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Is PHP ready for Web 2.0?

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This post attempts to clarify the confusion about the what is Web 2.0 and why it is an evolution over Web 1.0.

It also discusses whether Web developers and Web site owners are ready to produce Web 2.0 sites and benefit from its potential.

A presentation is made about the features that make the PHPClasses repository a Web 2.0 site since its beginning in 1999.

Several Web 2.0 new features were implemented in the site this month. One of such features consists on a mash-up pages that integrate with Google Maps to show where are the local PHP user groups registered in the site.

Finally, a couple of proposals are presented about ideas to follow to evolve towards Web 3.0 .

Loaded Article
This month I would like to announce several new features of the PHPClasses site. Since some of the features are related to what is being called now the Web 2.0, I thought it would be good to talk bit about this first.


* What the heck is Web 2.0?

* My Web 2.0 definition

* If this is Web 2.0, what is Web 1.0?
- Users cannot participate
- Financially unrealistic

* Is PHP ready for the Web 2.0 ?

* PHPClasses site is on the Web 2.0 since 1999

* New Web 2.0 features on the PHPClasses site
- Social bookmarking and community moderated news
- Comment book reviews
- See the PHP user groups on the world map

* If this is Web 2.0, what can we hope for Web 3.0 ?
- Web for off-site users
- Web site users can make money too
- Other ideas from the site users

* What the heck is Web 2.0?

Every Web developer seems to be talking more and more about Web 2.0. It is definitely the buzzword of the moment.

Most people seem to have an opinion about it, but when you ask what is Web 2.0, there seems be a great difficulty to provide a clear definition. It seems to be is easier to point examples of sites to have Web 2.0 symptoms.

If you do not know what is Web 2.0, you do not need to wonder too much about it. Just search for Web 2.0 on Google . The first results point to a blog post by Tim O'Reilly, on which he attempts to clarify what is the meaning of the Web 2.0 buzzword. Tim O'Reilly is the person to credit for inventing the expression in 2003.

This is a long article. You may want to bookmark it to read it when you have more time, or better "tag it in a social bookmarking site", which is a more Web 2.0 way of doing things. ;-) ...

* My Web 2.0 definition

If you expect and simple and clear explanation about what is Web 2.0, this Tim O'Reilly post might not be the right article to read. So, let me try to provide a simpler definition.

Web 2.0 is an evolution of the Web 1.0 sites with content produced only by their owners. On Web 2.0 sites, the users can become relevant by providing useful information and services to the other site users.

Maybe I have oversimplified it bit, but I think that is shortest and clearer definition that I could come.

So Web 2.0 is not AJAX, not social bookmarking, not community content moderation, mash-ups, not targeted advertising, etc.. Those are just means to reach the main goal, which is to let any user become relevant and be a potential site contributor.

I guess this is why there is so much confusion about what is and what is not a Web 2.0 site. People seem to confuse the means with the goal of Web 2.0 . For instance a site that uses AJAX is not necessarily adherent to Web 2.0 .

AJAX can be used to make sites more interactive. That can motivate more users to contribute to the site, but one thing does not necessarily lead to the other.

The bottom line is that Web 2.0 is not about the technology that you use in a site, but rather how it can be used to let the site users become relevant and add value to the sites.

* If this is Web 2.0, what is Web 1.0?

As I mentioned, Web 2.0 is an evolution from something that we can call Web 1.0 .

- Users cannot participate

In the Web 1.0 the sites are made of pages with predefined content. The content is posted by the site owners or otherwise by a restricted group of people . The ordinary site users can not participate.

Those are typically unidirectional sites. This is a reminiscence of the traditional media based on television, radio and newspapers. Many traditional media owners do not understand the opportunities they are wasting for not letting the users participate.

Television, radio and newspapers are indeed unidirectional, but the Internet can be used for bidirectional participation (from the site to the users and from the users to the site) if the owners open their minds and envision the opportunities.

Sometimes, even something as simple as allowing the users to post comments to news articles, would be a great improvement. It would raise the interest of the users that could become relevant by sharing their opinions or even making corrections to the news articles that are inaccurate.

Still, even well known news sites like CNN have their minds stuck in the past. You simply cannot comment their news articles if you would like to. Comment abuse can be avoided with a registration requirement and private moderation. That should not be an excuse for not letting the users participate.

- Financially unrealistic

The end of the dot-com bubble is marked by the bankruptcy of many Web 1.0 companies . The lack of commitment to work on a profitable activity was the main reason for failure.

Providing sites that let the users become relevant does not guarantee the survival of a site as a business. Web 2.0 sites may also fail to survive if there is not a realistic business plan .

For instance, Orkut is a Web 2.0 site. However, it does not make money (directly). It just consume bandwidth, server machines and developers time. There is no advertising. It just survives because it is backed by Google.

All the other social networking sites like Orkut that are not focused on generating revenue and are not backed by a company with big pockets will obviously die, just like in the dot-com era. There are no miracles.

The problem of many sites that did not survive was that they just provided free content or free services. Some relied on advertising revenue to make up for the costs of hosting and paying their staff.

In the past the advertising models were weak. They were not focused on the site users. They were focused on just selling banner impressions, another reminiscence of the traditional media. They did not care if the business of the advertisers was gaining anything with the advertising investment. Greed does not last.

Just showing arbitrary ads on the pages, does not work either. The advertising must be relevant to the site users. That way they become interested in the advertiser products or services. Otherwise, soon or later businesses stop advertising for the lack of results.

Furthermore, advertising must be displayed on page spots that the users notice. If the users do not notice the ads, they do not become interested. This is the main reason why the CPM model (pay per banner view) was in great part replaced by the CPC model (pay per click).

In the CPC model, advertisers only pay for the number of users that are lead to their sites. If the users go to the advertisers sites and that does not lead to many sales, that is a problem with the advertisers sites that they must fix.

This is why many Web site publishers like the Google AdSense program. It made possible to present advertising targeted to the site content and generate reasonable revenue on a steady basis.

The PHPClasses site is one of many sites throughout the world that makes significant revenue from Google AdSense.

Of course this only happens because since 2003 the site has been optimizing the placement of the advertising to make it more noticeable by the site users.

If you have a site and you are interested about Google AdSense revenue optimization, take a look here for some of the most important tips that the PHPClasses site follows: ...

* Is PHP ready for the Web 2.0 ?

Well, I must confess that this is a title that I used to make this post more interesting to the PHPClasses site users.

The real question is not whether PHP is ready for the Web 2.0 . As I mentioned, above, technology is just a means to reach the goal of letting the users become more relevant to the sites. So, it does not matter whether you use PHP, RubyOnRails, Java, .NET or whatever is the platform that is being hyped at the moment.

The real question is: are the Web developers and Web site owners ready for the Web 2.0 ? Clarifying this issue is my main goal with this article.

Web developers often just do what the Web site owners tell them to develop. That is fine as long as the sites survive and the developers are paid for their work. If the sites do not survive, Web site developers may just loose their jobs.

On the other hand, a proactive developer may make his work more valuable to the Web site owner if he can explain him the importance of evolving to a more sustainable model.

Developing Web 2.0 compliant sites is not enough to keep up a site as a business. However, if a site can attract more users that want to be relevant, the Web 2.0 focus may make the difference between a condemned site and a successful site.

There are many other things that Web developers and Web site owners should be concerned to keep their sites viable. Pleasing their users better, whether they are paying customers or not, is an important detail to keep in mind.

Recently, I posted a review of a business book that addresses these aspects. It is called "Persuade your customers to pay more". Even when you have a site that the users can access for free, you need to have customers that pay your bills and hopefully provide a reasonable profit.

If you have not read this book review already, I strongly encourage you to read it and purchase this book, assuming you are looking for serious advice on what to do to gain more from providing better services to your customers. ...

* PHPClasses site is on the Web 2.0 since 1999

Well, if you agree with my definition of what is Web 2.0, it is not hard to realize that the PHPClasses site is adherent to the Web 2.0 right from when it was started in 1999 .

Initially it was meant to let me publish my own PHP classes of objects, but soon I realized that everybody could benefit for that resource, if any other author could share their classes.

Even if you do not use the classes written by other developers, just having the opportunity to read their code and learn about the approaches used to solve similar problems, it is a great benefit. That is why you can browse the package files without downloading the whole package first.

That was just the beginning. Anybody that wanted to be relevant always had their chance by sharing their work. But the PHPClasses site went further.

How relevant is the work shared by an author? That is a question that many authors (but not necessarily all) are eager to answer.

Since the beginning the PHPClasses site provides means to account the downloads of each class. Since it is very easy for anonymous users to forge downloads, the site requires the users to login before they can download a package.

Some users do not like the login requirement. However this requirement has been crucial to the success of the site. Only with the authentication requirement the site can compute accurate top download charts. If the same user downloads a class multiple times, only the last time is accounted.

This way the site can provide accurate information of which classes have been more relevant than others. The top charts page shows not only the top downloaded classes, but also the top authors that had their classes most downloaded for all time and only on the last week.

Even authors that do not have any top downloaded classes, their ranking position appears in the class pages. So the authors can be informed on how well they are doing.

Although not all authors are sensitive to the exposure they can gain with this, these top charts act as a teaser that motivates each author to contribute with more classes.

This is why the login requirement has been kept forever. Authors that do not agree can lift the login requirement on a file by file basis. So there are options for people with different opinions.

As for the users that refuse to register with the site, the site cannot please them. It is impossible to please everybody. The choice was made from the beginning to please mainly the authors, as they are the ones that actually contribute to the site. They are the ones that provide value to other users that may never contribute anything at all.

This is not all. There are always other things that can be improved to make let the site users become relevant by contributing to the site.

One of the things that was added is the class rating system. It lets uses rate classes according to several technical criteria. Once again, the top rated classes are exposed. Since classes are only ranked if the users rate them, there is also a top reviewers ranking that considers the users that rate more classes accurately.

There are plenty of other features that let each user become more relevant. However, one of the initiatives that had the most impressive results is the PHP Programming Innovation Award.

This is a initiative to motivate the authors to focus on sharing work that provides innovating features or implement innovating approaches to solve well known problems.

This initiative was meant to fight a problem with the fact that many authors were contributing classes with solutions for the same problems solved by tens of other classes. It is the problem of having more of the same.

The compensation for innovating authors is to get prizes for sponsor companies that develop products of interest to PHP developers. This has been perfect. The users get prizes from sponsors, sponsors get free advertising from the site, and the site gets better contributions.

Since the initiative was started in March 2004, tens of authors have been awarded. The average level of the contributions has increased significantly. Once again it pays to give the users opportunities to become more relevant.

* New Web 2.0 features on the PHPClasses site

This month several new features have been implemented to let the users become more relevant.

- Social bookmarking and community moderated news

Now you may notice in the pages of classes and articles two links in the navigation bar to the sites and .

If you do not know these sites they are respectively for social bookmarking and community moderated news publishing. These are concepts often associated to Web 2.0 sites.

Social bookmarking sites like allows you to keep track of your bookmarks to pages of sites of your interest. This way you can easily share your bookmarks, associate them to topic tags and easily find other links to pages about your interests.

If you find a class or an article that is very interesting for you, just click on the link that says "Bookmark on".

Community moderated news is another interesting way to find news articles relevant to topics of your interest. Everybody can post news articles. They are only posted in the front page when they get enough positive votes.

One of the most famous community moderated news sites is . Now there is also a link in the article pages to help you submit an article about them to, if you feel it is relevant.

Just click on the link that says "Submit story to Digg". If there is article there about the same story, you can help it making the front page by adding a "digg" which is a positive vote.

- Comment book reviews

The forum system was extended to accept comments about book reviews posted on the site, similarly to what was done with the class specific forums and blog post comment forums.

If you want to post a comment about a review published in the site, please do not hesitate. There are also links to and on review pages. ...

- See the PHP user groups on the world map

As you may be aware, the PHPClasses site keeps a section dedicated to advertise PHP user groups. This is a initiative for which the site does not get any revenue, but I feel it is very important to foster the growth of the local PHP developer communities world wide.

Since April 2004, when you login in the PHPClasses site, the site can show you the local user groups that registered in the site as announced here: ...
As you may notice, now this feature was been enhanced to also show a map to let you see where the local user groups are in your country.

A list of all countries with active user groups is available here:

If you are a member of a local PHP user group that is not listed in the site, please submit it here. This page presents a form that lets you specify the location your user group by searching in the GeoNames service or simply by clicking your group location on the map. ...

This map was presented using the Google Maps API service. Sites that integrate with content or services of other sites like Google Maps are usually called mash-ups in the Web 2.0 jargon.

To simplify the development of this and other features that will be used to integrate with the Google Maps service, I have developed a plug-in for my forms generation class.

This plug-in that can render Google Maps in any PHP site. It can also collect the latitude and longitude coordinates of a point clicked on the map. These coordinates can be used later to draw a map with special markers that identify relevant locations, like in the local PHP user groups map pages.

If you would like to use this class with the Google Maps plug-in, you can find it here. It is Open Source too, of course.

Here is a screenshot of the example script page: ...

* If this is Web 2.0, what can we hope for Web 3.0 ?

Well I hope I have provided plenty of useful information about what is Web 2.0 and why it is beneficial for the Web sites and their users.

One last question that may remain is: "If this is Web 2.0, what can we hope for the Web 3.0?" It certainly must be an evolution from what Web 2.0 sites provide. I have a couple of ideas.

- Web for off-site users

One thing that it seems that most Web site owners miss, is that most peoples lives do not revolve around their Web sites. Still, their sites can only be useful when you access them regularly. That is not viable for most people that are too busy or have too many sites to pay attention.

It would be great if sites could learn about the users interests and notify them by e-mail when something relevant happens or is made available.

Some sites have news alerts systems, but what if what you are interested is very specific? For instance, what if an user wants to know about classes that implement AJAX based features? Keep polling the site search pages for that may not be viable.

This is definitely something that I want to implement as a feature for subscribers of the upcoming paid services. I have had plenty of requests for that.

- Web site users can make money too

There are certain things that take time and skills to provide, like interesting in-depth articles or providing consulting on difficult subjects. Doing it for free may not be viable. So, if a Web site can be used to let users provide paid services to others, that would be excellent.

There are some sites that provide that already somehow. So, this is nothing really new. What is probably not very well understood is that businesses may find great opportunities if they provide revenue sharing opportunities based on the Web.

Google AdSense is one of the largest revenue sharing business based completely on the Web. They share advertising revenue with sites that put their ads on behalf of advertisers that pay Google. Everybody gains. This is another reason why Google is so far ahead of their competitors. They are already in Web 3.0 while others are still raging for their new Web 2.0 advances.

It is a matter of focusing on this revenue sharing idea until more businesses realize their potential of capitalization with the Web for everybody's benefit.

- Other ideas from the site users

The PHPClasses site benefited a lot from ideas shared by some of its users. It is not possible to implement all ideas immediately, but if you have more ideas to share, please do not hesitate to post a comment about here so we can discuss about it. This way you can also become relevant.

Manuel Lemos

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5. web 3.0 - sajithmr (2007-06-18 14:47)
Get Ready for web 3.0... - 0 replies
Read the whole comment and replies

3. PHP 2.0 ready - Chris (2006-09-21 19:45)
if ($PHPClasses !== "2.0"){... - 5 replies
Read the whole comment and replies

4. Web 3.0? - john smith (2006-06-06 17:40)
It's just a buzz word and nothing more... - 3 replies
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2. Kinda... - Matt (2006-06-02 18:09)
IMHO you missed a big part of Web 2.0... - 1 reply
Read the whole comment and replies

1. Sure it is - Dominique PERETTI (2006-06-01 14:30)
PHP5 based typical web 2.0 app... - 0 replies
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