On Web 2.0 and Unoriginality Redux

I’ve been feeling very much in the minority this week. First off, Google launched their new Street View. By and large, the tech community seems to love it. Me, I feel very, very uncomfortable that someone can sit at their leisure at their desk, call up a highly detailed photo of the outside of my home, and view it from any number of different angles, all without having to be on the scene. But clearly, I’m missing something, because just about everyone else seems to think it’s uber-cool, or at the very least, slick.

Now, Google is introducing Google Gears, and I am similarly unimpressed. Off-line access to web-based apps is one of the big issues for web-based computing, and it was only a matter of time before someone filled that rather obvious gap. However, solving that problem only brings another one into focus — web based apps don’t have even a remotely comparable feature set as their desktop-based rivals in some rather vital areas. Sure, it’s great that your feed reader will work on an airplane, but Google Docs is not even close to being a good replacement for MS Word.

And this brings me back to some comments I made about Web 2.0 just last month:

What I would really love to see is people spending all that time, talent, and money on solving the problems that have NOT been solved yet. Search technology, for example. We’ve made some big strides in text-based search (although there is still much to do there too), but searching around graphics, video, or audio is lagging far behind. Or if you want to focus on web-based technology, can someone please come up with a cross-platform web conferencing system that doesn’t suck?

Maybe, as with Street View, there’s something to Google Gears that I am just not seeing. Maybe all those big honking piles of desktop code really do need to be replaced with slightly less big honking piles of Ajaxifed XML and JavaScript.

Maybe I need an attitude adjustment, or just a vacation.

Or maybe not. Maybe I’m right, and we need new solutions to new problems much more than we need more solutions to problems that have already been solved.

2 thoughts on “On Web 2.0 and Unoriginality Redux”

  1. Tech is about creating a need, and then providing the answer for it. It’s not necessarily about solving what needs to be solved.

    I don’t think you need an attitude adjustment, though.

  2. I think you’re right that Web 2.0 could be used for improving existing technologies, and to an extent that’s happening with open source efforts.

    However, I think that your definition of Web 2.0 might be different from that commonly used. Web 2.0 usually refers to a platform for user-generated content. Google doesn’t generally do this kind of thing — their technologies are all engineered in-house or acquired from start-ups. The Street View app could have been Web 2.0 if the pictures were submitted by users.

    The Street View thing doesn’t bug me because it’s just a documentation of the view from the middle of the street, and what could be more public than that? I’ll just try to keep my naked jogs out of view of their camera van.

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