John McCrory

everything interesting

Web 2.0 is as much about usability as sharing

Recently I was marveling to a colleague about how easy it was upgrading from an 8-year-old iMac to a new iMac. Just a few clicks and in less than one hour, my old computer, with all my configurations and settings, was up and running on my new computer. I didn’t have to learn anything new. I didn’t lose any of my data. The desktop looked the same (but bigger) I could continue to use my new computer just like it was my old computer.¬† It was much faster, had some nice new software, and wasn’t shutting down suddenly every few hours, but otherwise, it was as if I hadn’t upgraded at all. Furthermore, I hadn’t had to rely on any of the knowledge I’d accumulated in 25 years of experience with computers.

The same upgrade 8 years ago would not have been so seamless, especially if the previous machine had been 8 years old — from 1993. In fact, I had a circa 1992 Macintosh Centris at the time of that upgrade, and I remember cumbersomely transferring all my files on Zip disks… and then having to learn an entirely new operating system. Previous to that I had a 1989 Macintosh Plus, previous to which I had a mid-1980s Apple IIe. The files I created on the Mac Plus are on my current compuuer, but the files from the Apple IIe never made it to the Mac Plus.

The point of all this is to say that there has been a sea-change in usability. When I think about what makes Web 2.0 technologies different from what came before, the salient feature is actually the usability. The key is: You don’t need to be a computer person or a programmer to use Web 2.0 software. They are designed with average folks in mind, people who aren’t computer experts.

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