Web 3.0: What Will It Bring, and When?

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Day to day, systems and networks professionals work to enable Web 2.0 compatibility, keep up with the competition on Web 2.0 applications such as blogs and RSS feeds, and encourage tool adoption inside the organization and out.

But development of the “semantic Web” — Web 3.0 — has a momentum that cannot be ignored in efforts to optimize its predecessor. IT experts must ready themselves, their companies and end users for the Web of the future, concurrent with solving problems of the Web of the present.

The next iteration of the Web is expected to be so savvy in accessing and using data that it will be able to make many decisions on its own. Where Web 2.0 provides the ability to tap into a collective intelligence, Web 3.0 will use that intelligence without instruction. Systems and site structures will have so much data on hand about individual users — and powerful engines that retrieve information not only relevant to search terms but to the searcher — that finally using all of the data collected since IT became a discipline will be more science than art.

Already, systems and networks developers are working with statisticians and analysts to identify patterns within prodigious amounts of data and to advance current systems to use more sophisticated tools and rules than ever employed before.

Lew Tucker, CTO of Radar Networks, San Francisco, explained why. “As the amount of information on the Web and in our own organizations gets larger, it has become increasingly difficult to find and make sense of the results returned through simple keyword search,” he said. “Semantic Web technologies can be applied to build new services that draw not just from a single database but upon a wide range of information drawn from different sources.”

Web 3.0 as Work
Web 3.0 applications draw upon World Wide Web Consortium standards such as Resource Description Framework and the OWL Web ontology language to provide semantics missing in plain HTML, he continued. “A key aspect of Web 3.0 is the ability for systems to not only gather textual information from Web sites but also the semantics behind each data element. This makes it possible to aggregate, analyze and operate on data published by many different sources, including online retailers, news sites or even user-generated content such as blogs and discussion forums.”

“The consumer is really driving it,” not large enterprise systems developers, said Tom Hill, an EDS fellow. Three years ago — at the same time they noticed Web 2.0 emerging — Hill and his colleagues started working on Web 3.0.

“If I had to think of the real difference between 2.0 and 3.0, it’s participation.” Web 2.0 started to move away from the static Web of 1.0 two to three years after its birth to a dynamic Web. Three years later, it is giving way to the semantic Web, version 3.0.

Web 3.0 is apparent even in today’s Web. Google Trends draws upon the search engine’s rich and nearly infinite history of queries. It breaks specific searches out by region, noting in which areas of the world or country a particular term or phrase has been most popular. It maps queries against a timeline, graphing the prevalence of a given search from one time period to another. Currently the Google service is free, but Hill anticipates that the search engine will soon charge for its trending outputs.

The model is changing — not only of the Web but of the enterprise. Hill predicts systems and network development structures will employ more professionals as independent contractors rather than full-time IT staffers. “Independent contractors will be organized for a specific project.”

Web 3.0 — When?
“Privacy and security may be the only obstacle to 3.0,” Hill said. “We haven’t seen the technology that will make it secure enough.” Everything in Web 3.0 will be encrypted, but data at a granular level will be automatically aggregated, and inferences will be drawn from it through the semantic Web. This makes a case for a cautious and exact definition of classified status for information.

“The cost of defense is thousands of times more expensive than the cost of offense.” As with the information intelligence programs of Amazon.com and eBay, Web 3.0 will build a history of individual users’ activity built on trust. It will share and disseminate data based on security clearances and a rating system similar to that of Amazon’s or eBay’s, in which the integrity of the data and its source are well considered.

Hardware that leverages Web 3.0 will change from the current, too. “The perfect PDA or cell phone will be one you don’t know is there,” Hill said. It likely will be hands-free, activated by voice commands. This piece of the Web 3.0 IT puzzle will be the last to come around. The expertise to create the required peripherals is available, but the schedule on which the tools gain acceptance relies on fickle consumer adoption.


Kelly Shermach is a freelance writer based in Brooklyn, N.Y., who frequently writes about technology and data security. She can be reached at editor (at) certmag (dot) com.

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