Web 2.0 to Web Squared – the next phase of web evolution

The term Web 2.0 is about five years old now. It was coined by Tim O’Reilly at a conference and was intended to indicate the second coming of the web; that it wasn’t dead following the bursting of the “dotcom bubble”. But it has taken on this kind of folklore meaning, with many seeing it as an incremental version roll-out as with a software update. And Tim says he has been continually asked what the next big thing will be.

Is it:

  • The Semantic Web,
  • Virtual reality,
  • The social web,
  • the mobile web?

And what’s it called, Web 3.0?

The short answer from Tim seems to be that it’s all those things listed, and more; and it’s not Web 3.0.

The next phase of web development is Web meets World and to achieve this doesn’t need an incremental step, but an exponential one.

Hence, the term we can expect to see moving into folklore following next week’s Web 2.0 Summit 2009 Conference is Web Squared or Web².

Back on June 25, Tim O’Reilly and John Battelle presented a webinar setting out their view of Web².

I’ve Tubechopped the initial 17min section of the video and a 1min15sec answer to questions about the impact on Higher Education. Please note: this was recorded from a webinar over a phone line so the audio isn’t great quality.

They also produced a special report on the topic; available as a pdf.

The remainder or this post is concerned with what I think is most pertinent from this report and my comments.

The fundamental premiss of Web 2.0 is that the Web is becoming an application platform reliant on data subsystems that get better the more people use them, rather than just an information platform.

The question that then arises is, “Is the web getting smarter?

Looking at the current generation of apps is where we see the web getting smarter. An example Tim gives is Google Mobile Application for the iPhone. The speech recognition in the cloud is aligned with the search in the cloud, so Google knows what you’re likely to say – Pizza rather than Pisa – then the location information from the phone indicates that you want to know where the nearest three pizza places are located, rather than a Wikipedia entry on the history and origins of pizza. That seems to be much smarter. Speech recognition, search and location information all working seamlessly together.

And boiling down the essence of good web apps is that they harness collective intelligence. Collective intelligence is a collective working that acts more intelligently and leads to greater value than can be achieved by the individual components, be they people, groups or computers.

Key takeaway: A key competency of the Web 2.0 era is discovering implied metadata, and then building a database to capture that metadata and/or foster an ecosystem around it.

Web²  Special Report, p.4

Examples of what appear at first to be unstructured data that have subsequently been identified and utilized include Facebook where online relationships with friends are used to form a social graph, Bit.ly where a URL shortening service realised the potential of realtime analytics, the fact that every web link is a vote and every link from a person deemed to have greater standing in a group (as measured by their contributions to that group) has a greater weighting.

The report considers the influences that moving sensory and input devices away from the fixed keyboard and into our hands will have. These devices (e.g. smart phones) have eyes (cameras), ears (mics), position and direction locators. All of this will enable increasing amounts of metadata and tags to be automatically and more accurately assigned to vast amounts of data stored in cloud databases. And, interestingly, when the amount of data reaches a critical point, the addition of extra data actually reduces the size of the database because the linkages become stronger and the need for explicit metadata reduces.

This will give rise to a number of new applications, leveraging these affordances. Already we are seeing interesting augmented reality applications, including Layar on Android phones;

and the potential use of location specific images with Adobe’s Infinite Images to create 3D experiences of real and imaginary worlds (video filmed at conference).

An article appeared a couple of days ago in computing.co.uk entitled Moving beyond Web 2.0. It too was looking at Tim O’Reilly’s Web Squared concept. I’d like to highlight some points from this article, because it not only talks about the advances in technology and the concepts that encapsulates, but it also focusses on the (for me) important philosophies underpinning Web 2.0.

There is, however, more to Web Squared than new types of application that will process the immense data shadows soon to be cast by the emerging internet of things. More broadly, Web Squared is also about recognising that Web 2.0 has been as concerned with embracing new philosophies as new technologies. And in championing Web Squared, O’Reilly is signalling that the Web 2.0 ideologies of openness, transparency and rapid, collaborative value creation may have significant value well beyond the internet.

A big idea of Web Squared is that this may be achieved by applying the philosophies of Web 2.0 to mainstream politics and business thinking.

The CIOs who are embracing the cloud and not trying to build barricades around their datacentres are the ones who understand the philosophies as well as the technologies of Web 2.0, and who will also very much grasp Web Squared.

Some time ago I expressed my take on the importance of the philosophy of web 2.0 rather than just the software, services and mechanics in a presentation I gave (full text available).

The relevant specific audio section about the philosophy is reproduced here:

My Diigo links for Web Squared.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s