Let’s skip Web 2.0 and go straight to Web 3.0

In the best A List Apart article in years, Jeffrey Zeldman talks about the buzzwording and exploitation of the Web by people who don’t get it. Web 3.0 is a brilliant piece that you must read right away.

I am delighted that I am not alone in being fed up with the hype and the buzzwords that are mentioned too often, in too many places, by too many people who do not know what they are saying and do not care about making the web better. All they care about is publicity and money.

And we, the web professionals, are of course eager to get our share of that money. Greed and lust for fame is making us care less about creating and providing good value to the people who visit the sites we build. We care less about the fundamentals, like accessibility and usability. Sometimes we try to fool ourselves that those extra features and animations are there to enhance usability.

After all, isn’t what all that Ajax goodness (say that when you’re around me and afterwards I may help you pick your teeth up from the floor) is about, right? Right? Sure, we now require JavaScript and only accept visitors who use certain browsers, but that’s how we did it before the previous bubble burst anyway, so who cares, we can do it again.

No page reloads, man! Who cares that visitors can’t bookmark pages or send URLs to their friends, or that search engines can’t spider our content. No page reloads! It’s pretty, it moves, it’s cool baby, so it’s got to be usable! Who cares about usability anyway, as long as it’s cool and what the clients want. And it may get us some attention, money, or both.

The previous couple of paragraphs are an exaggeration. There are obviously those who do things the right way and use the technologies hidden behind the buzzwords to create really good websites. The point I’m making is that we shouldn’t let ourselves be blinded by hype and buzzwords. It’s so easy to fall into that trap.

The advances of standards based web development and the increased awareness of usability and accessibility during the last few years have made it slightly less embarassing to tell somebody you are a web designer or web developer. But only slightly. Let’s not bring back that post dotcom-crash look of pure disgust that letting somebody know your line of profession used to put on people’s faces.

Posted on February 15, 2006 in Usability

Comments

  1. Roger, VERY good read. I have the same feelings as you do. People (mostly those looking for the money) often bypass VERY important parts to the development of a usable and accessible website - all over buzzwords and hype.

    Dont get me wrong, I think that Flash and AJAX have some very cool capabilities - but at this point they eliminate and break too many things to be used soley in a production environment. At best, there better be a fallback method to using these things - but this decision is not often made by someone who CARES about their website.

    The sad part is, clients like the buzzwords too - so its the blind leading the blind. The clients become sheep that developers can sway in any way they like - without really educating them on the ramifications it may have on their website as a whole.

    So - I can say all of that and still keep my teeth. :)

    Peace, Nate

  2. “…Ajax goodness (say that when you’re around me and afterwards I may help you pick your teeth up from the floor)…”

    Do we get to keep our teeth if the words are spoken in a heavily ironic or mocking fashion? Just wondering.

  3. So true, Roger. I hope we’re finally getting past all the crappy usability, and designers and developers will finally start using “Ajax goodness” in appropriate ways. I’ve always been a firm believer just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.

  4. February 15, 2006 by Michael Almond

    I enjoyed this post.

    Passion of any sort is a good thing. Well, I amend that. The term “passion” can be applied to those who love money (“greed”) or violence (“President”); I refer to the lust to improve, make better, and contribute.

    Here’s the thing, I agree with most, if not all, of your statements. There is no doubt in my mind that “Web 2.0” is an astoundingly bad choice to describe a phenomenon that we (“we” being the people who design and develop Web site) are just discovering. It isn’t anything new, except to us.

    I refer to a fundamental and enduring quality of the Web: its use as a social tool.

    There is also quite a bit of hype around this “new” concept of “things social.” Just think of almost any part or service related to what we produce and I’ll bet you someone in the industry has slapped the word “social” on its name.

    However, this is just the beginning of our discovery; in being so, we don’t have a lot of experience or maturity in our understanding of how powerful a tool the Web is and how it might be further used in ways that benefit and change the conditions in which we live. In other words, the human condition.

    The movement is too powerful to let miss-fires like our names “Web 2.0” and “Web Standards” (runner up in the truly horrible category) stop the chance that is inevitable. It’s already started.

    Thanks for letting me voice my opinion.

  5. Hi Roger. Good post - and so true.

    By the time I first heard the terms AJAX and Web 2, I had been using the techniques in eLearning developments for some time, because it was the most appropriate and efficient way to deliver the functionality required by the client; not because it’s the latest buzz word.

    As you (and Zeldman) allude to: the buzz words are the focus of people who want to make quick money by bombarding people with techno-babble, without having any understanding of the how or why, and without a care for the end-user experience.

    For those of us who care about usability and accessibility, these new technologies are another tool in the arsenal to be used when appropriate to deliver effective, usable solutions, and while we the skills, tools and technologies we can use, we have enough pride in our work not to get drawn into the hype at the expense of the usability of the end product. After all, your average end user will not care HOW a product is built, but rather what it can do for them and how effectively it does it. It’s all about the end users experience!

  6. One trend that hasn’t both to my code and many other projects out there is that it stops being dependent on Javascript and starts to work really well in Lynx AND at the same time works faster you don’t have to refresh the page with confusing scrolling on every change and the pages are lighter to load because there are less table tags, spacer gifs and onmouseover-changing-images. It’s all good and getting better.

    BUT, like Zeldman points out, the whole web hasn’t all of a sudden gone from 1.0 to 2.0 overnight. Nothing has changed, just progressed at a steady pace.

  7. AJAX comments forced me to do a complete redesign. Simple is almost always better than complex. I would rather have A+ content and usability than cool effects.

  8. Never mind web 3.0 … I bet web 10.0 will be a belter ;-)

    Seriously though, I do like all the excitement kicking about at the moment with some interesting web apps being released. I am however scared of the mess that could come of it all…

  9. The article is a bit of rant, understandably so, but still. It would be nice to see some guidelines that would help web developers use new technologies appropriately.

    Not everything Ajax is bad … there’s a difference between using Ajax to adjust a star-based rating system and using Ajax to handle all submit data from a form. There’s a difference between using Flash for your banner ads and using it for your main site navigation.

    Like science, the web needs a code of ethics so that eager web developers of today don’t turn into the mad scientists of tomorrow.

  10. Web 2.0?

    It is something P.T. Barnum would be proud of.

    And, Marcel Duchamp already offered the Populace with his “L’air de Paris” (1919) which was an etched pharmaceutical vial filled with Parisian air.

  11. Roger, et al,

    I remember when Jacob Neilson did his “Flash is 99% Bad” thing too, and I’ve worked with enough clients that wanted the “flash” of internet without understanding it; which was probably due to the suit’s misunderstandings more than the client’s but that’s a whole ‘nother kettle of fish.

    So I was wondering if you, or anyone else, would like to explain a few areas where AJAX would be good for?

    Cheers!

  12. My own general rule of thumb (and I could be off, so please feel free to advise otherwise) revolves mostly around the back button issue. If the action involves generating new content that the user can’t link back to/bookmark, don’t do it. But if you’re using it for validation or doing something that the user can’t take back (post a comment or submit a mail form?) then sure, it’s cool. I know that doesn’t take care of all instances, but it helps for me. Just don’t ruin the user’s experience. Make it easier.

  13. Use of hash for will solve that matter in Back/Bookmark issue for some extend.

    But today I believe AJAX is been overused, similar to Flash in late 90’s. Still most of the developers lacks the logic to apply best solution in context of the problem.

  14. Bubble 2.0

  15. February 16, 2006 by alexander

    Sure, there will always be people who make bad use of new technology, but we shouldn’t be afraid of new techonology just because of that.

    I see more use of the web as an application layer were ajax does bring alot of usefulness. What is it that says ajax couldn’t be degradeable? if we have managed to build websites with css that degrade, unobtrusive javascript that degrades why shouldn’t the same webdevelopers also be able to build ajax applications that degrades?

    I think we should be very thankful ajax, it does add alot of power to the web.

  16. While I get your point and agree that there definitely is a hype and bandwagon that people jump on, I don’t care for the notion that everything people make of it has to be necessarily bad.

    No matter the hype, no matter the technology, there will always be a majority out there producing crap or sub-par web sites (at least to begin with), and people who know their trade well who will do a really good job. And this goes for every line of business, it’s not just about web developing.

    It’s like saying, just after you lost your virginity (some guys might disagree here, though…):

    Hey, this wasn’t just all it was cranked up to be

    It will, most likely, not be perfect the first time, but with experience, respect and consideration it can be a wonderful thing.

    Regarding AJAX in particular, it has gotten an enormous focus lately, and with that many people will try it out. I’m definitely with alexander here, AJAX can truly be a great thing, if implemented in a professional way and still taking things like usability and accessibility into consideration. As it happens, I have recently just developed such a kit that targets these criteria as well, but I will not link to it in this comment, with the hope that you will one day mention it as a good example of a recommended AJAX approach. :-)

  17. “Web 1.0 was not disruptive. You understand? Web 2.0 is totally disruptive. You know what XML is? You’ve heard about well-formedness? Okay. So anyway—”

    ROFLOL. that made me snarf coffee all over my keyboard. Good read there, thanks.

    I guess I have been through one too many meetings with these “talkers” but I don’t get angry at them anymore. I usually feel pretty durned good if I can muster the bearing to keep from laughing…

    Off topic @Rodger: any luck with your ISP troubles yet?

  18. February 16, 2006 by Roger Johansson (Author comment)

    Eric: Hehe, yes, irony will save your teeth ;-).

    Regarding good vs. bad use of Ajax - there are most definitely occasions where it can be used well to reduce load times etc. I did mention that in my post:

    There are obviously those who do things the right way and use the technologies hidden behind the buzzwords to create really good websites. The point I’m making is that we shouldn’t let ourselves be blinded by hype and buzzwords.

    I’ll just mention an example where I think Ajax makes sense: I’ve been spending a lot of time lately working on a large community site, and when browsing the other community members you can choose to display members based on criteria like sex and age. Once you have changed the filtering criteria and clicked refresh, Ajax is used to display the result. If your browser does not support Ajax or JavaScript is off, the page reloads with the updated result.

    Simple, but I think it works well.

    Responsible use of advances in technology is to make things better or easier to use for most people without making them harder or impossible to use for some people.

    Robert: I fully agree with you. Obviously my post is not completely clear on that. And I will take a look at ASK once I get reconnected.

    Aaron: No luck with the ISP thing yet. I am currently in limbo.

  19. Aye. I couldn’t agree more. I couldn’t believe it when I heard people excitedly talking about “Web 2.0”.

    Very stupid buzzword that I’m going to ignore. We may as well be on “Web 326.0214” (or more likely an even higher number) considering who much things have changed over the past years - and can you imagine saying that to a client “Well things have changed now Mr. Client and your site needs to be updated to fit into web 43.0191”.

    You just can’t put version numbers on something so vast and varied.

  20. February 16, 2006 by Jon Humphrey

    I’ll just mention an example where I think Ajax makes sense: I’ve been spending a lot of time lately working on a large community site, and when browsing the other community members you can choose to display members based on criteria like sex and age. Once you have changed the filtering criteria and clicked refresh, Ajax is used to display the result. If your browser does not support Ajax or JavaScript is off, the page reloads with the updated result.

    Thank you Roger, this was exactly the kind of example I was looking for, and flows directly with what I feel about the latest trends! I appreciate finding your site, and all the comments and viewpoints I get to read coming here!

    Cheers!

  21. I like the part when you say “Let’s not bring back that post dotcom-crash look of pure disgust that letting somebody know your line of profession used to put on people’s faces.

    Like this post? Digg it or Del.icio.us it.”

    hehehe, Irony, sorry. Talking about web2.0 eh? hehehe.

    Great post, take it easy.

  22. February 16, 2006 by Marc Luzietti

    AJAX r0x0rs my s0x0rs!

    Okay, seriously, it’s very exciting stuff, and like all new things, there is going to be a period of experiementation while we try and figure out for what it’s best used. A big part of the problem is that the main developers for AJAX functions are the regular web developers, who’ve never had much respect for HTML, usability, accessibility, well-formedness, semantics, etc.

    We HTML webmonkeys and designers are the red-headed stepchildren of the coding world. What we consider important, the rest consider trivial. They are interested in doing whatever works in the way they understand best (generaly involving tables). Since they are the ones that generally graudate to become project managers, directors, etc., guess what philosophy rules.

    Still, I’m quite excited about it.

  23. Kinda funny to tell this, but anyway: neither Zeldman nor you say anything about “Web 3.0”

    The Ajax buzz is boring? Ok. But what do you all mean saying “go straight to Web 3.0”? Just the mere joy of the next version number? Don’t you think there should be something new presented instead of Web 2.0 buzz to make this critique valuable?

    Some more thoughts here: http://www.fuga.ru/articles/2006/02/web3.htm

  24. Jeffrey Zeldman talks about the buzzwording and exploitation of the Web by people who don’t get it. Web 3.0 is a brilliant piece that you must read right away.

    Just showing off his writing skill, this article is missing the point too.

    Do articles that we can learn from.

  25. February 19, 2006 by Roger Johansson (Author comment)

    Javier: :-D

    Alexey: Funny you should mention that. I was just looking at this headline myself and thought “Oh, looks like I didn’t mention anything about Web 3.0.” Anyway, giving the web version numbers seems really silly, but Web 2.0 with all the good things and without the hype would be good. A mature web 2.0.

    Johan: Sorry for not making every single article on this site an in-depth tutorial.

  26. February 19, 2006 by Alex McKee

    Bravo! I agree totally.

    I’ve been very worried about the hype. It does indeed mirror the previous bubble and the burst too closely.

    I’m not against Ajax. I’m not against Flash. I think that both of these technologies are superb when used appropriately and backed up with a solution for the visitors that don’t have js enabled or flash installed.

    Your example of Ajax is good one to use, Roger. Another is LiveSearch which if implemented properly doesn’t interfere with the fall back hit return and get a page reload with search results loaded.

    So yes, use the technologies - appropriately. Kick the buzzwords into the gutter!

  27. February 19, 2006 by z0idberg

    Yeah, why do people seem to believe that combining javascript and PHP in a certain way is going to revolutionize the web? I can’t really believe that the future is all about calendars and word processors in your browser. Or, for that matter, desktop environments running in a browser running in a desktop environment. Hasn’t anyone made an AJAX browser yet?

  28. Roger said:

    Once you have changed the filtering criteria and clicked refresh, Ajax is used to display the result. If your browser does not support Ajax or JavaScript is off, the page reloads with the updated result.

    That’s exactly how it should be! Unfortunately, I’ve seen too many examples of AJAX functions that won’t do anything at all if JS is disabled. Forms won’t submit because the action is created purely in JS, etc. Aarrrgghh!

  29. I read the article (nice read btw), then browse the comments, then gets to the bottom of the page where there is a large red banner for Backspace, the #1 Ajax toolkit.

    Oh, the irony.

  30. February 20, 2006 by Daniel

    Ajax is just one part of Web 2.0. Syndication, standardisation, tagging and social navigation is what makes Web 2.0 a bit interesting.

  31. This brings up another point…. The web 2.0 should be dedicated to QA standards. A resource to find best practice(with a smaple suite)and guide lines on W3C recommendations and emerging methods.

  32. Roger, your post is so true…

    Here in Poland I saw blogs with complains that “we don’t talk about Web 2.0 and we can’t make real buzz”. I saw blog created by manager of an advertising company full of buzzwords, cock-and-bull stories and pseudotechnical babbles. Of course all entries are about “magnificent Web 2.0” without single word about usability / accessibility.

    Personally I have enough Web 2.0 (codename “Eternal Beta”) and I would like to see slightly improved Web 2.1 (codename “Final version”), created with user in mind. Maybe one day?

  33. I was joking the other day that it’s easy to spot a Web 2.0 application: if it does flashy little grey-and-yellow fading tricks instead of page reloads, it’s Web 2.0 ;)

    Sure, we now require JavaScript and only accept visitors who use certain browsers, but that’s how we did it before the previous bubble burst anyway, so who cares, we can do it again.

    But, like, dude! It works in Firefox, so it’s ok! (I’ll spare you my full rant on that topic)

    Seriously though, I’ve noticed that people think it’s fine to restrict to a subset of browsers just so long as ‘Firefox works’. People seem to think that’s some kind of get-out-jail-free card.

  34. Web 3.0 will be me introducing Web 4.0. I know it sounds sick, but wait and you will see.

  35. March 5, 2006 by jakub zalewski

    IMO you are missing something. You focused on the javascript reload thing. The main thing of web2.0 is interactive tools and sharing. I know that building no-reload websites would be a nonsense, but visit any of the new online applications and point where you noticed bad usage of technologies.

    “people who do not know what they are saying and do not care about making the web better.”

    uhmmm… not making the web better? I understand that last year was a big boom of web applications and the fact that people thing about money launching them is obvious, yes? Everyone uses the applications/websites which suit to him, and persnally, I never started using so many online tools ever in my life. Why? Because they are the w2 thing? Maybe because they are mentioned on Techcruch? Do I choose the ones that have an ajax toy? No. Because they are useful. web20 != ajax != no_usability Separate that and everything will be cool. Cheers

  36. I admit to giggling when I noticed that your Google ads were promoting the very thing you were ranting against. Web 3.0 Irony …

  37. Web 2.0 does seem to be a bust. Undoubtedly some good tech has come from it, but it’s certainly more spectacle than anything else. I’d say the best part is content sharing and syndication. The bad is that it’s so stereotyped that you almost want to mock it and joke about it.

    Unfortunately it’s really no different from the dotcom bubble and bust from before (well it is, but also has some similarities)… it’s just going to be time to determine whether developers lose trust from investors before or after they go back to what’s really more important (quality design, accessibly and work).

    Good write up.

  38. I’m looking for a new job in web development and it annoys me to find AJAX in the job descriptions and skill requirements. Most of these employers have no idea what AJAX is but they list everything under the sun in their job description.

    The last job interview I had featured an eight page job description. They advertised for AJAX and every web development skill imaginable but the job actually required accounting and mainframe programming experience. They obviously had no need for web development experience at all and they certainly would not be using AJAX in any of their projects.

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