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Web 3.0? Gimme a break

Goodbye, Web 2.0... Hello, Web 3.0

Nick Carr, the anti-Gartner, disses Web 2.0 and the recent Web 2.0 Summit, calling it underwhelming at best. 

"When dogcrap 2.0 sites like PayPerPost and ReviewMe start getting a lot of attention, you know you're seeing the butt end of a movement. (There's a horrible metaphor trying to get out of that last sentence, but please ignore it.)"

(The Web 2.0 Summit got plenty of coverage from my colleagues on these blog pages -- a summary is provided here.)

But Nick's anti-Web 2.0 rant suddenly melts into wide-eyed wonderment (with a light dose of his trademark skepticism) at its next incarnation. He points to Sunday's New York Times (front page no less), which heralds the rise of "Web 3.0."  (Make a note -- the New York Times said Web 2.0 is dead...)

Web 3.0. Ugh.

So what is Web 3.0? It appears to an attempt at a more catchy name for the much-awaited and long-predicted "Semantic Web," in which meaning is attached to content accessible across the Web. Semantic Web promises to put a lot more intelligence -- artificial intelligence -- out there in the network of networks, and is certainly a step in the right direction.

But, like the tangled nightmares of versioning of multiple applications that haunts enterprise computing, another hype wave lurks.

You may recall the ill-advised attempt to move SOA into the "SOA 2.0" realm earlier in the year. CIOs and IT managers already have enough on their plates, as they struggle to understand what the heck Web 2.0 is, what service-oriented architecture is, and what the fusion of the two -- Enterprise 2.0 -- means.

Recent posts on Enterprise 2.0 by blogging colleagues Dan Farber, Don Hinchcliffe, and Dana Gardner can be found here, here, and here. Does this mean we'll need to start talking about "Enterprise 3.0" to keep all these releases in sync? If you check these posts, you will see that we're still arguing over the definition of Enterprise 2.0.

Nick Carr always seems ready to jump in and take the air out of any hype around new buzzphrases. So far, incredibly, Nick Carr seems to like, or at least tolerate, Web 3.0. (You might have expected to think, 'Nah, he won't like it, he hates everything'... But he likes it!)

Web 3.0 is purportedly about the application of artificial intelligence to the bazillion terabytes of data that can be brought together for analysis from across the Internet. It's predictive analytics -- now in use in financial risk management tools -- along with association between datasets. It has interesting potential at the enterprise level -- vendors such as SAS have some interesting tools that provide some interesting capabilities.

Web 3.0 says these tools can be applied on a grand scale and made available to Joe consumer. The article notes:

"In the future, more powerful systems could act as personal advisers in areas as diverse as financial planning, with an intelligent system mapping out a retirement plan for a couple, for instance, or educational consulting, with the Web helping a high school student identify the right college."

Nova Spivack, the founder of Radar Networks, a start-up firm, called it the "World Wide Database," adding that companies like his intend to ride the new wave “going from a Web of connected documents to a Web of connected data.”

Nick Carr reverts to some dry wit, observing that "the arrival of 3.0 kind of justifies the whole 2.0 ethos. After all, 2.0 was about escaping the old, slow upgrade cycle and moving into an age of quick, seamless rollouts of new feature sets. If we can speed up software generations, why not speed up entire Web generations? It doesn't matter if 3.0 is still in beta - that makes it all the better, in fact."

Nick observes, however, that the Web 3.0 paradigm may bring about some interesting applications, as it "will be about mining 'meaning,' rather than just data, from the Web by using software to discover associations among far-flung bits of information."

He does caution, though, beyond helping Johnny find the right college, that Web 3.0 has a "creepy" side to it, in that the data mining will run both ways -- and perhaps give "marketers, among others, an uncanny ability to identify, understand and manipulate us - without our knowledge or awareness."

Maybe its time to start our plea to vendors, analysts, and even the mainstream media before this thing really grows legs. Give us predictive analytics and semantic Web capabilities to tie all relevant and pertinent data together, so it can be easily deployed or accessed, and enable better interaction with customers and markets. Help us build it into our enterprise service layers, or provide it as Software as a Service.

But, please, don't call it "Web 3.0."