On the Road to Web n.0 – Moving From Web 2.0 to Web 3.0

November 12, 2006

The New York has an article on the next generation of the web …  web 3.0.


 UPDATE: Looks like Robert Scoble and others are now picking up on this story and you should read their perspectives.

It’s sort of funny how the web is making the full circle. Ideas for the semantic web were around a lot longer than 1999 and arguably may have parts actually implemented before the publication of concepts developed by Tim Berners-Lee. In the late ’80s before web 1.0, Web 0.1 consisted of long-since-forgotten guys like Harry Morris and a small group of others who developed semantic apps like the WAIS client (which was among the first graphical interfaces to the internet).  In the simplest form, WAIS had a structured syntax to ask a set of interconnected computers a question and get an answer focused on bibiographic references… My understanding is that the US Library of Congress actually used WAIS protocol for searching its records until just recently. If you are a geek, you may recognize at least a few of the names (like Brewster Kahle) on RFC 1625 which describes WAIS.

Anyway, my take on web 3.0 is that “its the metadata, stupid”.  We’ll actually have a good shot at answering open ended questions when vast amounts of non-trivial metadata can be generated on unstructured data with little or no human intervention.  We are not there yet…maybe by the time “web n.0” rolls around, we will be ready for such answers.  Until then, the better successes will be in areas that have the minimum amount of unstructured data for which we’d need to automate metadata. Real estate may therefore be an excellent candidate for certain types of functionality described in the NYT article.

As a side note, I only know of Harry because we grew up together in Birmingham, Michigan – junior high, high school programming classes and eventually graduating from high school together – he went off to MIT in the early 80s to join an early set of the internet pioneers while I went off to a service academy.  No worries, as Harry’s company was an early AOL acquisition in the mid-90s so, despite being relatively unknown now, he did well along with his more famous business partner(s). 

In a world where many of his peers like Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Brewster Kahle (now of Alexis fame) are now nearly household names, here’s a small hat-tip to Harry Morris and the other unsung engineers that in the wee hours of the night and in scattered USENET posts have also helped to make Web n.0 possible at all.


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