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Thursday, 2 June 2011

What is Web 3.0?

A good - if slightly over-simplified - introduction to the semantic web (though personally I dislike thinking of it as a chronological sequence that started with 'Web 1.0'). Also beware this selling services from EPN (Dutch company).

Amplify’d from

Some could argue that the concept of Web 3.0 has been around for quite some time although in truth, no one can really pinpoint the exact evolution the World Wide Web will take. We saw Web 1.0 in which simple HTML pages were put together to display information that was primarily meant for academics at first before moving onto the general public and the internet became a 1990s and indeed 2000s phenomenon.

Web 2.0 was a concept that many could both see and not see coming. Advances in website design primarily by those that pushed the boundaries and the introduction of techniques being used such as XHTML and CSS made sure that webpages were becoming more complex. But that alone was not the only factor; the use of Flash on the internet as well as AJAX made webpages alive with interactive information. They were more accessible to the user, displayed information in a more understandable way and most importantly changed the way we look at the internet. What we didn’t necessarily expect however was the growth of social networking. Having online friendships, connecting with people on Facebook including old friends and perusing Twitter for the latest real time news is a totally different world from the 1990s. The recent case of a resident living near Osama Bin Laden’s compound reporting what was happening before the story broke around the world is a testament to how our views have changed. The world is connected.

But Web 3.0 is different. The idea behind it puts webpages in the spotlight of being clever. At the moment a webpage does what its coding tells it to do and nothing more but as Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web puts it, Web 3.0 will be a collection of changes with one aspect being a Semantic web. This is where more information is available to be read by machines of that specific webpage therefore resulting in a better browsing experience and even being able to perform particular tasks on the user’s behalf. In other words, it’s a web which can bring numerous answers together into one understandable reasoning. Try for yourself and compare the results that you get, there are several semantic search engines around, the one I used was DuckDuckGo. Do a search for Wikipedia and notice the difference in results. While the search engines still have a way to go, it highlights the change of focus on information.

An example of this could be that someone wishes to get opinions of a movie that they’re thinking of going to see. A webpage could be able to intelligently search, similar in a sense to how a search engine works at the moment, to look for the same type of metadata to provide an overview. At the moment, many movie review sites use different rating mechanisms that make it difficult to truly compare properly.

Could this be practical though? People have a tendency to lie in the real world and very often over the internet. People have in the past placed misinformation on webpages and its coding. In a system which tries to make sense and even compute some data, it would be very difficult to weed out. Think of GIGO (Garbage In Garbage Out), a thought process often used with data programs such as Excel, what you put in is what you get out.

How much can we protect personal data? A lot of news stories in the past few years have focused on the lack of privacy people have on Facebook or at least the difficulty in understanding it. Using that as an example, imagine semantic search engines being able to look into this information and use it in a general pool. To what extent can we use that information?

Web 3.0 isn’t just about intelligent data though, it’s about emphasising that computers could become personalised to the user’s needs. An internet that is focussed on the individual and can deliver results relevant to them in a much more efficient way are both features some expect to see. On close inspection, you realise that we already have technologies which are beginning to step into these ideas, such as behavioural advertisements and personalised homepages. But it’s a question of having that implemented across a large extent of the internet, not just on certain webpages.

How Web 3.0 ends up in practice may be somewhat different from the theories that currently exist to try and predict how the use of the internet will change. Some argue that Web 3.0 is an unrealised idea and that we’re comfortable living in a Web 2.0 world. However things take time to change and it may be years yet before we see another monumental shift in the way we use the world’s network.


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