Interoperability Through Web 2.0
Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 13 December 2010
I recently commented on Martin Hamilton’s blog post on Crowdsourcing Experiment – Institutional Web 2.0 Guidelines“. In addition to the open approach Martin has taken to the development of institutional guidelines on use of Web 2.0 services the other thing that occurred to me was how the interoperability of embedding interactive multimedia objects was achieved.
Interoperability is described in Wikipedia as “a property referring to the ability of diverse systems and organizations to work together“. But how is Martin’s blog post interoperable? The post contains several examples of slideshows created by others which are embedded in the post. In addition to the slides, which are hosted on Slideshare, the post also contains embedded video clips together with an embedded interactive timeline.
How is such interoperability achieved? We often talk about “interoperability through open standards” but in this case that’s not really the case. The slides were probably created in Microsoft PowerPoint and are thus either a proprietary format or in the (open though contentious) OOXML format. But the slides might also have been created using Open Office or made available using PDF. In any case it’s not the format which has allowed the slides to be able to be embedded elsewhere; rather its other standards which allow embedding which are important (e.g. using HTML elements such as IFRAME, OBJECT and EMBED).
It’s also worth noting that applications are needed which implement such interoperability. In Martin’s post he has embedded objects which are hosted in the Slideshare, YouTube and Dipity applications. The ability to be embedded (embeddability?) in other environments may also be dependent on the policies provided by such services. You can normally embed such objects in Web pages, but not necessarily in environment such as WordPress.com (which restricts objects which can be embedded to a number of well-known services such as SlideShare and YouTube). I would be interested to know if popular CMS services have similar limitations on embedding content from Web 2.0 services.
If the original objects which Martin used in his blog post had been simply embedded in their host Web environment, perhaps as a HTML resource, they would not have been easily reused within Martin’s blog. Interoperability is not a simple function of use of open standards; there are other issues, such as market acceptance, which need to be considered. And the open format embedded on a Web page could, ironically, be non-interoperable whereas a proprietary format hosted in a Web 2.0 environment could be widely used elsewhere.
Or to put it another way, shouldn’t we nowadays regard the provision of an HTML page on its own as a way of providing access to multiple devices but restricting use of the resource in other environments? Web 1.0 = publishing but Web 2.0 = reuse.
I’d like to conclude this post by embedding a slideshow in a talk on “So that’s it for it services, or is it?” which I found a few days ago linked to from a timetable for HEWIT event held earlier this year. The slideshow hosted on Slideshare is clearly so much more useful than the PowerPoint file linked to from the HEWIT timetable – and as the HEWIT timetable has the URL http://www.gregynog.ac.uk/HEWIT/ I can’t help but think that the resource could well be overwritten by next year’s timetable, with the Slideshare resource possibly access to the resource for a longer period than the Gregynod Web site