My favorite Web 2.0 applications

As Sylvie points out, it is difficult to keep track of all of the Web 2.0 applications out there. Maybe it is worth it sharing our favorites?

  • Flickr for finding and sharing pictures. I also like Google’s Picasa Web. I use neither very much. I have used YouTube to share videos however. I think that multimedia sharing sites are here to stay.
  • is not bad for sharing bookmarks, but I think that everyone agrees that it could be better designed. Peter prefers Stumbled Upon. Myself, I could never quite get any bookmarking service to work for me. The reason is simple: I see the action of bookmarking something as an “event”, not as the construction of a list. My set of favorite sites is a stream… not a list! So blogging is better suited for bookmarking. Plus, I like to explain why I like or do not like a certain site. Tagging is not enough.
  • Spresent is not bad as a PowerPoint replacement. It seems odd that Google docs and spreadsheet does not include something like Spresent.
  • Swivel is the best Web 2.0 data browsing site. Do check it out!

It seems there is still plenty of opportunities for Web 2.0 entrepreneurs. But the list of Web 2.0 applications is already quite large. There is no question, in my mind, that the Web is the platform now and for the future. Most companies focusing on desktop applications are missing the boat. The Web can do almost anything. Exceptions include:

  • Non trivial programming. I am not expecting a Web 2.0 site where you can drop your Fortran or C++ code. However, I think that we could see far more programming out there. Why can’t I program in Python live in a Web 2.0 site? And maybe design my own applications? Part of the concern is resource hogging and that’s difficult, but not impossible, to manage. It is odd that Web 2.0 applications are designed on the desktop. Where are the good Web 2.0 text editors and IDEs?
  • Non trivial drawing. Drawing and editing picture is a fancy and memory intensive task. This is not likely to move to the Web for now. However, I am surprised that we do not see more Web 2.0 drawing and image editing tools.
  • Games. Mostly, the Web failed at moving from 2D to 3D so games remain desktop applications. This may change, eventually… especially now that all computers, almost, have fancy graphics cards.

Why doesn’t this surge of Web 2.0 foster more interest for Computer Science? Indeed, just as we are reinventing the software industry, Computer Science is becoming the new Physics. Maybe because there is very little Computer Science (in the strict sense of the term) involved in designing a Web 2.0 application? Another explanation is that the design of a good Web 2.0 is just that, design. The main difficulty is in coming up with an elegant solution to problems. Algorithms, data structures, and so on, must be in the picture, but they are a very minor component of the work. Learning the programming skills is overall not difficult. Designing something beautiful is the whole trick. Also, you have to leverage the social network.

Published by

Daniel Lemire

A computer science professor at the University of Quebec (TELUQ).

4 thoughts on “My favorite Web 2.0 applications”

  1. I agree with the analysis and I think that more and more Web 2.0 applications will boom soon. I would like to invite to try at the global hosted operating system which bring a common desktop, file system and sign-in to the Web 2.0 applications.


  2. Thanks for dropping so web2.0 sites, I really enjoyed seeing swivel (somehow I missed that one in my web travels).

    I am in complete agreement with you on the web as a platform thing. Interesting though, your comment about dropping C++ or Fortran for running on the web. That’s actually kind of a neat idea. There is already a psuedo ruby environment on the web, of course it is a tutorial program, and most likely doesn’t really let you “run” ruby in the browser, but you saying it just might make someone go do it. I would try to make it work if I had the time.

    As to the drawing and gaming, I really think it is just a matter of the browser software doing better at handling more graphically random or complex things.

    I made the decision to go into Business Computer systems instead of CS when I started college, and I have to say that it has really paid off for me. I would agree that web applications these days are as much design as programming however, I think that “designers” could stand to learn as much about interface design as some highly skilled programmers.

    The reality is, that the farther the computer world progresses, the more discipline crossover happens. It’s no longer strictly programming or business, or art or science. It seems like you have to know a bit of everything to be successful.

  3. Hi Daniel-

    I would request you to visit Cylive ( It combines the functionality of several Web 2.0 sites providing one roof for all your digital treasures – photos, videos, music, bookmarks etc.

    Cylive also lets you personalize the content you share & publish in unique ways – for instance, you can include an audio review of a website you bookmark.

    Further, Cylive lets you collaborate with friends and family to co-produce digital stuff.

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