Friday, November 2, 2007

This just in: mashups may be on their way from The Peak of Inflated Expectations to the Trough of Disillusionment

Andy Dornan published an interesting article Monday in Information Week and replicated to internet evolution yesterday. His article was interesting because it went into some detail about whether Web 2.0 techniques (I won’t call them technologies) are ready for widespread use in the business, and he backs it up with some survey data. This has been a popular subject lately, as demonstrated by postings by Hinchcliffe, Baer, and even myself here and here.

I've already responded to Dornan about whether mashups will ever get 'business chops,' (his wording) so I won’t write about it today. Instead, I’d like to talk about some of the findings from the Information Week survey data that were the basis of Dornan's article.

Information Week surveyed 110 respondents about various Web 2.0 issues. First, respondents were asked, “What is Web 2.0”, which is a good question with which to start. 15% said Web 2.0 was a waste of time and bandwidth and 53% said it was an overhyped buzzword. (Multiple selections allowed.) I’m going to assume that the 15% overlapped the 53% and conclude that 38% of respondents believe that while Web 2.0 is an overhyped buzzword, which is true, it isn't a complete waste of time, which is also true.

This is is progress.

In the last year the value of AJAX, wikis, YouTube, blogging and RSS has been demonstrated to business. While more people may be sick of the term, they are also adopting the technologies. Definitely progress. Regarding mashups in particular, after all this is a mashup blog, 54% put browser-based applications under the Web 2.0 umbrella. Of course it would have been better if they had been called by their proper name: presentation mashups. But a year ago I doubt if 54% of respondents would have understood the significance of browser-based applications, mashing at the glass, and how that is different from the old web-based integrations we've been using for years. Again, progress.

The article also says that 40% of respondents thought mashups were a Web 2.0 attraction. At least they thought so in February. The survey results weren’t explained in the article, but I was interested to see that in September the rate dropped to less than 10%. I'm not quite sure I'm reading the correct meaning behind the numbers. I'm assuming they floated two identical surveys. One in February and one in September. This makes sense if you correlate it with Gartner’s Hype Cycle for Portal Ecosystems, 2006. If Gartner’s predictions were correct, we were due for a plummeting hype rating for mashups sometime in 2007. Personally, I hope it’s true because I’m all for the mashup hype calming down so we can roll up our sleeves and get some real work done. I’ve posted enough on this subject that I’ll let it rest for now. While marketing departments want the hype, the rest of us would rather move on to the Plateau of Productivity as soon as possible.

One set of numbers that is a bit more sobering is that over 60% of those asked to cite objections to Web 2.0 said that security was an issue. The high percentages demonstrates that the respondents weren’t stupid. In my mind security is the one problem with SOA, various Web 2.0 technologies in general and mashups in particular, that could stop progress in its tracks. At least for a while. The first time sensitive personal information gets leaked out in a mashup, and the masher is a member of a company with lots of money, we are going to see some serious lawsuits and a lot of backpedaling on the mashup adoption front. It won't stop us forever, but it could stop us for a while if we don't start to take security very seriously.

I’d like to close with some thoughts on the Thompson Financial mashup example cited in the piece. Thompson has been building true business mashups before mashups were cool. In Thompson's view, the business building their own mashups doesn't bring them into conflict with IT. Each does what they do best. IT provides the secure infrastructure, the backups, the servers. Thompson's subject matter experts build the applications. It's definitely a great model for turning the idea of business mashups into the reality of business mashups.

While I've been concentrating on the mashup data from this article, but mashups are by no means all Dornan covers. He discusses Wikis, social networking and other Web 2.0 'issues.' The article is well worth a read, even for those of us on the downward slope from The Peak of Inflated Expectations to the Trough of Disillusionment.

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