The ubiquitous buzz about Web 3.0 continues unabated; nevertheless, a clear consensus or definition has not emerged of what Web 3.0 really is, or how the e-enabled world will move from Web 2.0 into a sensational era of super intelligent content and knowledge management services. However, one thing has become clear to me: Web 3.0 will not result in a huge paradigm shift or a gilded age of computing; more likely, it will be a subdued convergence of existing technologies and methodologies with new ones that borrow heavily from the past. Web 3.0 will be a catalyst for a paradigm shift that's at least a few more years away. But it won't result in a sudden brave new world of information management, regardless of what marketing materials and industry thought leaders would have you believe.
Let it be noted that I agree with the majority of industry pundits about the promise and potential of the semantic Web and its importance to the evolution and emergence of Web 3.0. In the semantic Web, all information is categorized and stored in such a way that both a computer and human being can fathom what it empirically represents. Unlike Web 2.0 - where keywords are used to organize data into digestible nuggets for search engines - Web 3.0 will effectively categorize and present digital information to users in a visually improved manner that enhances interaction, analysis, intuition and search functions. The key driver in this scenario is the concept of taxonomies - standardized and self-describing classifications with codified semantics that are related to one another via highly normalized and descriptive metadata, not by a pastiche of static hyperlinks. For information on the World Wide Web to have a solid degree of relevance to users and live up to the 3.0 hype, it must contain a new magnitude of (artificial) intelligence.
With Web 3.0, the Internet can finally realize elaborate and complex virtual worlds, where social interaction drives business operations. These worlds have been anticipated and talked about for years, but they have so far failed to materialize. For a long time I have dreamed of a virtual music factory - one where I could seamlessly shop and listen to music, receive staff recommendations, talk to fellow shoppers and put my three-terabyte music collection on the cloud. Instead of combing through recommendations on various music shopping sites and doing countless searches to find newly recorded classical, pop or jazz performances, I would be able to type a somewhat complex sentence into a Web 3.0 browser and get back highly customized, organized and impeccably relevant results. The browser then would redirect me automatically to my favorite virtual music store where I could download the recording and place a copy of it in my own personal cloud space so that I could listen to it, on-demand, via a Web-enabled device (iPhone, computer, home stereo system) anywhere in the world. Because my Web 3.0 browser would have learned my likes and dislikes, it would start to function as a trusted adviser, mentor and personal assistant and less like a search engine from an earlier epoch of pretaxonimized information.
The more interaction I have with the Internet, the more my browser would learn about me to predict future behaviors and consumption patterns. Not only will it be better able to identify what sort of music and entertainment I am likely to enjoy, it will help put me in touch with people who share my interests and aspirations. In this way, browsers will finally be able to position themselves to be true lifestyle canvases, taking into account cutting-edge concepts such as social bookmarking (websites, products and people ascribed various characteristics or things voted on by other Internet users) and in-group searching to produce a much more customized and targeted Web surfing experience.
Massive improvements in mobile computing and interconnectivity of remotely enabled devices coupled with Web 3.0 developments will result in the positioning of the Internet as the "world's common database." With the semantic Web firmly in place, the automatic and instantaneous publishing and sharing of knowledge silos, especially those historically difficult to classify and describe, will be dramatically improved. Progress will not be an easy road, though. There will be many issues as we reconcile the world's spoken languages with specialized taxonomies and schemas, attached metadata and descriptors. And few people seem to be talking about the effect that change (business, social, regulatory, etc.) will have on these taxonomies, or how to best manage these changes. In another interesting twist, current search engine optimization practices may undergo wholesale adjustments as the different information and architectural standards of Web 3.0 fight for supremacy. As with any new technology or Internet-related development, personal privacy issues will also cast a large shadow over the landscape. All in all, it is going to be fascinating to watch how both the software and hardware industries carefully balance the hype of Web 3.0 with marketplace realities and limitations.
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