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If there has ever been one thing that has confused me since working in and studying Electronic Media…it has been web coding. The whole thought of learning and applying basically a new language, whether HTML, CSS or XML, was really overwhelming. Trying to understand that what I saw in my browser window was much different from what was ‘behind the curtain’. Over time the web has developed rapidly and we are now in the stage of what is known as Web 2.0 which has ushered in this era of open source coding and browsers. Through examining:
- What Web 2.0 and its characteristics
- What is open source coding and who are the players
- How these two concepts work together
We will better understand why open source coding is good for all of us who want to cultivate and establish our internet presence.
U @ Web 2.0?
Through doing my research on open source coding I continuously came across the term Web 2.0, it became almost synonymous, but what is it? Is it something that we can download? Is it the way something functions, or the way it looks? Or is it just a marketing term people use? The truth is that it is a little bit of all that and more. Webopedia has a great definition describing
“Web 2.0 is the term given to describe a second generation of the World Wide Web that is focused on the ability for people to collaborate and share information online. Web 2.0 basically refers to the transition from static HTML Web pages to a more dynamic Web that is more organized and is based on serving Web applications to users.” (Webopedia, Web 2.0)
Most of what we do on the internet today belongs under the Web 2.0 name. Popular activities like Blogs, Social Networking, Podcasting, and RSS feeds all are representative of what the point of Web 2.0 is: which is focused on user centered creation of content that can be easily shared with others in a customizable and interactive manner. In short, Web 2.0 is the new way delivering data in a user friendly and adaptable form. It is very likely if you have Myspace, YouTube account, or are on LinkedIn then you’re very familiar with Web 2.0.
It is key to understand the highly contributing factor to Web 2.0 dominating the internet and that is Open Source Coding. Open source coding, and coding in general, can be easily summarized with
“All software applications are built from source code. The source code is made up of the numerous lines of instructions that programmers write for computers to interpret. These instructions tell a computer what to do and how to do it. We can think of the source code as the blueprint for a program and it may be written in any one of the various programming languages used today.
One of the fundamental differences between open source software and proprietary software is that the source code of open source software must be made freely available with the software. Anyone should be able to download the source code, view it, and alter it as they see fit. With proprietary software, you generally cannot view or edit the source code.” (Wilson, OSS Watch)
So basically what open source does is allows for the user to modify pre-generated code to better fit their needs. Linux came about in the early part of the 90’s and allowed for the user to make adjustments to the source code which allowed for a customizable operating system. Open Source was designed to be part of a joint effort in which the authors of the source code share with modifiers of that source code improving the quality or the product while sharing these results with the other users. Flash forward to Google Chrome, which is a web browser that runs off of Google’s Chromium code, is the prominent player in the realm of open source web browsing. Although the new comer RockMelt is attempting to stake its claim in the open source world.
What is really important is how these two concepts go together to enhance our internet consumption. Web users of today are different from what users were from 1997 or 2002 or even 2007. The developers of Google Chrome described the need for their open source browser and on larger scope Web 2.0 in general with
“For how much the web has evolved, the browsers, as a platform, hasn’t evolved that much. What we are trying to do with Chrome is to make sure the browsers are really evolving along with the web. So the web can evolve to the next level…
… Today, most of what we use on a day to day basis are applications and not web pages.”
Think about what the average 18-30 yr. old M/F demographic uses the internet for: Email, Social Networking, YouTube, and shopping. How many of these things can also be done with an application on a smart phone? All of them. This is the idea behind open source and web 2.0. We move away from going to a website and start running a website’s app. Browsers like Google Chrome and the newer RockMelt are making that transition to consolidation and streamline for their users possible.
I remember when I got my first AOL Instant Messenger Profile at, I guess, age 14 or 15, the ability to establish an identity online and communicate directly was such an impressive thing. Years and years later, we are still trying to do this, myself being included. That is really the driving force behind open source: people want to establish their identity online.
Whether it is Facebook, Myspace, Tumblr, Zanga, Blogspot, YouTube account, Skype or any other… it is all the same. Yes, of course it is about money with advertising dollars and all that, but it is our desire that is being, in a way, exploited. Which doesn’t have to carry negative connotation, if the creators of Google Chrome or RockMelt want to make it easier for me to do the things I want to do online, foremost being maintaining my web presence, I am for that.