Saturday, 15 August 2009

The future of the web with Web 3.0

The present situation
The web is changing rapidly. We currently have Web 2.0, with its emphasis on social media and all that those technologies imply. Since the dot-com era of the late nineties, with its boom and bust fluctuations, it has now settled down into a platform where users can interact with each other, and are in control of the information space. We have blogs, wikis, RSS feeds and podcasts. Content can be quickly shared, disseminated and updated like never before.

These changes have taken place over the last decade. Web 2.0 has been maturing and becoming a dominant feature of the web landscape. So what changes are we likely to see in the next decade?

Farewell specialist, hello polymath
One thing that seems certain is that the key players will need to change and react to the fluctuating demands of the Internet. This can be clearly seen in the recent output from both Microsoft and Google. We've seen Microsoft release a search engine (Bing), and Google release an operating system (Chrome). Each of these companies has released a product more usually associated with the other.

No longer can the big companies control the Internet by specialising in just one area. To become the dominant player means you need to control every part of it, and that includes both the search engine and underlying operating system. Microsoft and Google have both clearly understood this.

Structure and order
Web 2.0 is all about mashups, an abundance of information shared across various channels, using technologies such as RSS to share that information. This is unstructured and fragmented. Web 3.0 will bring integration, structure and order to that information. Tools and standards will be developed that lead to more uniform and consistent information sharing. Whilst mashups will almost certainly continue, they will do so in a more structured way.

Ontologies and taxonomies
Like the taxonomies used to categorise services in local government, and which allow the navigation and searching for services in a consistent manner across different councils, so search engines will move away from page ranking algorithms, to standard ontologies. This will make searching for information much easier and consistent. Information will be defined and categorised consistently, and search results will surrender information in a more egalitarian way.

Meta data is king
For this to happen, meta-data will become ever more important. A standard ontology by which all content will be categorised, will need to be developed. It will require independent validation and control, and so a likely candidate will be the World Wide Web Consortium, who currently draft many web standards already (including HTML and XML). The web will change from being document-centric to meta-data centric.

From anarchy to order
As inferred already, standards will come to dominate the web landscape. There will be a continual move from anarchy and chaos, to consistency and order. This will affect the underlying technologies used to provide content, to the search engines which index it, and all points in between.

We have seen major transitions in the web over the previous decade. The web will continue to change over the next decade, and shape into what will be known as Web 3.0. These are exciting times!


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