Web 4.0 a walk in the clouds

Demands of digital natives are pushing early arrival of Web 3.0 with Web 4.0 a possibility in five years, during which Internet users will interact in virtualized environments, one IT veteran predicts.

SINGAPORE--The Internet's development is accelerating at such a speed that in two years' time, Web 3.0 will arrive, at least twice faster than the shift from Web 1.0 to the current 2.0, according to Tom Jenkins, executive chairman of Open Text.

Speaking to ZDNet Asia during a visit to Singapore, Jenkins pointed out that digital natives, described as extremely tech-savvy Web users aged 30 and below, cannot demand enough of new gadgets and applications that tout productivity and time savings. It is this demand that is driving the early arrival of Web 3.0, or the Semantic Web, the IT veteran, who is also Open Text's chief strategy officer, said.

While users are now starting to be more connected on mobile devices through social networking, he noted that they would experience an even higher level of personalization in the next stage.

"With a GPS locator in my smartphone, I'll able to search for people or things literally next to me; the relevancy in distance will change the entire Internet experience," said Jenkins.

And in five years' time, Web 4.0 may dawn upon users, Jenkins predicted. Virtual environments are no longer restricted to research labs, and that pair of 3D glasses for movies may be used more often than ever.

Web 4.0, he explained, is "avatar-based virtualization", similar to the storyline of James Cameron's science fiction epic "Avatar".

"Think of a virtual world--all I need is an avatar to represent me--I have a hand globe and virtual 3D glasses, and I can just walk into the cloud," described Jenkins.

While the scenario he described has implications for society at large, Jenkins said it may be particularly beneficial for retailers where consumers with the right technology can enter "immersive virtual stores" to shop, wherever they are.

The "acceleration" of the Internet, however, is set to slow down in the age of Web 4.0, according to Jenkins, who has authored two books based on the cloud theme. The first, released in 2006, documented the evolution of cloud and content management while "Managing Content in the Cloud" was published last year.

Blocking social media access suicidal
Touching on the Web 2.0 landscape, Jenkins said that social media can benefit businesses, citing the example of a Canadian gold-mining firm which uncovered over 30,000 new mining sites with the help of social media channels.

However, he noted about 45 percent of firms globally ban employee access to social media sites. Companies that do not change their mindsets will eventually "lose their competitiveness", he warned.

According to Jenkins, organizations should instead ensure there are policies in place to guide social media use.

"We must understand the security issue that really matters today with social networks, is not about people from the outside breaking in, it is people from the inside breaking out," he pointed out. "So by setting controls such as what and how many files can be sent or downloaded, or a firewall, firms can better control data leaks and better leverage social networking."

KM still relevant
When quizzed on the development of knowledge management, Jenkins said that it still a growing segment, despite the sector having "fizzled out" in recent years.

"Knowledge is the application of information with intelligence, otherwise it is just data," he noted. "We turn data into knowledge when we filter and work with it. Data itself does not turn into knowledge."

The key to deriving knowledge, Jenkins pointed out, is to use analytics to work alongside data. On the other hand, the biggest problem enterprises today are facing is how fast they can churn data into useable knowledge.

And like any other market, the enterprise content management (ECM) market is facing segmentation, even with greater adoption from more organizations, noted Jenkins. The executive, however, views this as a normal business cycle.

"I think that this market is similar to the laptop and desktop market of 20 years ago, the ERP database market of 30 years ago. As it grows it fragments, and then every once in a while it re-consolidates, and grow and consolidates again," he said.


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