It can be hard for library folk to imagine that the web development world might be as divided about the meaning and value of “Web 2.0” as the library world is about “Library 2.0,” but we/they are. Take Jeffrey Zeldman’s anti-Web 2.0, anti-AJAX post, for instance. Zeldman’s a smart guy, and he’s not entirely off-base, but let’s not confuse his argument. What you don’t see him suggesting is that we abandon the web. And he certainly hasn’t packed up shop.
What Zeldman and now Michael Calore are suggesting is that their fellow web developers use these fancy, (sort of) new technologies like tags and AJAX carefully. But where they go wrong, and it’s an apparently common mistake, is that their definition of Web 2.0 ends there. Conversely, Tim O’Reilly’s definition of the term admitted to some difficulty in bounding it. In fact, it seemed more an attempt to identify the core attributes of both a number of wild successes (think Google) and emerging stars (think Flickr).
At the center of all of this, however, was the unspoken but undeniable fact that huge numbers of people were turning to the internet for their information, news, and entertainment.
That’s why Zeldman and Calore are publishing no end of tips on how to get better search engine placement, how to design usable and accessible sites, and how to design them well. Look back at O’Reilly’s Web 2.0 spiel. Right there on page one you’ll see him talk about how “the web is a platform” and a discussion of why Google is the “standard bearer” for Web 2.0. Google’s success has nothing to do with AJAX, and it’s not tags. Google’s success is in the way it delivers, for the most part, what people want when they want it.
With search engines handling over five billion searches per month, it’s pretty clear that there’s a huge number of Web 2.0 users out there. Yes, Google and other Web 2.0 technologies may be difficult to make sense of, and it might take us some time to find our place in this new world. But be wary of those who suggest they’re irrelevant, for our customers have already voted with their feet.