Web 2.0 champions are too enthusiastic about sharing

Apparently Web 1.0 Web sites have reached their expiry date and must be discarded and replaced with Web 2.0 editions. That’s the way it sounds from reading all of the online press out there; so you IT guys in charge of site development have your work cut out for you. And you better know your AJAX, or you may be discarded and replaced too.

There’s even talk already about a Web 2.0 bubble, where only the fittest of the Web 2.0 companies will survive.

That’s all nonsense, of course, but it’s amazing how many people seem to believe at least some of that is true. There is no Web 2.0, as distinct from a previous generation, so any cry for action is greatly exaggerated. As with other technologies there have simply been a number of incremental, evolutionary steps that have led to a more interesting and hopefully more productive Web experience.

The proliferation of broadband by itself has done wonders (invisibly), and putting more functionality in our browsers and has made way for more dynamic Web-based applications without overloading the infrastructure. That’s progress for sure, but no quantum leap forward.

The other side of this Web 2.0 craze is that everything must be shared. The hype around IM, VoIP, social networking, photo and video sharing, and Internet-based groupware has me believing that no one is getting any work done. How could they? They’re too busy sharing.

To be sure, project teams need to collaborate, and Web-based collaborative apps can facilitate that, but it seems to me that there is a real danger of forcing intrinsically solitary work into group mode. That’s not only counterproductive, it’s downright stupid.

Let’s take the spreadsheet as an example – one of the top few breakthroughs in the history of computing. It put computational programming in the hands of non-programmers, and let programmers get on with more challenging projects.

So, anyone who uses spreadsheets regularly knows that a spreadsheet program can be the counterpart of a craftsman’s toolbox. You select the tools (formulas) you need based on your professional requirements, and build customized tools (macros) to perform more specialized tasks.

As a researcher myself, there is no office productivity app that I use more than Excel. My work would be impossible without my spreadsheets, and they are my primary source of income (through the products I deliver via those calculations).

So, when I see Web 2.0 aficionados proclaiming that the No. 1 advantage of Web-based spreadsheet applications is that they can be shared, I have to say, “Are you out of your mind? Why don’t I give you my online banking codes too, and share my money?”

An exaggeration, perhaps, but I believe that the current obsession with sharing for sharing’s sake will be detrimental to the so-called Web 2.0. But malware developers will love it. After all, any information you share can and probably will be used against you.

Charles Whaley, PhD. is a Toronto-based IT consultant and market analyst with Infromation Technology Enterprises. cwhaley@ITEnterprises.com

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