Zeldman Snorts Ajax and Hits Web 3.0

Leave it to Zeldman to cut Web 2.0 hype to the bone. I relish the bite and fury of the words (plus the beautiful, elegant, Web Standard layout of A List Apart):

To you who are toiling over an AJAX- and Ruby-powered social software product, good luck, God bless, and have fun. Remember that 20 other people are working on the same idea. So keep it simple, and ship it before they do, and maintain your sense of humor whether you get rich or go broke. Especially if you get rich. Nothing is more unsightly than a solemn multi-millionaire.

To you who feel like failures because you spent last year honing your web skills and serving clients, or running a business, or perhaps publishing content, you are special and lovely, so hold that pretty head high, and never let them see the tears.

As for me, I’m cutting out the middleman and jumping right to Web 3.0. Why wait?

If I read between the yummy sarcastic lines, Zeldman’s seeing a bit of dot-com bubble euphoria. It’s not at all that what is being created is bad or not worthy, much to the contrary:

Well, there are several good things, it seems to me.

Some small teams of sharp people””people who once, perhaps, worked for those with dimmer visions””are now following their own muses and designing smart web applications. Products like Flickr and Basecamp are fun and well-made and easy to use.

That may not sound like much. But ours is a medium in which, more often than not, big teams have slowly and expensively labored to produce overly complex web applications whose usability was near nil on behalf of clients with at best vague goals. The realization that small, self-directed teams powered by Pareto’s Principle can quickly create sleeker stuff that works better is not merely bracing but dynamic. As 100 garage bands sprang from every Velvet Underground record sold, so the realization that one small team can make good prompts 100 others to try.

The best and most famous of these new web products (i.e. the two I just mentioned) foster community and collaboration, offering new or improved modes of personal and business interaction. By virtue of their virtues, they own their categories, which is good for the creators, because they get paid.

I add emphasis there on the “best and most famous”. Zeldman is in awe of flickr, and, like myself, seems even humbled by their technology (now that is scary) and the continual discovery of hidden flickr-ness gems.

How does that same quote go for educational applications? Are our mainstays the ones where “big teams have slowly and expensively labored to produce overly complex web applications whose usability was near nil on behalf of clients with at best vague goals”? Do the “best and most famous” of new educational apps “foster community and collaboration, offering new or improved modes of personal and business [or learning] interaction”?

And what I was privately musing under by subconscious is wondering if the new wave of success stories involve small groups of motivated, self funded geeks, exploding a new, novel app, in rapid fashion, get it on a fast meme trail, and then hope it has enough momentum to be scooped up for megabucks by YahooGoogle? Is that bad or even matter? Is that the path for Writely, which after just a few forays, I think is in the same insanely great category as flickr (and fortunately did not get cute by domain-ing themselves as wri.te.ly).

I started writing this thinking I would end up with a point or a conclusion. I put Zeldman’s writing in the category of those movies you are just not sure what you liked about them (or even fully understood), but are truly worthy because they get you talking, thinking, and re-analyzing long after you’ve left the theater.

Heck, I might reach for Web 5.0.

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Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. Think “reusable learning objects” relative to the hype of “Web 2.0” and bubbles. Solutions in search of problems — or, a way for a few to (attempt) to out-cool others.

    Whatever… yawn….

  2. Alan,

    You’re dead on man. Rock-n-roll needed an Elvis. Ever been to Game Developers Conference? The Game Design Challenge session, featuring people like Will Wright and Raph Koster and Sid Meir are standing room only with people just wanting to catch a glimpse of these minds in action.

    I look at sites like flickr and del.icio.us and even Typepad (anathema to a WordPress man I’m sure) and I’m stunned – not because I rapidly and clearly see the immediate corporate/orgainzational application of these things to the learning world but because they are slick and cool and shiny and work – and we don’t have a lot of that in our learning world.

    Why is something as integral as learning is to every human being so utterly without cool or swagger and the code to back it up? We’ve thought about micro-content but what about micro-applications? Where are the cool learning widgets? Yes, I’m saying cool alot because the ugly truth is that cool matters. That doesn’t mean graphics or sound but that it so snugly fits the bill you can’t believe it. Craig’s List is damn cool. It fits the bill.

    Frag it all…let’s go for 5.0!

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