With Ian Davis and I packing to join the UK contingent hopping across the Atlantic to this week's Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco, it was interesting to see Anthony Lilley's piece on Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 in today's Guardian. He's clearly not a fan of the labels;
“So, finally web 2.0 is dead. Its jargon half-life has expired and the buzzword du jour is being interred and superseded. And by what? Well, you'll never guess. Long live web 3.0. Honestly, give me strength. We'll look back in 20 years and wonder when we decided to hand over the English language to people who can haggle for hours about the difference between versions 2.1 and 2.5 of some software.”
In amongst the criticism of marketing hype, and the grounding in nappy/diaper changing that I am so happy to have left behind for the giddy heights of the tooth fairy, Anthony follows John Markoff's line in postulating that Web 3.0 may be the Semantic Web;
“I'm coming to the conclusion that if web 3.0 is anything at all, then it's a step on the way to something I first heard about several years ago - the development of the semantic web. And, let's be honest, a version number is a better selling point than the word semantic is ever going to be.”
On the way, Anthony steps sideways into discussion of money;
“But I share some of the cynicism of a Canadian colleague who says that web 2.0 will actually come to an end when the venture capital money runs out.
Well, given that lots of Silicon Valley investors are suddenly starting to talk about web 3.0, maybe that day is near and web 3.0 is just a branding relaunch, kind of like Kylie's new look?”
Despite recent figures in the Financial Times, I'm actually not so sure that the money is leaving Web 2.0. Rather, I think that we're seeing the sort of technological bedding in that Brad Feld and Talis Platform Advisory Group member Mills Davis talked about in their podcasts with me. VC's aren't drawing back from funding Web 2.0 at all; instead, we're moving through the hype that Anthony rightly criticises, and we're emerging into an environment in which smarter entrepreneurs and smarter investors are once again becoming interested in meeting real business opportunities. Web 2.0 technologies are there, through and through, but there's far less interest in funding a company just because its website has curvy corners and a smidge of AJAX. That's a good thing. It doesn't mean Web 2.0 is dead. Maybe it does mean Web 2.0 has grown up a little.
“Web 3.0 is the creation of high-quality content and services produced by gifted individuals using web 2.0 technology as an enabling platform. Web 3.0 throttles the 'wisdom of the crowds' from turning into the 'madness of the mobs' we've seen all too often, by balancing it with a respect of experts.”
“The reliability of content and an understanding of the wider context in which content sits are rising in importance on the web and taking their place alongside the wondrous power of group communication, especially as more and more people join the party.”
Absolutely. Here, Anthony hits the nail right on the head. Long before the all-encompassing ontological wonder of the Semantic Web is realised (if it ever is), there is much that some of its building blocks can do to help us deliver real solutions to real problems right now. I touched on this mid-point between Web 2.0 and the Semantic Web in my presentation in Cambridge last week, and will be expanding upon those ideas in various places over the next wee while.
Behind the curvy corners and the blurring of boundaries between the Cloud and its access point, Web 2.0 is the manifestation of numerous trends, and Tim O'Reilly has consistently done a good job of expressing these. Open Source, Falling costs of storage, Increases in compute power, increasing ubiquity of access, commoditisation, software as a service, and more.
However, for all their advances, all too many Web 2.0 applications remain fundamentally 'on' rather than 'of' the Web; offering rich functionality and interaction within their own little microcosm of the wider Web. Through pragmatic application of robust elements of the Semantic Web stack, we can move far beyond 'simply' crowdsourcing an encyclopaedia, 'merely' tracking recommendations and behaviour within a single e-commerce site, or 'just' allowing 46 million people to turn one another into zombies.
It is this recognition that the power of the connections between resources is woefully under-utilised that is behind the Talis Platform. We are moving beyond the 'see also' links of the traditional web, and beyond the best-efforts silos of Web 2.0's darlings, to offer means by which assertions - and their provenance - may be made and tracked across the open web. Many of Web 2.0's ideas figure highly, as does a strong grounding in the technologies of the Semantic Web. Data is, of course, key... but we need to move beyond current presumptions in favour of use toward a model by which everyone is clear as to what data can - and should - be used for. Hence our long-standing interest in the Open Data movement.
Is any of this 'Web 3.0'? I'm not sure. Talis Platform Advisory Group member Nova Spivack has, in the past, attempted to defuse the whole Web 2.0/ Web 3.0 polarisation by painting Web 3.0 as merely a label for the third decade of the Web. Semantic technologies are part of that decade, but so are other things. Nova is one of those speaking in a Semantic Web session at the Web 2.0 Summit this week. It'll be interesting to see how his ideas are received in that temple to 2.0, and you can be sure that I'll be sat there taking notes...