Browsers 2.0

Published Date
01 - Jun - 2006
| Last Updated
01 - Jun - 2006
Browsers 2.0
"Four years from now, all the applications you currently use-word processors, games, video editors-will be accessed directly from the browser"

With all the hype surrounding Web 2.0, I want to take a step back and ask the question: what is Web 2.0? Is it a term we use to describe social networking sites like MySpace or Friendster? Does it mean any Web application using AJAX? Is it "just better" than Web 1.0?

I'd like to think of it as a movement-an evolution-in the way users and information interact on the Web. The Web doesn't progress like software from one version number to the next; rather, it evolves organically over time with the introduction of new technologies. Those technologies, like AJAX, help drive the Web's progression from static content to dynamic applications. Those applications-such as Google Maps and Yahoo! MyWeb-in turn create new ways for users to access, share, and shape content.

Today, Web-based applications have the power to tie that content together and merge it with other Web services for convenience, ease of use, or greater functionality. When we started Opera eleven years ago, we envisioned a browser that was a perfect window into the multimedia Web-a world filled with rich video, images and content. But now, as applications have redefined the Web, so too have we redefined the Web browser. Rather than being a window into a largely unchanging world, the browser now serves as a launching platform for applications.

With Opera 9, our newest browser, we've made our own leap into Web applications by creating Widgets. Widgets are small Web applications with a specific function. It might be a simple game or a meta-search application now, but it's easy to picture the day when these are full- featured Web versions of existing desktop applications.

It's also easy to picture the day when the traditional role of the desktop operating system is reduced.

On your computer now, your operating system probably launches almost all your applications. On your computer four years from now, your OS will exist to control a limited set of applications, several system tools, and most importantly, launch your browser. All the applications you currently use-word processors, games, video editors-will be accessed directly from that browser.

Mash-ups are one early example of the beauty of Web-based applications that you will soon access from the browser. By aggregating information from several Web services, these mashups offer a new level of usability and ease for the consumer.

Shopping for a home? You could keep several browser tabs open with several real estate agencies, maps, and other tools. Jumping back and forth could easily and quickly become a nightmare. But if a mashup can bring these tools together-in one place-that convenience gives you an immediate value.

If they can be launched from your browser, applications can go wherever a browser can. For Opera users, this improved accessibility means the browser can launch applications on portable devices such as the Nintendo DS-or on many mobile phones available today.

Extending applications to mobile phones fundamentally improves how consumers interact with the Web. Today, Opera is collaborating with two Norwegian partners-FAST Search and Transfer and Telenor-to bring location-based Web services and applications to mobile phones.

Imagine entering your destination into a Web site. Since the site knows your location, it can tell you not only that the nearest bus stop is 100 metres away, but also that the bus you want arrives in two minutes.

But these innovations won't happen for Opera alone because technologies at the heart of this Web evolution are largely based on open standards. Opera has been a loud and long-standing advocate of open Web standards because they help ensure a level playing field for all participants. And they make it easy for developers to do what they do best-drive the innovation that shapes the Web's continuing evolution.

I've talked a little about the future. But the present excites me, too. Developers working today rely on these technologies to push the boundaries on applications and the Web. The first Web revolution started with a few individuals working into the early hours of the morning to create sites that consumers could use. This revolution is in the same infant stage: developers toiling away on their own or in small groups to create something that has the power to touch millions.

This has always been our goal at Opera from our first days in the offices at Telenor. It still is.

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