2W is a result of the exponentially growing
Web building on itself to move from a Web
of content to a Web of applications.
BY t.V. Raman
fRoM itS incePtion
as a global hypertext system,
the Web has evolved into a universal platform for
deploying loosely coupled distributed applications.
As we move toward the next-generation Web
platform, the bulk of user data and applications
will reside in the network cloud. Ubiquitous access
results from interaction delivered as Web pages
user interfaces. This point in the evolution of the
Web is often called Web 2.0. In predicting what
comes after Web 2.0—what I call 2W, a Web that
encompasses all Web-addressable information—I
go back to the architectural foundations of the Web,
analyze the move to Web 2.0, and look forward to
what might follow.
For most users of the Internet, the Web is
epitomized by the browser, the program they use to log
on to the Web. However, in its essence, the Web, which
is both a lot more and a lot less than the browser, is
built on three components:
URL. A universal means for identifying and addressing content6, 7;
HTTP. A protocol for client-server
HTML. A simple markup language
for communicating hypertext content.
Together, they constitute the global
hypertext system. This decentralized
architecture35 was designed from the
outset to create an environment where
content producers and consumers
come together without everyone having
to use the same server and client. To
participate in the Web revolution, one
needed only to subscribe to the basic
architecture of Web content delivered
via HTTP and addressable via URLs.
This yielded the now well-understood
network effect that continues to produce exponential growth in the amount
of available Web content. In the 1990s,
the browser, a universal lens for viewing the Web, came to occupy center
stage as the Web’s primary interface.
Deploying content to users on multiple
platforms was suddenly a lot simpler;
all one needed to enable universal access was to publish content to the Web.
Note that this access was a direct consequence (by design) of the underlying
Web contract, whereby Web publishers
are isolated from the details of the client software used by their consumers.
As Web browsers began to compete on
features, this began to change in what
became known as the browser wars,
1995–1999 ; browser vendors com-
peted by introducing custom tags into
their particular flavors of HTML. This
was perhaps the first of the many battles that would follow and is remembered today by most Web developers as
the blink and marquee tag era marked
by visual excess.
In 1997, HTML 3. 2 attempted to
ease the life of Web developers by
documenting the existing authoring
practice of the time. HTML 3. 2 was in
turn followed by HTML428 as a baseline markup language for the Web. At
the same time, Cascading Style Sheets
9 were introduced as a means of
separating presentational information (style rules) from Web-page con-
52 CommunICatIons of the aCm | feBRuaRY 2009 | vol. 52 | No. 2