Thursday, November 16, 2006

Is Web 3.0 For Real?...

First there was the original World Wide Web, a simple place where people could mostly just view websites, navigated through links on portals like Yahoo and Excite. We, the people, were simple consumers of information.

Then came the dawn of the (arguably) current era of Web 2.0, a more intricate version of cyberspace where normal people actually contributed to the content of websites, and by doing so, helped shape a more "organic", bottom-up type of internet - and whose power is demonstrated through sites liek Digg, Flickr, MySpace, and YouTube.

But now, as John Markoff reports, we may be on the precipice of an entirely new era yet again... that of Web 3.0. The idea behind Web 3.0 is to use artificial intelligence "to add a layer of meaning on top of the existing Web that would make it less of a catalog and more of a guide".

What the hell does that mean? Apparently, the Googles and Microsofts of the world are trying to mine all the data on the internet in order to create "thinking" search engines. What these Web 3.0 efforts seek to accomplish is "to build a system that can give a reasonable and complete response to a simple question like: 'I’m looking for a warm place to vacation and I have a budget of $3,000. Oh, and I have an 11-year-old child.' Under today’s system, such a query can lead to hours of sifting — through lists of flights, hotel, car rentals — and the options are often at odds with one another. Under Web 3.0, the same search would ideally call up a complete vacation package that was planned as meticulously as if it had been assembled by a human travel agent."

Is it me, or does this sound familiar? It's only been the stated goal of artifical intelligence computing for the last few decades, and has hardly ever lived up to its promises. But even if a "semantic" web was within reach, would we, as users, really be better off?

I would argue that the true power of "organic" Web 2.0 technologies lies in keeping the internet egalitarian and putting The People in the greatest position of influence. Markoff is mistaken in thinking that Web 3.0 is the next generation of the internet. In reality, it's more representative of decades-old backwards-looking thinking, and would be better thought of as a simple enhancement to the real revolution occurring in cyberspace - that of Web 2.0.


At 5:57 AM, Blogger Tomas Vymazal said...

Good post, I agree almost with everything you've written.


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