Sometimes people ask me why I choose a specific web application for a service than an other available for free. I was unable to find a consistent answer to that. Looking more to the Web 2.0 (you are free to remove the version as I think it's applicable to any web application) services I frequently use gave me some possible tracks/ideas what's a good web service. I tried a lot of web services the past years but I only kept to work with the following :
All the web services listed here have different usage and they cover a large scope of use. But I choose them for some common reasons :
- The ability to extract and backup your data entered (or more) from the web services. For me, it's the minimal requirements for a web service, if you push information to them you want to get it back. For example, LibraryThing is giving you back more information. For any ISBN you entered, you can get back the complete information about the book. For you (as a user), the cost of entering information is low (just an ISBN) but you can get back more (a full CSV file of your library). A good deal for the user and not only for the web service provider.
- A collateral point is the support of feed format export (like RSS/RDF, Atom or OPML). To import your data in your own and private application. That's well supported by the 4 web services listed. For example in flickr, the ability to get an RSS feed of the photos per group is nice for building topic oriented application (e.g. a slideshow mixing the tagging from another service). I'm sure that more will come with the increasing use of information feeds.
- A simple and clean interface. A lot of the web services I used improved their situation about usability (I think the term is covering more than just the efficiency of a web service) but it takes time to reach simple interface. Hiveminder is very new compared to the others and its weak point is sometimes the usability. I'm pretty sure that will improve knowing the work done on RT by the same team.
- Gaining from sharing. The social aspect of the new web services is critical. flickr, del.icio.us and LibraryThing is providing a nice gain compared to private software use only. I discovered books with LibraryThing, interesting links from del.icio.us or relevant pictures from flickr. By giving some information, you get more information. I think it's vital for any new web service. and sometimes, you can share more with your closed friends.
I don't know if it really helps when evaluating web services but it's often a starting. If a web services is seriously lacking one of the mentioned points, I tend to discard it in the short term. Of course, this is only my limited perception of web services.
Tags: usability internet eula legal complexity policies flickr del.icio.us librarything hiveminder internet social innovation
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