My Web 3.0 Prediction

October 18, 2008

In the wrap up session for the Web 3.0 event, I tried to crystalize my prediction for Web 3.0. In doing so, I was trying to step away from the Semantic Web as a goal, and instead just think about what I think is inevitable.

So my prediction is like this:

Some people say Web 2.0 is about Ajax. Other people say it’s about websites connecting users to users, forming on-line communities around read-write websites. I think these two notions are related in that without Ajax, websites were so clunky that full participation by the mass of users was impractical. With Ajax, developers could make sites that were both powerful and comfortable.

By the same token, Web 3.0 will be about Semantic Web technologies enabling a set of noticeably more powerful and convenient applications. Most crucially, it will be about everyone who maintains some data making it available in a standard form, so applications can be written to use data from many sources. These application will feel different; they will appear to “know” a lot.

For the techies, Web 3.0 will be about RDF, like Web 2.0 was about Ajax. But for users, it will be about software systems which have access to all the data they can effectively use, instead of being dumb little things, trapped each in its own little box.

In the event’s analogy format, turned sideways, I guess we could say RDF is to Web 3.0 as Ajax is to Web 2.0. Ajax was the enabling, trigger technology for Web 2.0. RDF (or something like it) will be the enabling technology for Web 3.0, enabling a whole set of applications that are prohibitively difficult without it.

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From Footpaths to Freeways

October 17, 2008

Here at the Web 3.0 Event, they’re giving out t-shirt with two blanks on them, saying “Web 3.0 is to Web 2.0 what ____ is to _____”. Somewhere, there are pens, and you’re asked to fill them in.

My first thought (surprise, surprise) was that Web 3.0 is about decentralization. I couldn’t think of the right words to capture that, but Dave Beckett sat down next to me and after I explained what I was looking for suggested something I liked:

Web 3.0 is to Web 2.0 what the Web is to Walled Gardens.

This morning I thought of another angle, which I also like:

Web 3.0 is to Web 2.0 what freeways are to footpaths.

Get it? On Web 1.0 and Web 2.0, humans “walk” everywhere on the web, strolling from website to website, going about their business. Web 3.0 will allow you to zoom across sites (gathering the data you want) at inhuman (machine) speeds.

That’s not how I normally think of the web’s future, and it’s not a very pleasant view, but it may be accurate.

More broadly, what is Web 3.0?

My sense from this meeting is simple:

The good news is that Web 3.0 is the Semantic Web.

The bad news is that we still don’t know what the Semantic Web is.

That is, the long standing issues in the Semantic Web community are comparably rife within the nascent Web 3.0 community. Is it about machine learning? Is it about formal logic? Is it about sharing data? Is it about searching the natural language web?

My take, quite plainly, is that it may be about all of these, but the core is RDF-style data sharing. Natural language processing has a place in generating RDF. Formal logic has a place in helping us work with RDF data. But at heart, the core thing we need to do is share the data.

(This is my inaugural post on my new WordPress blog. I decided I wanted one using off-the-shelf tech, separate from W3C and MIT. Any bets how often I’ll post?)

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