Enough buzzwords for ya?
A long time ago, I remember having a conversation with Tantek Celic about how RSS/tags/etc have started to form a loose taxonomy of information. Tantek calls it the semantic web with a lowercase s. The reason this has so much momentum is because it’s a grassroots effort. Instead of creating a taxonomy the way a librarian would (top down), each person decides how to tag information, and tags tend to coalesce. He later joined Technorati, which just shows how strongly he holds these convictions.
Nowadays, there’s a lot of talk about Web 2.0, web mashups, AJAX, etc., which in my mind are all facets of the same phenomenon: that information and presentation are being separated in ways that allow for novel forms of reuse.
To some extent, this is closely related to service-oriented architectures, except that saying SOA makes it sound like you wear button down shirts, work at a large company with lots of consultants and so forth. Saying “web mashup” sounds like.. well.. the opposite.
Until the recent popularity of AJAX, the architecture of HTML-based Web apps and Flash/Flex based applications was quite different. In old school HTML-based apps, the controller logic and most of the presentation logic resides on the server, and feeds relatively dumb content down to the browser, which means that all the plumbing between the presentation and the back end services was all done behind a curtain.
Now, with AJAX-based apps, the client makes service requests and assembles presentation on the client machine, which is exactly what Flex/Flash-based apps do, and is one of the drivers behind Web remixing, as Jonathan Boutelle pointed out recently.
What would be nice to see at this point is a set of least common denominator interchange formats for common types of data and operations. Will this ever happen? Hard to say. Unlike with tagging, which is driven by the masses, APIs are driven by a few companies. The Flickr API is different from the smugmug API. What would cause that to change?
I think the only way this could change is through grassroots efforts, but I can’t quite picture how that would evolve. Perhaps some guerilla projects by people to write adapters between APIs? The FOAF project is one example of a group trying to standardize how information is represented, although I can’t tell how much progress they have made.
In any case, at the risk of stating the obvious, all this is great for RIAs. The trend of increasing separation between front end presentation behavior and back end services allows RIAs to get in the mix. Applications like Paul Neave’s excellent Flash Earth wouldn’t be possible without it.