Hindsight is 20-20 and no one can really predict the future. In terms of the internet, the term Web 2.0 is starting to seem a bit long in tooth. It is incredible to see where the web has come from just a few years ago. It is a bit harder to predict where things are heading, although a few of the experts have given their two cents about it, which was recently written about on the ReadWriteWeb blog . The big buzzword for the next iteration of the web is “semantic”. This word is being bandied about within the context of personalization, artificial intelligence and highly contextualized search. In other words, the prediction is that the web will become a version of itself that is smarter, more powerful and more meaningful to each individual user. It is the lack of true semantics in web technologies that create such a time suck for many people. The paradox of finding lots of information that is exactly what one needs and nothing useful at all that is where the web is today. Search engines and the computers that deploy them cannot read our minds…yet.
In several years time we may look back and think that our Google searches were oh so elementary. Indeed these searchers are starting to appear this way now. Many of us rapidly adopt the first link or first page of results as the end all be all of the Google search findings. Yet the web is incredibly deep and finding specific information will only becoming more challenging. Making sense of that information and giving it to the end user in ways truly benefitting is when the web will make another leap in its evolution. The web has succeeded in connecting many of us on our planet. Many more are still waiting in the wings to be connected but it will happen whether through WiFi, cellular networks or good ole’ hard wired modems. The web has also succeeded in being a platform for sharing, collaborating and empowering individuals to express themselves like never before. This is rattling the chains of traditional, hallmarks of communication and media such as publishing, broadcast tv, radio, the movie industry and of course music. Presently, the web and its search engines are okay at finding things but they will get much better. What will be a bigger boon to users is when information can be tailored to their specific needs and interests giving back information they know is reliable, up to date and accurate. Mark Johnson, a developer from Microsoft, who is interviewed in the ReadWriteWeb post, succinctly sums up much of what the the next iteration of the web may be like:
the next era of the Web will represent greater understanding of computers.’ He went on to suggest that ‘if Web 1.0 was about Read and Web 2.0 was about Read/Write, then Web 3.0 should be about Read/Write/Understand.’ Specifically he said that ‘a computer that can understand should be able to: find us information that we care about better (e.g., smart news alerts), make intelligent recommendations for us (e.g., implicit recommendations based on our reading/surfing/buying behavior), aggregate and simplify information. . . and probably lots of other things that we haven’t yet imagined, since our computers are still pretty dumb.
As another interviewee comments, there are still plenty of problems in the world that will keep Web 2.0 alive and well for awhile, but technology marches on and emergence of new directions for the web will be interesting to follow. And perhaps the web will also become more of a tool to tackle many of the worlds problems… Publisher Tim O’Reilly, who coined the term Web 2.0, has recently called upon developers to turn their attention to solving the big problems in the world with technology. Indeed perhaps the next iteration of the web will start to make sense of just where all the strands are going and how we all fit into those strands. The term web can be visualized to be quite messy or quite organized. Right now its quite messy, a child still learning its way in the world, but hopefully the web will start making more sense to each person who uses it whether for learning, helping others or solving the next big hurdle the world faces. And then we will begin to do things with the web that we could only imagine before.