Web 2.0 and other “2.0” monikers have become loaded terms recently. But as we look back at the world wide web of 1996, there can be little doubt that today’s web is better and more useful. Indeed, that seems to be the conclusion millions of Americans are making, as current estimates show over 200 million users in the US, including 87% of youth 12-17.
Web 2.0 isn’t driven by technology, it’s driven by that critical mass of users. And while social software and AJAX enabled web applications get most of our attention, people are turning to the internet for some very mundane everyday activities that were little more than science fiction in 1996. The commonality of internet banking, for example, reflects the trust users now have in the security and reliability of online services.
But the web has weathered so much hype and hyperbole that it may be difficult to recognize its arrival as a true cultural force. Computing has become so common that children often learn to type before they learn to write. And the instant, self-service access to worlds of information and services is changing industries — a fact we can see clearly in the decline of the role of travel agents, even while air travel continues to grow.
Kevin Kelly, in a Wired Magazine story described this apparent blindness:
The accretion of tiny marvels can numb us to the arrival of the stupendous. [thanks to Josh Porter for alerting me to this]
So the question of how to design a web OPAC for today is a question of how to design an information service in a world rich with information services and filled with users who make information seeking — though not necessarily at libraries — part of their everyday lives.
note: this is an update of my ALA Midwinter presentation.