by Frederick Townes

The Web 2.0 movement has arrived and things are going to be changing quickly in the months and years ahead. Site designers have already plugged into the 2.0 matrix, but will your hosting services be up to the task?

Web 2.0 and You

Web 2.0 features are zipping across cyberspace like laser-guided missiles. The 2.0 concept may be fresh; or maybe not. That debate is still in full swing at webmaster meeting places, with many digi-pundits loudly proclaiming that we’re already on to version Web 3.0 or 4.0 or 8.0. Talk about splitting hairs!

The fact is, regardless of what you call it, the web is changing at the speed of human imagination. In the good old days (pre-2004), the web was a ‘place’ where people went to do stuff. You shopped, researched arcane facts in nanoseconds and shared your thoughts in chat rooms. You logged on to perform a task. Plain, simple, understandable.

Then along comes the concept of Web 2.0 and web hosts and site owners are looking at a very different on-line dynamic. Today, people don’t just log on to passively read, buy or share. They want to be a part of it. And they are.

Think about it. In the past, a few million web sites were interactive to the extent that you could click through pages and maybe leave a comment on a chat board. But that’s no longer the case. Today, everybody can own a little bit of digital turf. For example, the blogosphere is expanding at light speed. Blogs and forums are showing up on more and more sites. The new revolution, Web 2.0, is here and things will never be the same.

What Web Hosts and Site Owners Must Know About Web 2.0

In the past, content was developed by copy writers and distributed through web sites to end users. Each site was a self-contained, little unit with a few links to similar sites. Those few delivered content to the many.

Today, content is created by anyone with a computer and a dial-up modem. It’s no longer site owners and SEO hacks developing web content. So, what does this mean to you as a host or consumer of hosting services?

Well, because the sources of on-line information have expanded, there’s a lot more data out there, which needs to be stored and made accessible. (We’re going to need a bigger hard drive). Furthermore, increased storage capacity is a given. Lots of it.

Increased bandwidth will also become crucial. As content is developed from an expanding pool of sources, it will be remixed, repackaged and distributed in new ways. RSS is a perfect example. Distributing content through RSS technology means that data is no longer static. It moves. And readers move with it.

So, a reader finds a blog entry of interest with a link back to the origin site. In the Web 2.0 world, content is often accessed far from its origination domain. That means there are more web users on the move to track down the source of the blog entry, RSS (really simple syndication) feed or API (application programming interface). Now, multiply this by a million times a second and suddenly, the need for a larger door becomes plainly evident. We must have more bandwidth!

And what about the personalized delivery of content to millions of users? It used to be that a politics junkie had to visit his ten favorite sites to see what was new. Now, in the age of Web 2.0, content can be selected by the user from numerous different sites and delivered to his or her RSS reader each morning. It’s a real time saver for the user and site owners love it because it provides a new means to distribute and gather fresh content.

A web host, however, is looking at ever-increasing bandwidth needs, which ultimately will lead to higher rates for site owners (subscribers). And some of those subscribers are going to bail when their monthly hosting fees double. That’s why astute hosts are paving the way by offering new services and new client options. Sliding scale, a la carte hosting features and fees, will become more common and more diverse.

Web 2.0 Software Are You Ready For The Unknown?

If you don’t stay current on issues impacting hosting companies, you won’t be in business for long. You have to deliver the latest  right now. The problem is, the latest has yet to be created in many sectors.

Really Simple Syndication (RSS) technology, again, provides the perfect example. RSS actually covers several formats of content distribution, but compatibility issues are present. Clearly, the solution is to develop uniform standards for RSS aggregators and for the distribution of all RSS-delivered content. What those standards will be is unsettled (though that’s likely to change quickly). However, any web host or site owner must be ready to adapt to all the Web 2.0 tools that will be developed to handle this expected tsunami of metadata.

Extreme Trust Does It Threaten Your Functionality?

In the static days of Web 1.0, you could access a bunch of on-line encyclopedias and download an article for your as homework. The content was developed by a relatively small pool of authors and experts and it didn’t change. It wasn’t dynamic.

However, today, a site such as is being built on the concept of extreme trust.Wikipedia is written daily by volunteer contributors and revised by those who read the original submission. So, for example, a nurse could submit an entry on a specific type of surgical procedure that would be posted with the caveat that the content hadn’t been verified. Still, it was there to be read.

T hen, along comes a brain surgeon. He makes a couple of revisions and adds a little more technical data. The surgeon’s name is then added to an expanding list of contributors and editors. And the original article is refined a bit further.
The result is something called “social information” a concept that brings together the collective knowledge of all web users to develop a dynamic, ever-expanding base of metadata.

However, there have been problems. In one case, a contributor submitted an entry that tied a prominent government official to the Kennedy assassination. And though the error was caught and the article was removed, it points out the inherent dangers in relying on extreme trust.

Over time, the ability to access and alter content housed on a host server or web site may create problems. With over 200 viruses introduced each week, how long will it take the black hats to turn extreme trust to their advantage? And what does that mean for web hosts and site owners? Certainly, a top down analysis is a worthy consideration.

Selling Web 2.0 Services

Get a jump on client needs and demands by delivering the services that the Web 2.0 e-commerce community will expect:

Diversity and Compatibility
The ability to store, manage and distribute metadata in all formats and to all media (cells, ATMs, digital TV, etc.)

More bandwidth, more services = higher monthly hosting fees.

It has to be functional 24/7/365 as this data mass expands and more users discover the ease of becoming a part of the process.

Host Server Security
Updated regularly and promoted heavily. If you’re a host, you must provide security and accessibility. If you’re a site owner, you want a host that maintains the latest web tools to ensure security and customer participation — a dicey mix, but one that’s already here.

Easier uploads and downloads and more client-activated, client-engineered features. Site owners will have to update sites regularly. No more so-called “evergreen content.” The process should be transparent and easy enough for a simian to understand.

Relevant Site Metrics
It’s not enough to know the number of hits; site owners also want to know who’s getting those RSS feeds. Part of the host’s service upgrade should include improved site metrics.

Those are what savvy site owners want from a hosting service and that’s what they’ll be looking for. They’ll want answers and explanations of how the host currently manages these services and what plans the host has for updates and upgrades.
The impact of Web 2.0 has yet to be felt, but there’s no doubt it’s coming. And it will affect web users, designers and hosting services alike. It will require new web tools and a new skill set on the part of those in the business of constructing and supporting web sites. Web designers and hosts who fail to develop these new skills will be doing themselves a disservice. They’ll also soon discover that the hosting company across town is eating their lunch!

Web technology no longer evolves, it explodes with new uses and features that require the development of new skills, new security and a new way of thinking for web hosts, site designers and, of course, site owners. The web, as a platform on which all users develop connectivity through the mere act of participating, is the next challenge waiting to be met.

This article first appeared here


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