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Is 'The Cloud' the future of Web 2.0?

Web2.0 - the term coined by Tim O'Reilly gained a 100% acceptance in the 2008-2010 period; however the term Web3.0 never found a similar acceptance in Industry or Blogging circles. Of late the term -The Cloud - also referred to as Cloud Computing has gained a lot of popularity. With big and small names calling themselves Cloud Providers - it is the new buzzword for the internet economy.

Web2.0 was the name given to the new breed of 'websites' which came about post the dot com bubble which converted websites from mere information portals into interactive 'services' which could be availed online. Web2.0 websites had interactive (Ajax enabled) user interfaces and provided collaborative platforms. As explained in detail by O'Reilly in this article [http://oreilly.com/lpt/a/6228] - while Web2.0 is a combination of  lot of factors; the key is to harness collective wisdom through use of interactive interfaces and by providing features as services to users.

The Cloud which essentially comprises of 3 models - SaaS (Software as a Service), PaaS (Platform as a Service) and IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) - is an evolution over Web2.0. The SaaS component of the Cloud is same as Web2.0. PaaS and IaaS take the concept of 'service wrapper' around IT resources to the next level. Just like Web2.0 applications presented application features as a Service to users - IaaS presents hardware as a Service to subscribers and PaaS provides a development platform as a service to developers.

Apart from being a simple evolution of Web2.0, the Cloud has also helped widen the target audience for Web Based services. One of the big criticisms of Web2.0 was that while the Web2.0 services /apps were suitable to be used by SME's and individual users - they were not ready for the enterprise. This was mainly because large enterprises have made huge investments in developing IT systems customized for their needs and were not ready to give them up for newfound SaaS offerings. Moreover, there were several concerns over data sovereignty because under SaaS, all your data would be locked in an application hosted with a third party.

While the Cloud does not address all the above concerns in a direct manner - it does take some steps to help reduce the concern. Firstly, organizations who prefer to use their custom applications or versions can host these applications on IaaS platforms such as Azure or AWS to harness the 'service wrapper' potential of the Cloud while retaining their control over the application features, development and maintenance.

Then, there's the concept of Private Cloud - hitherto unheard under the older Web2.0/SaaS model  - which can help address data sovereignty concerns by ensuring that a section of the Cloud is maintained exclusively for an enterprise and hence specific standards around data portability, maintenance and ownership can be specified in the contract so that the enterprise customer's concerns can be addressed.

Finally, while not directly related to the Cloud - the next generation of web applications which are being built also aim to be device independent (especially with advent of HTML5) - this means that you may no more necessarily need a PC/Laptop to gain access to services. You may access them on a tablet or a mobile phone or a TV or even a custom built device. Since many PaaS providers are using the ability of their platforms to create device independent interfaces as a selling point, we may as well credit the Cloud with device independence.

Finally, the term Web3.0 is often related to Semantic Web - however in the past 2 years the concept has shown itself to be more of a chimera than reality - just like space colonies or humanoid robots. I wonder if we will see the IT industry evolve a Web3.0 set of services (though Google's recent Prediction API is a step in that direction).

In the wake of the above, it does look like the train of the Web's evolution which was felt to be heading towards Web3.0 has now changed tracks and is slowly chugging into the Cloud station!

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