Thursday, September 13, 2007

Trigger of Transition, A View of Web Evolution, series No. 7

(revised May. 25, 2008)

Until now, we have discussed the methodology of evaluating the progress of Web evolution. At this post we start to address another critical issue of Web evolution, why does a Web-evolution stage suddenly start to transit towards an upper level stage? More formally, we are going to study the mechanism underneath the quality upgrade in the progress of Web evolution.

Corollary 4: a stage transition of Web evolution is caused by unbounded quantitative accumulation of Web resources with the quality of the old stage.

Based on the Postulate 1, we can immediately drive to this corollary.

The contradiction between unbounded quantitative accumulation of web resources and limited resource-operating mechanism at the meantime is the primary contradiction of Web evolution. We will discuss the details of resource-operating mechanism in the next installment. Right now please simply think of resource-operating mechanism to be a mechanism that operates Web resources.

When the current Web can no longer efficiently process the greater and greater number of Web resources with the current quality, we have to upgrade the quality of Web resource so that they can be more productive, more initiative, and less vulnerable. Hence we need to have a new resource-operating mechanism to deal with the new-quality resources. This is thus the trigger of a stage transition in Web evolution.

Example: from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0

The evolutionary transition from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 is an evidence of this corollary. The transition was triggered by the rapid expansion of 1.0-quality resources on the Web. On Web 1.0, web publishers continuously added new resources into the Web. Before the dot-com bubble, the speed of adding new resource onto the Web had been so rapidly that the Web-resource-operating mechanism at the meantime could no longer efficiently manage the newly added resources. Many new Web companies had produced useful resource (as they might think) to the public and it was impossible for the public to effectively consume these resources with such a quality using the technology at the meantime. This is a fundamental reason beneath the dot-com bubble and it showed that the chance of an evolutionary transition on the Web had been mature. The Web must have such a transition to maintain its continuous progress. By this mean, we have Web 2.0 after the dot-com bubble.

At the technological level, let's watch in details what really had happened at the meantime. When there were more and more 1.0-quality resources available on the Web, the average quantity of Web resources within a single web page also increased gradually. This phenomenon was reasonable because people do want to contain more interesting stuffs in their pages. When readers were enjoying richer content on web pages, however, a pain was grown stably as well. Page refreshing became a more an more annoying issue. In tradition, the entire content of a Web page would be reloaded simultaneously whenever the page was refreshing. The page-refreshing time was nearly in proportion to the quantity of resources in a page at the meantime. Hence we could expect that the richer and the more diversity the content was, the longer a page-refreshing takes. At the same time, however, many page readers might only be interested in refreshing a tiny portion of a huge page. This page-refreshing issue gradually became the crucial issue that prevented the Web from evolving forward. This was thus the particular technological trigger that led the transition from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0.

To solve the addressed problem, Web developers implemented a new resource-operating mechanism, which was eventually named AJAX. We are going to discuss how AJAX solved the problem in the next installment. But due to AJAX, many Web-2.0 quality Web resources started to prevail. These 2.0-quality Web resources could not be popular before AJAX because they were too costly to be managed by the old 1.0 Web-resource-operating mechanism. The invention of AJAX finally led to the second flourishing time of World Wide Web after the time before the dot-com bubble. This new age is well known to be the Web-2.0 era.

But AJAX is certainly not our ultimate answer to Web evolution. The quantity of 2.0-quality resources is going to increase unbounded as it has done before with respect to the 1.0-quality resources. At this time, AJAX may not solve the problem again because itself becomes an old representative. To the end, this primary contradiction we mentioned at the beginning of this installment is the main driving power of Web evolution. The Web evolves because such a contradiction always exist and it exists continuously into a higher level.

The next: Beginning of a Stage Transition

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