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Defining Web 2.0 for the enterprise

I am not very into the “web 2.0” hype but there are some features of “web 2.0” which I am very found of and really believe in. “Web 2.0” has mostly been about simple consumer services. Simple ideas, quick to develop and easy to duplicate. There hasn’t really been much focus on what “web 2.0” features can mean for enterprise software. Scott over at Zimbra has a good post about exactly that and he lists the three key main drivers:

(1) Rich Internet UI via Ajax - Yes, Ajax is really a technique for leveraging Web 1.0 technologies (JavaScript, CSS, HTML, DOM, ...) to build more richly interactive user interfaces that run in the browser (albeit often with Flash/Flex for graphics and animation). Yes, it remains too hard, but the large web properties and software companies are already voting with their feet. (2) Inter-application communications via XML, SOAP, REST, etc. - Of course, Ajax leverages XML for the browser application to server app communications, but this is just a special case of XML for SOA in general. Service-Oriented Architecture for applications has actually been around for decades, but back then we talked about Enterprise JavaBeans, Stored Procedures, CORBA, DCOM, MQSeries, and CICS/IMS transactions. The difference is that with the success of the Internet and Software as a Service, we have hopefully finally achieved critical mass. (3) New technologies for intermixing Ajax and XML like the mash-up and now Ajax Linking and Embedding (ALE). (ALE in particular may prove to be a tipping point in terms of WYSIWYG authoring within the browser, which will allow users to far more easily create rich content for their emails, blogs, Wikis, and so on.) I don't think this category is complete yet, and it may ultimately just devolve into cool tricks for leveraging Web 1.0, Ajax, and XML, but for now I think this is where the Web 2.0 technical action is.

We at 24SevenOffice have been thinking much of the same as well. We are just starting to launch an API which developers can use to access data in the system and create exciting add-ons for our customers. We have a report generator which is REST based and allows users/developers to use external XSLT stylesheets to export data in custom formats and use data into other applications on-demand. We have several mash-ups; integration with “yellow pages” ( in Norway for instantly adding a new company to the CRM-system, show maps (we use Google Maps in the US and GuleSider here in Norway), pull financial and organizational data from various sources to check the financial stability of your customers. We are also currently in the (very early) planning stages with a very interesting integration in our telesales function in the CRM-module. It will give small and medium-sized businesses an opportunity to use and manage calling-lists to new or existing customers in a way that hasn’t been done before.

I am really looking forward to see what can be done with mash-ups and XML/SOAP/REST based API’s between web-applications. This is just the beginning.

Oh, and about the Google Maps integration I developed. I will probably be releasing an open-source version of the script soon. Google Maps is great but it doesn’t offer geocoding. So you have to get the coordinates from another source. After digging through some free but not very user-friendly services I found the excellent Yahoo! developer page which offer a fantastic REST/XML based geocoding service. So what my script does is: 1. Take input parameters about the address. 2. Get geocoding from yahoo!. 3. Display a Google map. All you need is a yahoo! application ID and Google Maps API key.

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Written on 11 April 2006.
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