There's always hype around the web and related technologies. If it's not Web 2.0 then it's Web 3.0, the Semantic Web or any number of new protocols, trends and standards that have someone convinced that a massive paradigm change is just around the corner.

As you might fear, there's a new kid on the block: the Pushbutton Web. How is this any different from the point and click web we already know so well? Read on.

What is the Pushbutton Web?

According to Anil Dash, an expert on web technology and culture, the term Pushbutton Web refers to "an upgrade for the web, where any site or application can deliver realtime messages to a web-scale audience, using free and open technologies at low cost and without relying on any single company."

Dash notes that earlier attempts at real-time messaging on the web resulted in technologies such as instant messaging and RSS feeds. While instant messaging works well in real-time, it doesn't scale well past small groups unless you seriously invest in infrastructure.

For RSS feeds, he points out that while they allow fast notification delivery, the technology relies on repeatedly requesting a web page, which is inefficient for delivering updates.

Newer approaches come from individual companies such as Twitter, Facebook and FriendFeed. Each of these proprietary platforms has its own infrastructure, APIs and so on, creating walled gardens with limitations on what external applications and sites can do with their content.

However, these options deliver real-time information in a much more efficient manner than technologies such as RSS as it's currently implemented.

Dash feels that the next step, the Pushbutton Web, will be built on free, open and decentralized technologies, freeing users from having to rely on individual companies. And it will deliver information far faster and more efficiently than ever before.

How Will the Pushbutton Web Work?

According to Dash, the Pushbutton Web is much like Ajax. Rather than being a single technology, it's a family of them, with many of the underpinnings not being all that new. In particular, he lists the following as key pieces of the puzzle:

To explain, let's follow through an example. Dash points out that today, when you create a message such as a blog post, it goes to your RSS or Atom feed, and any application or site that wants to know when your next post is out has to repeatedly reload your feed until it sees there's an update. While it is possible to ping some applications to notify them that there's something new, it's often a lot of effort to set these systems up on both sides of the conversation.

In the Pushbutton Web, Dash says that:

  1. You create your blog post or micropost and it's sent out through RSS or Atom
  2. Your application hands the message to one or more PubSubHubBub and/or RSSCloud hubs
  3. The hubs deliver the message to Receivers (applications or sites that have requested updates from you)

How information travels through the Pushbutton Web, image provided by Anil Dash.

Is the Pushbutton Web a nice fantasy, or the next generation of how we'll push out information and updates? Only time will tell.

For more information on the Pushbutton Web, how it works and where it's going, read Anil Dash's blog post "The Pushbutton Web: Realtime Becomes Real" and share your thoughts with us.