Trying to define Web 2.0 is all the rage these days, some people say it is social networking others say it is about interactivity (AJAX). At the end of the day all the definitions are right because the whole point of a new version is the fact that it is new, so defining it as stuff we didn’t do in the 1.0 days is good enough for me. With that being said there are a couple things I’m excited about and they all tend to center around data aggregation. Now aggregation in general can apply to a lot of different things happening on the web, RSS for example is a simple way to help you aggregate your favorite authors or news sources.
Google and Microsoft for example are now aggregating traffic information, they are both using the information in similar ways but with just slightly different twists.
In Google’s case they take the traffic information and let you see what traffic is like on certain days.
Tomorrow I have to head to the airport around 2 o’clock, with this new functionality I can see what the traffic might be like around that time. Now they can’t predict accidents but I like the fact that if I’m in an unfamiliar city with a meeting the next day, I will be able to determine loosely what the traffic might be like.
I say that is pretty cool and some functionality that I’m sure a lot of people that travel will find useful.
Now Microsoft has taken this information and put a slight twist on it. What they do is when you ask for driving directions you can choose for them to factor in live traffic information. So if you are running out the door and are printing out directions it might be able to save you a big headache if it helps you avoid an accident. Now on the flip side of that is the fact that the piece of paper you print out is not magically going to update when you are on the road so if you print out the data the night before and are factoring in live traffic it isn’t going to help you the next day.
Obviously nothing substitutes having gps in the car with a live traffic feed but for you all out there not lucky enough to have that or are not psychic maybe a mix of what Google and Microsoft are doing will help you out. I’m sure ultimately they will start blending functionality so what Google has Microsoft will and vice versa.
Another great example of aggregation is a site called farecast.com, I have been using them for a couple years and it is a great free service. So good that Microsoft bought them a few weeks ago. Here is the cool part about farecast, it will tell you if you are getting a good deal or not. Now you can surf around the net and look for the best deal, you can even use a service like kayak that aggregates a whole bunch of sites together but farecast has a twist. Farecast will study historical trends for the route you are flying and will predict with sometimes fairly hight accuracy if you should wait to buy your ticket or if you should get it right away because the fare is only going to go higher.
For example I flew to Seattle this past March and I knew about the trip a couple month ahead of time, I was able to save a bunch on the ticket because farecast told me to wait. It felt based on the trends that the price will start to decline now I followed the advice and sure enough it went down almost a hundred dollars a fee weeks before the trip.
All of these are great examples of the impact websites can have on our day to day life by helping aggregate and mine all the data that is out there.