Lightweight Models & Cost-Effective Scalability

13 May

The last pattern of web 2.0 is “Lightweight models and cost-effective scalability”. Lightweight models and cost- effective scalability is referred to “Doing more with less”. It is about not only technical aspect but also business aspect. In the age of web 1.0, most companies tried to be “Get big fast” and thought that it would make much profit. However, many companies  underwent difficulties and disappeared after Dot-com Bubble because much cost was required to maintain those services or systems. After that, companies realized that creating simple applications could be better for success; they have changed their way of thinking of “Doing more with less”.

“Doing more with less” means maximizing returns with less resource. In fact, users do not require expensive services with special technologies. They just require convenient services which are easy to use. Furthermore, services which require the deadweight cost to be changed make decision-making slow, so they would hinder improvement. Therefore, web 2.0 organizations have to strive to develop convenient services which are reusable for various purposes and require low cost rather than special services which are complex and require high cost.

To be a desirable lightweight model, the following are suggested:

Couple systems loosely.
If systems are coupled too stably, they cannot be easily disassembled and their structure will be difficult to change. This results in difficulty in reusing those systems for new purposes.

Consider syndication rather than coordination.
The focus should be delivery of internal data and external data, not control for desirable use of data.

Design for hackability and remixability.
Hackability and remixability lead infinite potentials for development of new services.

WordPress.com

the logo of wordpress

WordPress.com is a good example for lightweight models. WordPress.com has earned a large amount of revenue by a simple idea, not by a special technology. It is a hosted blogging platform based on the open source WordPress platform. It is designed to allow users to sign up and create their own blogs. As its purpose is to enable users to easily create and manage their own blogs, it basically takes simple architecture and technologies. It also facilitate syndication of content and have simple intuitive interfaces that support end-users and developers alike. It provides end-users with easy services such as a content editor for blogging, simple CMS functions and tagging. In addition, through the use of widgets, it enables users to apply more functions to their blogs. Besides, as it provides services such as RSS feeds, it facilitates access to contents. Furthermore, WordPress.com blogs are hosted on the WordPress.com grid which is capable of scaling to handle enormous traffic spikes and balanced loads across hundreds of servers. This means that WordPress.com blogs are automatically capable of handling going viral and will be scaled to meet the demand as necessary. Moreover, as its simple architecture enables easily restructuring it and adding other technologies, it would facilitate creation of new services with low cost. Like these, simplicity of WordPress.com offers convenience and benefits to both users and developers.

On the other hand, its simple architecture causes ease of hacking. Through hacking, personal information can be leaked. Therefore, this is a problem awaiting solution. WordPress.com has to make an effort to prevent this problem as well as develop easy and convenient services.

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Leveraging the Long Tail

6 May

As the number of participants in the Web has increased, unique phenomena have been observed. One of them is the Long Tail. The term “Long Tail” was popularized by Chris Anderson. The Long Tail means that the total sum of somethings with general characters(the Head) could be less than the total sum of somethings with unusual characters(the Tail), and emphasizes importance of the Tail. For example, six people will get a job after graduating from university. On the other hand, two people will study more, two people will begin their journey, two people will get married and two people will do nothing and just stay at home. In this case, we can say that most people  get a job after graduating from university. However, actually the number of those people is less than the number of the others because the number of the others who will not get a job is eight in total. This is the Long Tail concept.

what the long tail is

Lonelyplanet.com

There are a variety of sites that are taking full advantage of the long tail. One of them is Lonelyplanet.com. This is a travel website which provides information for trip. However, it has obvious differences from other general travel websites. This has been leveraging the Long Tail. First, it offers information focusing on users’ special interests such as honeymoon as well as normal information about trip. In addition, it offers various services including flight booking services, insurance services, travel accessory shopping services and travel tips services as well. Therefore, through this website, users can not only book airplane tickets and hotels but also buy something for trip and get information about a variety of activities which can be done in their destinations. Besides, as it provides a place which is called Thorn Tree travel forum, users can share their ideas about travel with each other and get advice from others there. Like this, this site includes diverse contents which meet various people’s needs, not just megahit contents. For the reason, this website has been used by a large number of people. This shows why leveraging the Long Tail is important.

Chris Anderson says, “Forget squeezing millions from a few megahits at the top of the charts. The future of entertainment is in the millions of niche markets at the shallow end of the bit stream.” This emphasizes the importance of the Long Tail. As more and more people with different tastes and characteristics participate in use of the Web, the Long Tail becomes more important.

Reach out to the edges and not just the center!
Reach out to the Long Tail and not just the head!

However, we must keep in mind that this does not mean the head should be excluded or ignored. 🙂

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Perpetual Beta

28 Apr

The rapid development of web technologies and constantly varying requirements of users have led needs for prompt and constant updates of web applications. In the age of web 2.0, the concept appearing for it is the pattern of Perpetual Beta. What does being in perpetual beta mean? It means that applications are in perpetual test mode and they are no longer software artifacts, but ongoing services. In other words, it means that applications are changed and improved continuously through constant tests.

Image

Therefore, in the age of web 2.0, applications should not provide new functions only by single release. Instead of that, new functions should be consistently added based on general user experiences. In addition, providers of applications need steadily to observe how those new functions are used through engaging with users as real-time testers.

Facebook

Facebook is a good example of this pattern. Facebook is the most famous social networking service in the world. It was launched in February 2004 and it has now more than 900 million active users. Maybe you who are reading this have also used Facebook.

facebook logo

Facebook

Facebook has various and useful functions. Users can upload their files such as photos and videos and share them with other people. Moreover, users can communicate with other users using Facebook, so it greatly contributes to formation and sustainment of community. To effectively and successfully manage and improve these various functions, Facebook is put in perpetual beta and it is often updated through constant tests. In particular, to know opinions of users who are real-time testers, Facebook provides a feedback page where users can suggest their opinions on functions of Facebook. Facebook steadily reflects users’ opinions on its improvement through it. That is the key to its fame. There is no final version on Facebook. Nothing is static and everything is changing based on users opinions.

Which part of Facebook do you think needs to be improved?
Leave your opinion on its feedback page. It will be reflected soon.

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Software above the level of a single device : Dropbox

24 Apr

Which kind of Web devices do you have? What do you usually use to surf the Internet?

The PC is no longer the only device for access to the Web. These days, a large number of people use not only the PC but also smart phones, iPad, Web TV and so on to access the Internet. In addition to it, various web services have been changing not to be limited only to a single device. This is another pattern of web 2.0. In the age of web 2.0, web services should be accessible by a variety of devices. Dave Stutz who worked in Microsoft for a long time says that software above the level of a single device will make a high profit in the long term. In fact, this is the greatest change led by web 2.0. Development of software above the level of a single device has improved our lives in many ways.

Dropbox

Dropbox is a good example of such software. Dropbox is a cross-platform and Web-based application where users can store their files and share them with others by synchronizing it. It has been named as the world’s fifth most valuable web startup after Facebook, Twitter, Zynga and Groupon. One of its big strengths is ease of access. In comparison to similar services, Dropbox offers a relatively large number of user clients across a variety of desktop and mobile operating systems. There are a number of versions across many operating systems, including versions for Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux (official and unofficial) as well as versions for mobile devices such as Android, Windows Phone, iPhone, iPad, WebOS, and BlackBerry, and a web-based client for when no local client is installed. Thanks to this, it is possible to access Dropbox by diverse devices. In other words, users can use Dropbox not only by the PC at home but also by mobile devices wherever they want. Therefore, it contributes to effectively storing and sharing files, and makes their management convenient. Moreover, Dropbox is easy to use and its uploading speed is very fast, so it attracts many users. If you want to know more about Dropbox, watch the video below.

On the other hand, like every cloud computing application, Dropbox also has privacy and security issues. Users’ files uploaded to Dropbox could be accessed by someone who is not intended. Besides, Dropbox has the right to sell, transfer and share their contents including users’ personal information for business reasons. Accordingly, Dropbox should strive to solve this issue. If this issue is well controlled, Dropbox will be a more popular and more valuable application which is used by more people.

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Rich User Experience

2 Apr

One of patterns which need to be considered for web 2.0 applications is Rich User Experience. What does Rich User Experience mean? This needs to be defined for desirable application of this pattern. Luristic says, “Rich User Experience invokes the wow! factor. It ignites emotions in users by first impressing them and then making them addicted, loyal, and contagious.” In other words, Rich User Experience is something which can incentivate more people to more frequently use services. For achievement of Rich User Experience, abundant and various services need to be provided using more executable, expanded and more intelligent client technologies. Stiles describes, “Rich User Experiences are typically a combination of GUI -style applications and multimedia contents.”

There are several technologies for achievement of this, such as XHTML, CSS, DOM, AJAX, Adobe Flex, Flash, Silverlight and so on. In particular, AJAX is a key component that facilitates this type of experience. It is not too much to say that AJAX is a collection of technologies used together to create a rich user experience. AJAX has been used by many sites without even realizing it, and those sites applying AJAX shows what Rich User Experience is well. The core of AJAX is to provide users with easier, more convenient and intuitive services, not new and complicated services.

This is the key to achieve Rich User Experience as well. For the reason, a browser plays more roles on web 2.0-based websites than on others. Now a variety of functions can be easily used on a browser without pressing any button or installing any software. One simple example is predictive text input. This saves users the trouble of typing. As many portal sites have adopted this, a quicker and easier search has become possible. In addition, diverse efforts for Rich User Experience not only have offered simple functions like this but also have enabled people to directly use complicated software such as Word or Excel on the Web.

Prezi.com

Prezi.com is the best example which provides users with rich experience. This is a cloud-based presentation software. In general, people may consider Microsoft PowerPoint as a presentation software. However, there are definite differences between Prezi and Microsoft PowerPoint. First of all, in the case of Prezi, presentation media can be made on the Web without installing anything. On the other hand, in order to make presentation media using Microsoft PowerPoint, that software has to be installed on the computer certainly.


In addition, the biggest difference is that Prezi provides various functions for Rich User Experience. Prezi’s stated mission is to make presentations more interesting to effectively share ideas, and it is intended to be an intuitive tool to develop and share ideas as a visual narrative. For achievement of this mission, Prezi provides differentiated services. Prezi is used as platform for bridging linear and non-linear information, and as a tool for both for free-form brainstorming and structured presentation. Furthermore, text, images, videos and other presentation media are placed upon the canvas, and can be grouped together in frames. Users can then designate the relative size and position among all presentation objects, and pan or zoom in/out among these objects. For linear presentations, it is possible to construct a prescribed navigation path as well. In particular, Zooming User Interface (ZUI) makes the presentation fun. Users can leave a deep impression on the audience when exploring ideas and the connections between them through ZUI. In other words, it enables users to make visually captivating presentations. Moreover, the Prezi system is easy to use and available across platforms, so it provides users with much convenience.

Action speaks louder than words.
Just click the link to Prezi and feel it!! http://prezi.com

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Innovation in Assembly

25 Mar

In order to explain web 2.0, the principle ‘The web as platform’ can not be excluded because the concept of the web depends on how to define platform. Traditionally, a platform means a framework on which applications may be run, and it offers APIs for interoperability with applications. In the age of web 1.0, a platform was OS, that is to say OS as platform. As this was somewhat limited, this was called a closed platform. There have been many attempts to overcome the limits and this has changed the concept of platform. In the age of web 2.0, a platform is no longer OS. These days, every website can be a platform. This means that applications can be applied anywhere on the web without any restriction. As applications provided by some websites can be run on other websites, many organisations have been striving to create new value by combining those applications or using some of them. In addition, the providers of applications have been trying to get benefits by being a component of other websites. This phenomenon has opened up infinite possibilities. It would be possible to make a website including all services which users often use, and a new kind of website would be created just by using open APIs from other websites. This is what we call  Innovation in Assembly.

Gumtree.com.au

Gumtree.com.au is one of sites which enhance their services using free APIs provided by other companies. Gumtree is an extensive network of online classifieds and community websites. It is designed to connect people who were either planning to move, or had just arrived in the city,  and needed help getting started with accommodation, employment and meeting new people. Gumtree now covers 60 cities across 6 countries – the UK, Ireland, Poland, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. It is the UK’s largest website for local community classifieds and was once one of the top 20 websites in the UK. One of the reasons why this has become a famous website is that this effectively uses web-based APIs. Gumtree.com.au shows the location of accommodations or other places using the GoogleMaps API,  and enables users to save interesting advertisements to their own spaces by providing a Twitter API(Tweet button), a Facebook API(Like button) and so on. In addition, using these enables advertisements to be more widely publicized through social network.

In my case, the most useful thing is a Google Maps API. I mainly use this site to find a proper accommodation. In fact, I often lose my way, so it is very difficult for me to find my way to new place. For the reason, even if I found an advertisement about a good accommodation online, I often gave up it. Google Maps has become immeasurable help in solving this problem. Google Maps shows not only the location on the map but also the real exterior of the accommodation and the surrounding area through satellite pictures, so I can indirectly experience the place before going there. As this indirect experience makes me familiar with the place, I can easily find it when I try to reach the place actually. In my opinion, many people as well as I think that Google Maps is very useful. As a result, providing this API induces many people to use this website  because it is very important to show exact locations and enable people to find their destinations easily for this kind of websites. As users can directly use google Maps through this site, users can feel much more convenient when they use this site than other websites without this API. This seems to be the key to the fame of this website.


Have you ever used Gumtree.com.au?  Try it now!!

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Data is the Next Intel Inside

21 Mar

Why is data the next intel inside?

One of web 2.0 patterns is “Data is the Next Intel Inside”. This means data is as important as CPU in web 2.0 applications. Every computer has CPU and it is one of greatly important and necessary components. If there was not a CPU or the CPU was broken, that computer would not work. Like this, if a web 2.0 site did not have any data or the data had some problems, the site would be useless. As a result, a core technique of web 2.0 applications has become database management. Hal Varian says, “SQL is the new HTML.” In addition, a database application is often called infoware rather than merely software because of its importance. It clearly shows the core of applications is no longer technology, but data. Services are connected by database and it leads to mashups and creates new value.

Who owns the data?

This fact leads to a key question: Who owns the data? It is often shown that control of database by someone leads to control of the whole market in cyber space. In fact, it is very difficult to hold a dominant position in a business in the age of web 2.0. Nevertheless, if it is possible to dominate database, it may be easy to hold a dominant position, especially when the huge amounts of money is required to create the data or when a base for profits can be expanded by network effect. Therefore, nowadays many web 2.0 sites strive to develop and own unique data, and to establish their own database system supporting their data.

Citizendium

Citizendium is one of the examples. It is an open wiki project dedicated to creating a free, comprehensive, and reliable repository of structured knowledge. The project aims to improve on the Wikipedia model by providing increased reliability. In general, web 2.0-based encyclopedia sites like Wikipedia have the weakness of unreliability because they are easy to access and everybody can write and edit on the websites without any restrictions. Therefore, Citizendium is designed to make up for the weakness. It has striven to provide reliable information by managing its data in its own ways since 2007.

In fact, Citizendium is very similar to Wikipedia.  It has similar contents and functions. Citizendium also can be used by everybody like Wikipedia and its contents are made by users. However, it has definite differences. It does not allow anonymous editing unlike Wikipedia and participants must register under their real names with a working email address. Moreover, credentialed topic experts are invited to review articles written by participants. As a result, Citizendium has established its own reliable data. Reliable data gotten, reviewed and  edited through these ways is autonomously owned by Citizendium, so people can generally use the data but somebody may need to get permission from Citizendium if the person wants to use its data reviewed and edited. In addition, Citizendium manages its data in its own ways. All articles can be read by users, but those articles are ranked according to the degree of reliability. There are five classes in that site, and the class of each article can be changed if it is reviewed and edited. Moreover, if users do not want to see unreliable articles, they can see only reliable articles reviewed and edited by experts through clicking the link to approved articles on the first page of the website. Like this, Citizendium is striving to increase its value by providing a differentiated services unlike other online encyclopedias whose data are created by users.

However, in spite of its efforts, there is a limit which must be overcome to be widely used. Citizendium is somewhat complicated to post or edit an article. As it does not allow anonymous participants, users must resister and reveal their real names if they want to post some articles or edit something. It might be tiresome to some people. In particular, the people who are reluctant to reveal their real names will never participate in posting or editing. Citizendium is the website where contents are created and developed by participation of users, so its quality will decline if it does not have many participants. Therefore, Citizendium must strive to overcome its limit and attract many participants through providing some options. If it could attract many participants and keep the high reliability, its data would be more valuable and might make enormous profits.

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