Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Beginning of a Stage Transition, A View of Web Evolution, Series No. 8

(revised May. 25, 2008)

In this installment, we start to examine how we may observe a stage transition of Web evolution in the first place.

Corollary 5: the initiative of a stage transition in web evolution can be recognized by a qualitative upgrade of the Web-resource operating mechanism.

People have produced many valuable Web resources on the Web. The Web-resource operating mechanism (WebROM) is the methodology of declaring, displaying, and transmitting particular collections of Web resources on the Web.

In this corollary, a qualitative upgrade means that newly upgraded WebROM is going to effectively and efficiently support Web resources with new quality. Certain quality Web resources can only be effectively consumed by its respective WebROM (or the WebROMs at the higher evolutionary stages), and they can hardly be effectively consumed by the WebROMs at the lower evolutionary stages. I will adjust this claim later in this installment.

WebROM vs. WebOS

The specification of WebROM is different from the often-heard Web operating system (WebOS). The vision of WebOS is on the basis of that the Web as a platform. If the Web is just a platform, we may construct a uniform operating system that can effectively handles global namespaces, Web-wide resource discovery and management, remote process execution, authentication, and security. The execution of any new Web applications could be guided by such a WebOS. It is similar to that any new PC applications could be effectively managed by PC OS such as Microsoft Windows operating system. Certainly the Web development could become much more efficient if we can make such a WebOS be available.

A problem is, however, that the Web is an open world, which fundamentally contradicts to a personal computer environment that is a closed world. In an open world, we generally have no restrictions on duplicated resources or the potential of mixing Web identifiers with varied references. An open world also means a theoretically infinite large space of search. Hence a global (i.e. Web-wide) resource allocation methodology is too expensive (if possible) to achieve. These problems are main obstacles to produce a WebOS.

The vision of WebROM is on a difference basis of that the Web as a society. In a society, we have loose conventions about Web resource allocation and operation. But the detailed implementations of the conventions are open to individuals. For example, in our society we have federal laws that are general conventions of all the members in our society. A specific execution of these laws, however, is often interpreted slightly differently at varied local places due to their particular local condition. In an open world, nobody can predict all circumstance and hence such a flexibility of interpretation is crucial for the stable of society. Based on this analysis, WebROM is only described at the level of methodology comparing to that WebOS is tending to implement at the level of method.

If the Web is a society, which type of a society it is? In general, there are three basic types we could choose to develop our WebROM methodology. It could be a dictating society, a democratic society, or an anarchistic society. Among the three options, a dictating web is too hard to maintain because basically it mean a WebOS. On the other side, an anarchistic web is too difficult to manage since it has too few rules to follow. Therefore, a democratic web is the one we should and could achieve.

The Beginning of Transition from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0

The intention of WebROM at Web 1.0 is to declare and reference various Web resources. In particular, the main implementation of this methodology happens to be the HTML encoding. HTML allows users uniformly declaring various resources onto the Web. Based on this technology, we have produced Web browsers to uniformly displaying the declared Web resources. In addition to HTML, we have also developed auxiliary WebROM methodologies such as PHP and Javascript at Web-1.0 level for the same goal of 1.0-WebROM. But these additional resolutions are not the fundamental.

In comparison, the intention of WebROM at Web 2.0 becomes to efficiently executing various specified Web resources. The main implementation of this methodology happens to be AJAX. Unlike other 1.0-level WebROM implementations such as PHP and JavaScript, the primary purpose of AJAX is not about initiating Web resources. By contrast, it is about initiating Web resources that can be executed independently. This fundamental change of philosophy causes the effective support of newer quality Web resources---the Web-2.0-quality resources. This is why the invention of AJAX is milestone comparing to other ones such as PHP and JavaScript.

To be clearer, we briefly compare the traditional PHP to AJAX and see their difference on the level of WebROM.

PHP is a well-designed computational language that supports dynamic Web pages. PHP helps dynamically access Web resources when there are too many of them on servers. Hence the purpose of PHP was to improve the quantitative management of Web resource. The invention of PHP significantly accelerated the quantitative accumulation of resource on the Web. Based on this recognition, the invention of PHP aggravated the the primary contradiction of Web evolution by allowing faster quantitative accumulation. This philosophical consequence is different from being a transitional trigger of Web evolution.

The invention of AJAX has a complete different philosophical meaning. In the last installment, we mentioned that the direct technological consequence of the primary Web-evolution contradiction at the level of Web 1.0 was typically represented by the page-refreshing problem. To solve this problem, we expect a mechanism that allows computers to execute and only execute the particularly required pieces of resources in a web space while keeping other resources in the same web space untouched. By following this philosophy, AJAX allows Web resources in any single Web space to be transmitted piece-by-piece on the basis of user request. Hence AJAX solves (by contrast to aggravate) the primary contrition of Web evolution at the 1.0 level. This is why the invention of AJAX became the trigger towards Web 2.0.

Another way to demonstrate the AJAX was the trigger of transition from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 is that AJAX has encouraged the prevalence of new-quality Web resources. For instance, before AJAX Web-2.0-quality resources, such as Web widgets, were hard to be prevailed. Web widgets are portable chunks of code that can be installed and executed within any separate HTML-based web page by an end user without requiring additional compilation. In theory, the execution of Web widgets does not necessarily depend on AJAX. Supposing there is no AJAX, however, all Web widgets in the same Web space may have to be reloaded synchronously when every time one of them is asked to update. This execution overloading is the major restriction that Web widget could not be popular on Web 1.0 because their installation could hardly be scaled. AJAX solves the problem and makes Web widget be a standard type of 2.0-quality Web resources.

By these discussions, we can learn that the invention of AJAX indeed represents the initiative of the stage transition from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0.

The next: Essence of Web Evolution


Chetan said...

Can I use the link as an educational reference?

Yihong Ding said...

Sure, you can.

By the way, could you please let me know how you would use this one in your educational activity? Just for my curiosity. You may email me at