Developer/Designer Notes

Difference/Relation between Web 2.0, Ajax and Web Application

Posted by Kiran Mova on April 2, 2007

The blogs are buzzing a lot on the terms Web 2.0, Ajax and Web Applications. And most of the definitions start off saying that they are not new technologies, they have existed for quite sometime now. Why are they surfacing now?

I found the answers from the people who started these terms. Web 2.0 originated from a discussion room of Tim O’Reilly. His explanation of What is Web2.0? is very informative. He explains the below core competencies with good examples of successful websites.

  • Services, not packaged software, with cost-effective scalability
  • Control over unique, hard-to-recreate data sources that get richer as more people use them
  • Trusting users as co-developers
  • Harnessing collective intelligence
  • Leveraging the long tail through customer self-service
  • Software above the level of a single device
  • Lightweight user interfaces, development models, AND business models

Now, is this Web 2.0 an advertisement buzz or is there really something more to it that a developer should be concerned about? The guru of open standards for web – Jeffrey Zeldman, talks about hype around the term in his A List Apart article – Web 3.0

Where does Ajax picture in the Web 2.0 world? Jesse James Garret of Adaptive Path takes a crack at ajax: a new approach to web applications.

How are Web 2.0 and Ajax redefining web applications? Cal Henderson, the lead developer of Flickr, explains in his book Building Scalable Web Sites – “A web application is neither a web site nor an application in the usual desktop-ian sense. A web application sits somewhere between the two, with elements of both.”

He goes on to explain : “With the adaption of Ajax, the defintion of Web Applications is delivering the flexibility (GUI) and Performance of an traditional desktop application with the added advantage of effort-less delivery of applications. (There is no need to install any client software except for the browser.)”

And he concludes by saying : “web applications are systems with a core data set that can be accessed and modified using web pages, with the possibility of other interfaces. And Ajax has provided an interaction model between the web pages and data that doesn’t obstruct the user experience.”

Welcome to Web 2.0 application.

Though each of the articles above say that Web 2.0 and Ajax are not new technologies, but design methodologies, as an old time Web Developer I do see a lot of new technologies emerging or being rewritten or clarified to help implement the web 2.0 core competencies. There are new devices that are getting connected to the Internet which require new way of writing the applications. The W3C technology Stack tries to put these standards into perspective.

Of course the layers on the server side are many and not standardized yet and finding the difference between the various options like the LAMP, Java, Microsoft, Rails,.. seems overwhelming. Hope to tackle about these in the coming days.

Update: In the comments of the article “What is Web 2.0?” I found this link (web 2.0 map) that uses an SVG graph to represent the various terms floating around the context of Web 2.0


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