Survey: Web 3.0 (aka the semantic Web) won't arrive for a while. Or maybe it will.

The future of computing will be about what technology does for us behind-the-scenes, but with our guidance.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

Even though I have serious geek tendencies I was, after all, an English literature major. So, it is perhaps a bit odd that I have always had a bit of trouble wrapping my head around the essays and position statements I've read predicting the next evolution of the Internet. Because it's all about human language.

The great Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who would know something about these things since HE DID invent what has become the World Wide Web, believes we're moving toward what some people call the "semantic Web."

Simply put, although it is fair from simple, the next wave of innovation is supposedly to be about the Web's ability to understand, interpret and act on the nuances of human language. Huh?

In theory, at least from what I understand, the idea is that the semantic Web will help us humans make the connections and leaps of logic that we probably want to make, but wouldn't necessarily search for proactively. Kind of like having a big brother or sister watching your back and introducing you to the cool kids and teachers you need to know in school or pointing out stuff you need to survive as a teenager. In the back of my mind, the semantic Web is about artificial intelligence but that's about as far as I get.

The reason I'm having this Lewis Carroll-ian debate here with myself on Smart Planet is that there is some research out about the semantic Web from the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project (along with the Elon University Imaging the Internet Center) about the likelihood of this vision emerging by 2020. The verdict is, well, not so clear.

According to the roughly 895 experts surveyed, nearly half agree with this statement: "By 2020, the semantic Web envisioned by Tim Berners-Lee will not be as fully effective as its creators hoped and average users will not have noticed much of a difference."

About 41 percent agree with the OPPOSITE statement.

What this tells me, honestly, is that I'm not the only one who is challenged in trying to see the killer app behind Web 3.0. But maybe that is entirely the point: If Web 2.0 is about communities and networks and connections, then Web 3.0 is about all the things that happen behind the scenes to make our Web experience better. If you're trying to figure out what the next "killer app" might be on the Internet, you might refer to Forrester Research's report on smart computing which (to me) does a great job of explaining how technology is changing. When you think about it, many of the ideas in Forrester's report are related to the semantic Web discussions. Both are about the following:

  • Awareness: Technologies that are always collecting data about people, places, products, processes. (Think radio frequency identification tag or power monitoring sensor)
  • Analysis: Business intelligence and analytics software that apply rules to the data being collected.
  • Alternatives: Rules that assess whether certain conditions are triggered.
  • Actions: This is the specified outcome triggered through all the previous steps.
  • Auditability: The ability to use all of the above to add more intelligence to an application or system over time.

For me, it comes down to this: The future of computing is less about what we as humans do with technology. It's about what technology does for us behind-the-scenes, with our guidance.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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