts (Facebook as Social Aggregator, 1).

YouTube is a website that serves as a place for users to upload videos to share with other users. Anyone that logs on to the website can view videos, and registered users are able to upload an unlimited number of videos. Businesses have used YouTube to share funny commercial marketing videos (Burns, 18). This advertising has no cost and has a huge upside potential if the video goes "viral". YouTube API, which has recently been released for public use, is used to build video uploading and sharing mechanisms. YouTube uses several APIs to run its website. One of which is Data API. Data API makes it possible to search for uploaded videos, retrieve feeds, and see related content. It is also used as an authentication tool for when users upload videos. Data API uses both XML and HTTP. YouTube also uses additional APIs called embedded player API and Chromeless Player API. These API use javascript and Actionscript. The embedded player, once uploaded, is controlled using javascript, or alternatively, you can run it using a Flash Application and Actionscript. With a Chromeless player, which is a YouTube player without controls, you can easily customize the player within either Flash or HTML (API Overview Guide - YouTube APIs and Tools, 1-2).

Twitter is a "micro-blogging service" that enables users to communicate by sharing short statements with other users. People can limit who has access to view their posts, and posts are limited to 140 characters or less. Most companies today have a Twitter account that they are able to use to keep interested people updated on a variety of issues that are aligned with promotional or marketing campaigns (Burns, 18). Twitter uses a variety of technologies to run its Web 2.0 applications. One of those technologies is Ruby on Rails, which is an open source web application framework for their frontend programming. More recently Twitter has started to use a multi-paradigm programming language called Scala to handle more of their back-end programming. Scala was brought about in Twitter to address a problem that Ruby on Rails had with reliability and scalability in runtime; scalability is the reason it was named Scala in the first place. Even though Twitter now has Scala which handles a large amount, they still use Ruby for its flexibility (Twitter on Scala, 3).

Implications of Technology

Reliability and Scalability

With the advancement of Web 2.0 applications, two factors become very important to users: reliability and scalability. What does it mean to be reliable and scalable?  Reliability can be seen as how correctly a system is performing, as well as how reliable the information is on sites such as Wikipedia.  Scalability refers more to how much a system can support (Robust Communication Software, 3-4).  Both aspects together can help to determine how well a system will work.

Availability is a large part of reliability.  Systems need to be available for them to be reliable and scalable (Scalability Only One Half the Reliability Equation).  No one enjoys it when a server goes down such as Facebook or Twitter.  In the past few months Facebook has had more downtime than usual, and users have turned to Twitter to voice their displeasure.  To ensure availability and avoid potential downtime, performance, security and functional correctness is needed (Scalability Only One Half the Reliability Equation).  Availability and Reliability also come down to the "nines."  The "nines" describes about how much downtime there is per year.  Two nines (99%) is about 87 hours of downtime, three nines (99.9%) is about eight hours of downtime, four nines (99.99%) is about 52 minutes of downtime, and five nines (99.999%) is about 5 minutes of downtime per year (Robust Communications Software, 2). Most systems try to strive for five nines to minimize downtime.

Reliability can also refer to the information that can be posted on open source sites.  These can include websites such as Wikipedia, Google Docs, Yahoo Answers, and even medical sites.   On websites such as these, anyone can post any type of information that they would like to.  Since anyone can post to these types of websites they can never be 100% reliable.  Although they are not always 100% reliable they can still be very useful.  A good way help ensure reliability is to check sources on these sites and distinguish between fact and opinion.

Scalability and reliability go hand in hand.  The scalability is how much the system can support.  How much a system can support can also affect the reliability and how the system will perform.  Scalability relies on infrastructure and the applications they run (It's a Trap!).  Twitter, for example, had to switch its application from Ruby to Scala as they grew larger to help with scalability (Twitter on Scala).  Social networks such as Facebook or Twitter create greater traffic, so more scalability is needed for these websites to work efficiently.  When referring to scalability, it is possible to either scale up or to scale out. To scale up, or scale vertically, resources are added to a single node in a system.  Scaling up is better for managing the system, but it can hurt availability and reliability. An example of this is to add more memory to a computer.  To scale out is to scale horizontally.  When scaling out, more nodes are added to a system (Scale up vs. Scale Out). Scaling out reduces the manageability because a more complex system is created.  Larger sites such as Facebook or Google would benefit more from using a scaling out approach as opposed to scaling up. Facebook uses a load balancer to scale out as well as open source tools for the scalability of all of their applications (Open Source helps Facebook Achieve Massive App Scalability). Because Facebook is such an interactive site, open source tools are necessary to keep the scalability in control. According to Jeff Rothschild, Vice President of Technology at Facebook, "Real-time social graphs" is what makes scaling Facebook so difficult (Why are Facebook, Digg, and Twitter so Hard to Scale?). Depending on what is more appropriate, scaling up or out helps to increase scalability as well as increase reliability.

Ensuring scalability and reliability is extremely important.  According to Force10 Networks, an independent survey was done that showed that "enterprise managers view reliable performance and scalability as the most important qualities they consider when selecting a network vendor" (LAN Switching Study Shows Enterprises View Reliability and Scalability as Most Important Considerations in Vendor Selection). The scalability and availability will help to ensure reliability, and both are essential in order to run Web 2.0.


With an increase in eCommerce and the changing competitive environment on the web, security has become a very big issue and concern for most web users as well as businesses. When shopping online, users are very quick to provide their credit card information due to the convenience and availability of eCommerce websites, but security is an increasingly large risk associated with this web based shopping. Along with the threat to users, security is a huge risk for web-based businesses and the threat in which their employees have on the Web 2.0 application use.

In a study done by McAfee on September 27, it showed that an average of 60 percent of global businesses were concerned about loss of reputation, brand, client, or confidence as a result of Web 2.0 misuse (McNaughton). The top threats that companies were most concerned with include the exposure to viruses, spyware, malicious software and overexposure of information. Through use of the web and the accessibility of information to employees, the ability for employees to release confidential information is a high concern for many businesses because of the ease in doing so (McNaughton).

Many businesses choose to adopt Web 2.0 applications because of the increased revenues that these new technologies will generate. Around 40% of companies have reported that Web 2.0 applications have increased productivity as well as improved marketing strategies used to increase awareness of the products (McNaughton). However, the problems that may be faced by businesses in relation to Web 2.0 may cause many companies to decide against implementation of Web 2.0 applications. They feel that the likely and existing losses associated with the threats may not be worth the potential value it will create for the firm.

The Future

Increased Use of the Internet

Along with the acknowledgement of the importance of reliability and scalability of information that can be accessed on the web, it is also important to be aware of the increasing amount of users as well as the type of information that will continue to be available. It is apparent to web based users through websites such as, "Chatroulette," that there are many international users of the internet as well as Americans. This site popped up as a fad early in 2010 and has since claimed fame on the internet around the world. A user logs on and is linked with other users, enabling them to chat via text, voice and video regardless of their location and regardless of the difference in networks being used. Facebook, however, is a bit different. On Facebook, users normally see only the people in their own network unless specifically searching for users abroad. However, it is likely (especially with the popularity of Facebook today) that people using the internet overseas use this social application almost as much as Americans. This internationalization of Web 2.0 technology is important to note when considering the increasing use of the internet around the world, especially developing nations. As nations grow, and internet is used more and more every day, there will in turn be an increase of the use of Web 2.0 applications as well. With the growth of the web coupled with the increase in Web 2.0 users, the platforms on which applications, like YouTube, exist must increase to meet the demand of the growing amount of consumers. There will have to be versions that support different languages as well as different cultures. All of these things call for an increase in server size and ability, which is a costly addition.

With more people using the web and Web 2.0 applications, more information will also be available, both personal and practical alike. The availability of personal information is definitely something that people in the "Internet Generation" are genuinely scared of. With Web 2.0, we have access to a lot of peoples' sexuality, religious denominations, political stances, phone numbers, and pictures - information that has traditionally been kept private. If someone were to run for a political position, their whole social history would be available to the media and the public. Therefore, elections will likely be large social battles due to the ability, including the use of Web 2.0 applications, users have in finding negative information about candidates. This concern is not limited to politics, but will eventually affect thing such as job interviews and even spousal relationships. Interviewers would have easy access to someone's history, perhaps taking them out of the running for a job. Girlfriends or boyfriends would be able to track the history of their significant other's relationships, perhaps affecting the health of the relationship. Although there are a lot of possible negative uses regarding the future of the web, there will also be plenty of accessible information that will have positive effects.

Some examples of the positive uses of Web 2.0 applications can be seen through Google searches. For instance, if a user typed "how to play guitar" into Google, YouTube videos would pop up offering free lessons. The increasing information base is, and will continue to be provided online via Web 2.0 applications. As more people use the internet and Web 2.0 applications, more valuable information, like the guitar lessons, will be made available. Search results will also provide more useful links relative to the key words used. As more information is available, more people will use Web 2.0 technology for other needs, like news and even for business purposes. There is already a marketplace available on Facebook where friends can sell each other items; larger transactions, perhaps business to business transactions, will one day take place on Web 2.0 interfaces.

Elimination of the middle man

With Web 2.0, we no longer need huge advertisements, or advertising firms to increase awareness of products of ideas. Information can easily be streamed to the web to make it available to millions of people with the click of a button. Small businesses will be able to promote their products, whereas in the past, they would have had to work through chains of retailers and agents in order to get their product to the consumer. In time, this will phase out many vendors and advertisers because products will be bought from the direct source. Potential customers can easily view other consumer reviews and even interact with the seller in real time to ask questions. The amount of purchasing done online will continue to increase due to the ease it creates, and we will continue to see more users of the internet and Web 2.0 applications based on this idea.

Semantic Web

According to IBM, a Semantic Web is a common framework where applications can read, write and share the same information. To do this, applications use a global naming scheme (URI's) and standard syntaxes for describing data (RDF), the properties of that data (RDF Schema), and the relationships between data items (Ontology language). So what does this mean? A semantic web will use metadata, or ontologies to describe the information posted on the internet and give a "semantic" meaning to what it is. Instead of searching for random keywords on Google, users will be able to search for a specific set of data or knowledge base, making search results much more efficient and effective. This new web will be referred to as Web 3.0. It is important to note that a semantic web is not a separate web, but it is an extension of the new one where more meaning is given to information allowing computers and people to work together.

While the semantic web is a $20 billion industry, the feasibility of it is still questionable. Critics question the reliability of the metadata supporting the information, and they insist that vendors will intentionally misstate the metadata behind their objects in order to make their own products appear in more search results; this is an existing problem which was experienced by AltaVista. Some also question the need of it: Do we really need more capabilities than we already have in Web 2.0? The uploading of information will be more time consuming than it would under Web 2.0, so is it really worth it?

The Future

Web 2.0 is heading us into a culture unseen at any point in this world's history. The flow of information and connectivity between people is already higher than it has ever been, and it will continue to increase. To guess the future of this unprecedented technology is a difficult task when considering the possibilities available. On one hand, there is a technology connecting people, information and businesses across the planet, perhaps bringing them closer together; on the other hand, there is a dangerous amount of personal, potentially harmful information available to millions of people. The integration of Web 3.0, or the semantic web, could bring more relative searches on the internet, making the connection between people, computers and ideas even closer. However, it is important to acknowledge that there is a concern surrounding the reliability of the information supporting the data and whether the technology is worth the cost associated with its implementation. In any case, we are headed towards a highly communicative, interconnected social network where information is continually streamlined and available to millions of people all over the planet. The future of Web 2.0 is vastly unprecedented but will no doubt be a great mark on the history of communication and connectivity worldwide.

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