October 05, 2004

Web 2.0 is About Making the Internet Useful for Computers?

and Web 1.0 was about making the internet useful for people. ~Jeff Bezos. On stage. At the Web 2.0 conference. Just now.

Wow. My first thought? That's just crazy. I mean, it may be true, and it might make sense in a way, but first this has to be about users, not machines. Though he did show us the very first Amazon site, which he coded himself, with static html. And then the current site. Which he called Web 1.0. And then the new site.

I totally disagree. If Web 1.0 was about making the internet usable for users, I'm stumped. Cause it's not very usable. Ask new users (not the 600 geeks in this room). Amazon, which now and then (depending on the number of tabs they show you) often looks like a cash register, is all a clutter with everything and anything and the kitchen sink showing all. Give us some air please! And then, the interaction to me is not simple. Yes, searching for a book is simple. But other things, if you don't have the exact name they use, aren't so easy. Browsing is okay, but they have all the clutter in there too.

And Web 2.0 is about making the internet easy for machines? Maybe, in the metadata, with feeds and other machine-readable data, but I think the major challenge we face is the the UI (stupid). People are using systems that work fabulously well for engineers that work at internet companies. But not for very many others, except those that submit to their own reconfiguring. (The first rule of making masochistic interfaces is to plan the reconfiguration of the users.)

I think Bezos is wrong, and I hope he's wrong. I hope Web 2.0 is not so much about engineering, but about understanding the human computer interaction, about how to present data people will actually understand, about how to design and build first based on what people need, not what engineers dream up. I mean, they are brilliant, and I have enormous respect for coders and other engineers, but this is about people. People connecting, communicating, finding what they need and sharing it.

Remember the telephone? When it was first deployed, they, the engineers and biz people, thought it would be 90% about users making business calls. You know, to the dentist to make an appointment, or to the mechanic. But immediately, 90% of the calls were personal. People just want to connect with other people. I believe Web 2.0 is about making it possible for people to connect and share and compose information in meaningful ways. The rest is just under-the-hood engineering. Let's leave it there.

Posted by Mary Hodder at October 5, 2004 04:31 PM | TrackBack