Web 2.0: Shifting from “Get Fast” to “Get Massive”

The Web 2.0 will have a large impact on development technology choice. Erlangis the most likely language and development environment to benefit from this trend. The new erlang book will help accelerate this trend as will the ripples in the pond caused by Tim O’reilly’s blog. At ProcessOne we’re well placed to take advantage of this technology having used Erlang to build a massive messaging server.

What we have Learned from the First DotCom Bubble

People that were in the business in 2000 like to speak of the first dotcom bubble. This is a period when we all learned a lot about how to do business on the web with new technologies.

At this time, the main challenge and the ultimate goal was to be first to reach a market. The first dotcom era was about developing faster than the competitors. It was a stressfull and crazy period: We were all closely watching the competition to compare anxiously our progress rates. It was like the end of the world if competitors were doing an announcement a few days before ours.

The explosion of the dotcom bubble reinforced this strange feeling. The companies that had made money from the dotcom period were the ones who managed to sell early. The company that ha reached a niche market first had been the most successfull.

We have to rethink everything in the Web 2.0 era

Two years ago started the second era in the “new economy”. Investors were interested again in web startup companies. Web sites and services were becoming valuable again. Businessmen and development teams that lived the first bubble thought that the same key success factors were going to be the same again. “Develop fast” was their motto. That’s why Ruby and Ruby on Rail became increasingly popular. The people at 37Signals made it popular by showing to the world that you could develop a new service for the web from scratch very quickly. The Ruby on Rail video had shown how to get things done fast.

Get Massive

However, the key factors to succeed in the Web 2.0 are quite different this time. The first bubble had forgotten one small detail. To make a living of free services on the web, you have to get massive. First, you need a lot of users coming to your site. Then you need an infrastructure
that won’t crash when you get a lot of users. Finally you have to work out how to turn this interest into something that earns money, so you can keep the site going.

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This is the heart of the Web 2.0. That’s what people are calling the “social web”. From the user point of view, it is about social collaboration to produce contents, like demonstrated by Wikipedia, YouTube, and many others. From the company point of view it is about getting massive.

Getting massive has many consequences in every part of the company. This means that you need an adequate marketing to attract users and that you need a trully good idea and good product. It is not about being fast but about being able to get users and to keep them. This trend is also deciding in technology choice. It means that you need a technology that can scale to amazing level with a reasonable effort. Companies do not need an enabler for fast development. They need a development environment that allows them to reach the mass with a limited amount of development effort and a reasonably sized hardware platform.

Erlang becomes the key enabler

This is where Erlang enters into play. Erlang is a concurrent language which is users to develop naturally clustered large scale applications. This is one of the only languages today that has been designed to get massive.

Tim O’reilly has published a blog post that shows this trend: Concurrent Programming: Erlang, Haskell…and XSLT. He compares the trend of Ruby and Erlang and this shows that Ruby is not progressing anymore: Ruby website visits are decreasing. On the other hand, there is a rise in visits on Erlang.org webiste. The figures are extracted from Alexa, but from what I can tell the figures are confirmed directly from Erlang.org statistics.

If I am not mistaken, this is only the beginning of the Erlang era. It is very likely that Joe Armstrong new book will play a big part in helping spreading Erlang in the coming months.

Web 2.0 = Get Massive

This is also a trend we can confirm at ProcessOne. Companies are contacting us because they need help to get massive in various area. They want a massive Instant Messaging infrastructure because the social element makes Instant Messaging a needed feature for every Web 2.0 business. We help them by deploying and integrating large scale XMPP-based Instant Messaging server on their domain. They want web sites that can sustain a massive frequentation and we help them facing the load with Erlang technologies, such as Yaws (See the Apache vs Yaws paper). They want massive scale infrastructure and we help them develop the needed pieces of software (load balancer, clustering layer, etc), with Erlang, the massive glue language. They want to check how many users they can sustain and we help them with our Erlang benchmark tool.

In this domain, ProcessOne rules and all we can say now is that we power the massive web :)

In the “massive web” war coming, we are one of the most active ammunition providers. We have exciting times ahead.

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