Websites: The Next Generation

One of the key markers of the next generation of websites is that we are moving from content centric websites to user centric websites. This is where the user interaction extends beyond just finding something in the vast web space.

RSS – Aggregated syndication of content

One new technology that brings content to you is RSS. RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication and is a feed of information from a particular source. As new content is generated from that source website, the recipient receives the latest feed on the next page refresh. You can get RSS feeds from sites such as as Some bloggers provide RSS feeds on their pages.

What this means is that you may find a particular site (or you may find many many sites) that interest you in your many and varied roles in life (as a media strategist, as an art collector, as home owner, as soccer coach etc) and you may choose for these feeds to come through to your personal site to keep track of the things that interest you. From a business perspective, it means you can get dynamic and relevant content fed to your news reader.

Web democracy e.g., flickr, digg

Google search and it’s page rank system is sort of where we started to see web democracy in action. It wasn’t the website designer telling Google what their site was about, it was Google gathering the web community’s opinion about whether the site was important enough to link to.
In the next generation we are seeing a new democratic process arising called “tagging”. Tagging is a form of collaborative bookmarking. So you might read a really good article or blog about the “Skateboard culture” so you tag it on a site like under relevant keywords and the site/article is boosted in it’s importance on (some sites are now adding a convenient link to tag their content).

Flickr operates in a similar fashion for photos. This application takes our burgeoning cache of digital photos and allows us not only to share it with our friends and family but also to store it, and mark it for it’s relevance. Your friend may come along and tag it for relevance to them and can access and use that photo as well.

Context sensitive advertising: Google Adsense, Yahoo Search Marketing

Because so many sites are still looking to earn the advertising dollars, I think we will see banner advertisements and other forms of flashy ads for a while to come. But there is a definite shift in the layout and style of advertising on the web.

Instead of the agency preferred colour-rich, attention grabbing ads, Google and Yahoo Search Marketing have adopted a subtle approach with minimal intrusion and in many cases blended in with the content of the site.

Through heat map eyetracking, research has shown that users tend to consciously avoid advertisements but will often look directly at ads that fit within the aesthetic context of the site.
The other shift is in moving to self-service instead of a labour intensive advertising and billing infrastructure.

Web as a platform for web based application e.g.,

One of the more exciting things for web developers is the emergence of APIs. API stands for Application Programming Interface. What it is, is a set of routines, protocols and tools that can be used to build applications on top of other applications.

An example is the recently release Google Maps. The guys who created google maps have basically come up with a fast, comprehensive tool for mapping. While there have been other tools around for a long time, they have tended to be very slow and required long calls to databases that returned a half way result. Google maps is a click and drag application that uses a new breed technology called AJAX (Asynchronous Javascript and XML) to access and display maps.

What happened after releasing google maps was that many developers started building on top of it to create their own applications. Google released an API to give developers the right tools to do this.

One example is housingmaps that takes two web based applications – Google maps and and comes up with its own application.

Another example is andale which provides a service to help sellers gain an overview of buying patterns better on ebay.

Incorporating user contribution e.g. BitTorrent, ebay, Cloudmark, blogs

One of the most powerful things about the web is the number of people who are participating in it. And some next generation applications have sprung up that harness that people power to build sites where users enhance the performance of their application or content.

BitTorrent is a P2P digital download application that maximizes transfer speed by gathering pieces of the file you want and downloading these pieces simultaneously from people who already have them. This process makes popular and very large files, such as videos and television programs, download much faster than is possible with other protocols

Another example is is ebay with it’s buyer/seller ratings system.

Cloudmark SpamNet is a collabroative spam filtering application that collects information from it’s users on email sources identified as spam. It has a high success rate of spam detection and a low rate of false positives (genuine emails being marked as spam).

Continuous improvement cycles e.g. Google Maps, Flickr

Another marker of the next generation of websites is that there is an acceptance of continuous improvement. Some in the industry have coined the term ‘perpetual beta’ referring to the fact that web based applications are continuously deploying new versions, enhancements and releasing themselves from the old software release cycle that didn’t fit with the speed of the web.


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