What’s in a name? (webware)

Some pals and I (the Enterprise Irregulars) are currently having a heated debate about where new industry terms come from. It all started with Phil Wainewright expressing disdain for the SaaS acronym in his ZDNet blog.

Some think that only a ‘big name’ can popularise a new term, others think that this is an old-fashioned view and that the grass roots can do it through social media.

The word causing the excitement over the past few days is ‘webware’. The earliest mention of it that I can find is in webmonkey in 1999. C|NET launched a blog of the same name on November 7 last year. Recent online articles mentioned by Wainewright have also pumped up the name.

Webware sounds like a useful umbrella term when talking in general about services (applications, data and connections) which can only be delivered through a web-connected computer. More specifically, I think they ought to demand nothing of the user other than a modern browser and (ideally) a broadband connection. This would rule out some modern apps like Google Earth and standalone feed-readers like GreatNews.

We’ve had other naming attempts (Office 2.0, Enterprise 2.0, Web 2.0, blogs, wikis, SaaS et al), and each has gained traction but they either overlap or are subsidiary to the proposed ‘webware’ term.

David Terrar, a SaaS vendor and avid blogger says, "As a SaaS evangelist who constantly has to explain what it means, I agree it’s an ugly term." He’s all for using ‘webware’.

Others suggest that users want to understand, from the term being used, what service or business value is being offered. But "Personal Computer", "wiki", "blog", "motor car", only give the vaguest clues.

Here’s how the C|NET Webware blog explained things when it launched:

There’s a shift underway in how people use computers and the
Internet. Every day more utility is being delivered over the Web. Full
applications can now be run in a browser, accessible from any computer.
Software? It’s no longer required. Software is becoming Webware.

There are different types of Webware.

  • Productivity applications. Microsoft may own the desktop,
    but not the Web. Online, Google has solid productivity apps. And there
    are dozens of upstarts in this market too.
  • Data-driven applications. Many new online services rely
    on real-time data that simply could not be encapsulated into software.
    Examples include Google Maps, Zillow and Farecast.
  • Community services. Webware enables people to network,
    share their lives, and work together. Examples are MySpace, LinkedIn,
    YouTube, and SmartSheet.

Do you think the term could catch on? Do you care? How important is naming anyway?

Are we wasting our Easter breath even having the discussion?
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Getting to grips with new technologies

Helene Blowers at the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County has created a 23-step induction programme into new technologies: Blogs, Photos & Images, Mashups, RSS, Newsreaders, LibraryThing, Search, Tagging, Folksonomies, Web 2.0, Library 2.0, Wikis, Web Applications & Tools, Podcasts, Video, Downloadable audio, including eBooks.

I’ve blogged about it at IWR. If you’re unsure of any of this stuff, dive to the appropriate lesson and enjoy!

Web 2.0 Tower of Babel

I see that, while I was away (very nice thank you), Information World Review put my February column online. In it, I talked about the exciting and useful Web 2.0 stuff that’s taking place at the edge of organisations. I also predicted that, eventually, the best parts will become part of the standard business infrastructure. It’s called "Our web 2.0 freedoms can easily turn into IT chains."

As always, I’m a bit peeved by the delay between writing and online publication – it’s always weeks at the very least. But, in the grand scheme of things, I guess a few weeks don’t matter. It’s just such a contrast with the immediacy of blogging (which I also do, usually on Fridays, for Information World Review).

Sometimes I have to write stuff early to fit my own schedules – one piece I wrote in mid January won’t appear online until early March. When it appears, it may appear derivative because of other coverage of the same topic recently. In the old days, it didn’t matter, everyone knew about paper lead-times.

Now, in these days of electronic leap-frog, I find myself biting my tongue – wanting to engage in the conversations, but unable to because of my commitment to the paper publisher. It pays me for my thinking and writing, and I feel honour bound to keep the collective powder dry.

Anyway, it’s good to be back. It looks as if I will be engaged in some new blogging initiatives very soon and if I think any of it will interest you, I’ll link to it here. For the moment, I’m sticking to the "effective communication" theme for this blog. It seems that most of what interests me is about communication in some form or other, whether it’s writing, teaching or computer-mediated collaboration.

You want software-supported innovation? Read Rod Boothby

I’ve been bumping into Rod Boothby’s Innovation Creators blog with increasing frequency since he started it last October.

He works for one of the big four consultancies and is a powerful advocate of what he calls "Web Office". Other people might call it "Web 2.0" or "Enterprise 2.0". It doesn’t matter. It’s all the new web tools, standards and services which are transforming our production, consumption and inter-personal communication processes.

So is this self-serving waffle from a consultant working for one of the big four consultancies? Or is it a bit more concrete than that?

If you want to understand the potential and dynamics of using modern web-based tools and how they will become part of your life, visit his blog. He articulates this stuff very clearly.