Get set for the next internet, that’s what the media’s been declaring lately.
There’s been some clamor in the net about the evolution of the internet startups from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0. The bottom line is that if you want to get up to speed with the new stuff and embrace not just the terminology but the concept of a new and improved cyberspace, then turn your home pages into a blog, abandon your clunky old message boards for MySpace, and move on from indexed directories to tags. I say, great! Let’s get on with it and enter the brave new world of online community building with social networking and by playing our part to induce the wisdom of crowds.
Many are decrying the shift as just hype and repackaging of the same internet concepts, but many others find the distinction clear — while Web 1.0 was about static web pages and one way applications, Web 2.0 is about participatory, interactive and collaborative environments and systems that shape a new online experience:
Web 2.0 Is Much More About A Change In People and Society Than Technology
But is Web 2.0 really about the Web, or us? The rise of architectures of participation, which make it easy for users to contribute content, share it — and then let other users easily discover and enrich it, is central to Web 2.0 sites like MySpace, YouTube, Digg, and Flickr. But this is still just another aspect in the way that we, ourselves, have changed the way we use the Web. Not only have we gained 950 million new Internet users in the last ten years, but a great many of them use the Internet differently now too, with a hundred million of them or more directly shaping the Web by building their own places on the Web with blogs and “spaces”, or by contributing content of virtually infinite variety.
Interestingly, before we even got a chance to wrap our brains around what the 2.0 wave was all about, the pundits began bandying a new web increment around the block, thus christening yet another generation of startups as Web 3.0. So there’s a new breed of web right around the corner. What pray tell could this be all about?
Some say to heck with Web 2.0 — it’s Web 3.0 that we really should care about with all the promises of an even smarter net at our fingertips. This next chapter has been defined as the resurgence of the “semantic web”, that which will apply artificial intelligence to the online experience and will finally grant us those nice, custom baked, packaged answers for internet queries along the lines of: where to find the best place to vacation with a family of 7, including a couple of toddlers and senior citizens all for under $1,400? And Web 3.0 would gladly oblige. Not that there aren’t any concerns about how smart these artifacts can get — some people are already weighing in with thoughts on how “spooky” this whole movement is going to be:
Web 3.0 thus promises to be much more useful than 2.0 (not to mention 1.0) and to render today’s search engines more or less obsolete. But there’s also a creepy side to 3.0, which Markoff only hints at. While it will be easy for you to mine meaning about vacations and other stuff, it will also be easy for others to mine meaning about you. In fact, Web 3.0 promises to give marketers, among others, an uncanny ability to identify, understand and manipulate us – without our knowledge or awareness.
Now c’mon, I’ve always wanted to see sci-fi meet reality at least in my lifetime, and this is a meaningful step in that direction: I’ve been looking forward to when the best vacation package, neighborhood to reside in, menu/movie/music selection, even the perfect home and ultimately Mr. or Ms. Right will be churned out in an automated fashion, perhaps by this upcoming revolution, all with a click of the mouse. How can we not be hypnotized by the possibilities? Already, some are predicting that this will once more spawn big money and big business and will be a repeat of manias past.
Still, my feeling is that true artificial intelligence is several decades away from fruition. And others are just shrugging it off. What we’ll probably end up getting in the next few years is Web 2.5: basically a layer that leverages the technology of 2.0 but which attempts to answer real life questions such as those posed earlier: what restaurant should I go to for the best lobster within 10 miles of here? And the resounding response you hear will be from a much improved, ever more refined wisdom of the crowds.
Sure, from my point of view at ground level, I can’t wait to see what the internet coughs up next — these spanking fresh ideas that will percolate from the startup nation, branding themselves Web 2.5, 3.0, whatever. Will it live up to its claims? We all know that the internet is in a constant state of evolution and flux, and I’ve seen how that last dot com boom rearranged lives in so many levels. What I’m curious to see is how in the next several years will this technology be changing lives again.
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