从网页到网络平台 网站开发模式正发生改变

作者: CNET科技资讯网 翻译:李海

10年之前,网络的出现给任何拥有互联网连接的人开启了一扇通向海量信息的大门。现在,公共网站上使用的智能数据技术正在让信息可以满足用户的特定需求。

能够让人们寻找到便宜汽油的Google地图界面就是这种技术的代表。越来越多的独立开发者正在使用网络巨头提供的工具,开发出越来越多的好玩程序,他们的努力令这些网站的内容越来越丰富。

对于网站所有者们来说,这预示着一个巨大的变革,尤其对于那些想迎接Web 2.0时代的人来说更是如此。分析师认为,和以往仅仅将网络看作是一支便利的信息发布工具不同,现在的网络企业需要开始扮演软件公司的角色,他们要去鼓励程序员在自家的平台上开发各种服务。

RedMonk公司的分析师Stephen O’Grady 说:“结果就是,很多聪明的网站经营者开始明白到了软件公司已经明白的东西:要保持你的组织富有创新,你需要开发社区的帮助。社区规模越大,你就越富有创新性。”

通过模仿软件公司的做法,鼓励程序员利用自己网站的数据做文章,网站能够给用户更多的专门服务,同时让自己的产品种类更加的丰富。

大型网站已经在这么做了。比如,Amazon.com三年前就公布了它的“网络服务程序接口”(Web services APIs)。

与此同时,Google和雅虎都已经雇佣了软件行业的高手,比如著名的工程师Adam Bosworth等等。

相当狂野的网络理想

允许个人来使用网络数据做文章已经让网站有了很多的意外惊喜。比如,一名24岁的程序员Adrian Holovaty就利用Google的地图,做了一个 Chicagocrime.org的网站,它能够在地图上显示芝加哥的犯罪事件发生在哪里。

在一家报社任职的Holovaty说,他想给芝加哥的居民提供服务。

另外一个应用利用了Amazon的书籍搜索服务,这个名为BookBurro的网站可以让用户比较书籍的价格。此类网络服务的搭建相当的简单:它不需要让开发人员自己去建造书籍搜索引擎,只需要利用Amazon提供的工具和其它数据来源就可以了。

邀请第三方开发人员为自己的网站进行开发,这种方式就像微软吸引外部的程序员为自己的Windows操作系统开发应用程序一样,它们都创造出了一种健康的商业形态。

比如eBay,已经20%产品清单是由外部程序员开发出来的自动拍卖程序获得的。用户仍然可以使用eBay网站来进行商品搜索,但eBay 程序开发部门的主管Greg Isaacs认为,自动系统能够让卖家的效率更高。Isaacs透露,这种自动系统程序发展很快,其数量已经由 2003年的300个上升到现在的1.8万多个。

随着网站越来越多的公开自己的应用程序接口规范,网站应用开发的热潮已经形成。

今天,XML(可扩展标记语言)协议让数据的访问更加的标准化。很多脚本语言与框架结构(frameworks)也已经变成免费的东西,这些都让个人用户获得了强大的工具帮助。

开端

随着Google和Amazon程序开发模式的成功,一些刚起步的网络公司正在让开发人员参与到自己的核心业务计划当中来。照片分享网站Flickr以及社会网络服务网站43 Things都公布了自己的应用程序接口。

Flickr的用户可以利用专门的工具,通过照片标签(tag)的方式搜索照片。

而3Things鼓励开发者对自己的服务进行定制开发。

所有这些都表明,网络正在经历一次变革。这种变革是网络本质的一种变革。网站不仅仅是一种出版系统,它也在成为可以被编程的东西,就像一台PC的操作系统一样。(编辑:孙莹)

From Web page to Web platform

Published: August 16, 2005, 4:00 AM PDT

By Martin LaMonica
Staff Writer, CNET News.com

What do you get if you cross Google Maps with an online gas-price tracker? A shift in the way the Web works.

The advent of the Web 10 years ago opened up vast banks of information to anyone with an Internet connection. Now, clever programming tricks that use data from public Web sites are letting developers mix up that information to suit consumers’ particular needs.

Cheap Gas, a Google Maps-powered interface, is part of the phenomenon. Dozens of such nifty “mash up” programs, built by independent developers using tools provided by online businesses, provide services beyond those of the base sites.

They also portend big changes for site owners–at least, for those who want to take part in the next stage of the Web, called Web 2.0 by some. Instead of treating the Web just as a handy way to publish information, businesses need to start acting like software companies and encourage programmers to build services on top of their platforms, analysts say.

“The conclusion that many savvy Web presences had is very similar to what software companies have realized with open source: As creative as your organization may be, the community at large will always be more creative,” RedMonk analyst Stephen O’Grady said.

By mimicking software companies and encouraging coders to build upon their data, Web site operators can give consumers more-tailored services–and themselves richer products.

Established Web companies have been onto the idea of wooing developers for some time. Amazon.com, for example, published its Web services APIs, or application programming interfaces, three years ago. Its annual report (see PDF) touts its “seller platform” for letting third-parties sell through its Web site, and it has regular software product releases.

At the same time, Google and Yahoo have been hiring luminaries in the software industry, such as well-known engineer Adam Bosworth, to help define how software services will be delivered over the Web.

Wild, wild Web ideas
Allowing individuals to play with their Web site data has resulted in programs that the companies might never have thought of. For example, Adrian Holovaty, a 24-year-old programmer, built a Web site called Chicagocrime.org that taps into Google Maps to display where crimes occur in Chicago.

Holovaty, whose day job was lead developer at the Lawrence Journal-World newspaper, said he wanted to provide a service to citizens of Chicago, and tackle a fun technical challenge. He spent about 40 hours on the job, spread out over a month of nights and weekends.

Another slick application, which taps into Amazon’s book search service, is BookBurro which lets people compare book prices. This sort of Web service can be constructed pretty quickly: Instead of having to build a book search and e-commerce engine from scratch, one person can create something entirely new by combining Amazon’s tool with other data sources.

Inviting third-party developers to build on top of a company Web site–much the way Microsoft woos outside programmers to its Windows operating system–creates a healthier business, advocates have argued.

eBay, for example, already gets more than 20 percent of its listings via programs created by outsiders to automate the auction giant’s process. People can still use the regular eBay Web site to list items for sale, but the automated system enables sellers to move much higher volumes, said Greg Isaacs, the director of eBay’s developer program. Isaacs noted that the program has mushroomed from 300 participants in 2003 to about 18,000 now.

“In the last two or three years, we’ve really seen working with developers as a competitive advantage,” Isaacs said. “When I have to explain to management the importance of developers, it’s very easy to do.”

Mash-ups like these are emerging because a growing number of Web properties are releasing instructions, or APIs, on how to access their data. With these publicly available APIs–often published in standardized XML protocols–programmers get

the documentation and tools needed to pull data from Web sites and to combine it with another information source to create something new. The effect is to put a great deal of power in the hands of outside individuals and to transform Web sites into programmable machines.

“Every site now is essentially fair game to go in, modify the site, change it, append it, trim it down,” said Jeff Barr, a Web services evangelist at Amazon.

One factor in the burst of creativity is that publicly published APIs obviate the need for two Web properties to negotiate and cooperate in order to share information.

In some cases, though, APIs are not well-documented or accessible, which means that programmers need to do more work. Still, advances in development technology, such as freely available scripting tools, are lowering the skill level required to build Web applications.

Today, the XML-based protocols required to access data are standardized and well known. Scripting languages and frameworks, many of which are available for free, give individuals access to powerful tools.

In addition, a Firefox Web browser add-on, called GreaseMonkey, lets script writers change a Web site’s presentation. Developers are encouraged to share scripts and push the limits of customization.

“The really progressive companies will look at this and say, ‘There must be something valuable in our organization, if developers are willing to reach inside and extract it for themselves. Let’s figure out a way to work with those folks,'” Barr said.

Opening up
With the success of Google and Amazon’s programs before them, some Web start-ups are making developer involvement a central part of their business plan. Photo-sharing site Flickr and social-networking service 43 Things both publish APIs, for example.

In the case of Flickr, which was acquired by Yahoo in March, customers can find specialized tools to search through photos based on tags, or can sign up to get an e-mail notification when a change is made to a Flick page the customer subscribes to.

For its part, 43Things encourages developers to customize its service by giving them fine-grained control over the information the social networking site generates.

This all adds up to a shift in the Web. In effect, the nature of what a site can be has changed. Rather than being part of a publishing system, Web sites are becoming programmable, much like a PC’s operating system.

Still, the experience of Holovaty at Chicagocrime.org indicates how the potential of the Web as a development platform is still in the early days. The GoogleMaps APIs were not fully documented when he started building the application, which created more work for him.

In addition, Holovaty has had to “screen scrape” data from the Chicago Police department Web site, or essentially cut and paste data from the site, since its data is not formatted nicely for third parties. “If the police department’s site gets redesigned, my scraper breaks,” he said.

For some, the programmable Web fulfills some of the long-held promises of the Internet boom. Consumer services, such as Microsoft’s Hailstorm, touted the notion of giving consumers access to their data wherever they are. Business would be able to tap into the Internet “cloud” and procure and combine third-party Web services from a public directory, too.

Amazon’s Barr, for example, sees the e-commerce giant’s embrace of Web services as a sign that that shift to the next generation of the Web is under way–even if it’s only the beginning.

“I don’t think everyone has fully grasped the latent power of this yet,” Barr said. “We’re on the very, very leading edge of seeing this happen.”

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