How To Define Web 3.0
Over the last few months I have written a weekly piece on how the Web is evolving. Taking into account the current trends in technology, and the direction in which the web is developing I have tried to define Web 3.0. At the end of volume one of this discussion piece, I think we have come a long way. To help you digest everything, I am presenting you with the entire article as How To Split An Atom’s Definitive Guide To Web 3.0, Volume One. I’ve made some editorial changes and commentary along the way. Technology evolves quickly and the online space has managed to change even between when I started this article and now.
Before we dive in, here is the definition that I will be using for Web 3.0. There has been many a sage who has said that if you can’t explain a concept in one sentence then it’s not worth thinking about. I think I have managed to explain Web 3.0 quite nicely, so without further ado.
Definition: Highly specialized information silos, moderated by a cult of personality, validated by the community, and put into context with the inclusion of meta-data through widgets.
Now that we have a definition, lets take a look at what this new web will look like.
Web 3.0 An Overview
In this future, I will start my journey through the web with one of three tasks — seeking information, seeking validation or seeking entertainment.
The web as it is now uses keywords in order to aggregate data into usable chunks. Search engines index the internet en masse and present it to the end user in order of relevance. They determine relevance by using complex algorithms. Web 2.0 brought us a change in the basic way that we search, tagging. With tagging you could describe anything as anything and search for items in a fashion that is more in line with the way people really look for things.
Web 3.0 will take this one step further. If you are searching for information on Cars, for example, you would use the search engine as you normally would, but your results would be more specialized subengines. I would find BMW Search or Kia Search. From there, I would be able to dig deeper and find items that have been tagged as relating to BMW and sort them into their major categories (pictures, videos, blog posts, news articles, commerce etc…) Each of these could be captured as an RSS feed so that I can be alerted when something new is added to by search profile.
The way the engines would order these items would be a combination of the old and the new. The strong algorithms that are currently used would be kept, but in addition some weight would be given to items that the community has flagged as interesting or voted on.
Meme: Community built around search results.
If I am not necessarily looking for information, but instead am looking for “news” (I use news in as loose a fashion as I can) the way I would use search would be slightly different. Along with the specialized search engines, People Search would be available. You could type in what you were looking for, “conservative viewpoint on Darwin” for example and it would pull up results ordered by relevance (algorithms), tagging, and validation through user voting.
StumbleUpon may be the closest analogy to how we will be entertained in Web 3.0. You fill out a profile, define your tags and then flip the channel. It will be a lot like services like Joost as well, where you can interact with the content that you are seeing and generate communities around it.
Meme: Relevance through user interaction.
Where Do Social Networks Fit In?
Remember when I said that Web 3.0 would be based around cults of personality? Imagine a world where you could search a name and bring up that person, all the social networks they belong to, and produce a feed around them.
In this world, the idea of “Social Networks” will be completely replaced by People Search. If I put a proper name into the search engine of Web 3.0 it would provide the running profile of my presence on the web; it would show everything in the webosphere that has been tagged as belonging to me, ordered by community validation and relevance. Once again, this would not necessarily be a simple search. In this Wikiality my page would contain both information that I have written about myself and information that has been written about me.
Meme: Everyone will have Page Rank.
Blogging, Websites and Everything Else
Now that I have found the page that I am looking for, what will those pages look like?
While I don’t believe that classical blogging will ever disappear, alongside it will be a vast increase in Microblogging. People want to be able to blog from anywhere, without having to spend hours writing a properly formatted post. Web 3.0 will see a more complete integration between devices like cell phones and the world wide web (does anything still use that term?) Posting pictures, videos and text from anywhere, anytime with as little hassle as possible.
Included in my personal page will be meta-data from around the rest of my Web Empire. Our pages will be little more than our personal interpretations of all the data available on the web, plugged into these pages through a growing array of widgets and shared with the world.
Meme: The Widget Web
While Commerce as a whole will not change, new developments in advertising and how media is presented while distinctly alter the way products are sold online. “Conversational advertising” and Advertainment will take the place of stock ads and promotions. Cults of personality and their sponsorships will also become driving forces in a world where the line between advertising and entertainment blurs.
The entire advertising landscape will change, as companies do their best to target the niche audiences produced by the inclusion of People Search and ultra specialized subengines. Contextual advertisement will take second seat to product placements on sites, search results and subengines relating to the messages that companies are trying to get out.
Meme: We are all our own brands
Related Companies: MySpace
Web 3.0 Design
Meme: Draggable, droppable, searchable
- Specialized Subengines for Search
- Social Networks replaced by People Search
- Your Online Presence Searchable, Taggable and Ordered by Relevance through Voting and Algorithms
- Increased Microblogging and more Powerful Widgets to allow you to place any of your feeds anywhere.
- Increased Integration between devices like cell phones and the web.
All great web movements are driven by their enabling technologies. If it was not for the Wiki and the idea of “community voting” then Web 2.0 would never have occurred. Going back further, CMS technology along with the Forum were the first glimmers that something new was on the horizen for the web. Even before the concept of “blogging” entered the collective conscious, online journaling existed. The only way to understand a movement is through its technology, and many of the technologies that will enable Web 3.0 are currently here.
Even beyond its formal definition, what Web 3.0 will mean for the world is that the internet while be transformed into a massive, universally searchable database and our place in it will be to organize this well-spring of information into slices that are palatable to us. One of the main organization tools that we will use are widgets and a host of data management technologies. Many of these technologies are here today, in one form or another.
RSS. A Web 3.0 Driver
In ten years RSS and its related technologies will be seen as the single most important internet technology since Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau created the World Wide Web at CERN around 17 years ago.
Real Simple Syndication is crucial to the development of the new web because it’s just that, really simple. Anyone with a WordPress account or a tiny bit of coding knowledge can generate an extensible, standards based database of information that can be transferred to almost any other modern web site.
If Web 3.0 is the Semantic Web, where computer agents read content like human beings do — then RSS will be its eyes (or at least its corrective lenses). Already, entire business models are being created around aggregating meta-data. Netvibes allows you to create your own personal homepage, drawing much of its content from RSS feeds that you select. iGoogle does the exact same thing, and a host of others are jumping on the concept that the easiest way to give users relevant content is to give them the ability to define relevance for themselves.
In this future, RSS will be extended to include a host of data-points it currently does not. Each blog post (or microblogging feed), every picture, every video clip will have searchable, taggable, XML based syndication around it.
But wait, there is more.
The web as a database means that your online persona is apt to become an entry in it. If you look at technologies like FOAF you will see what I mean. FOAF is a project founded by Libby Miller and Dan Brickley. You can think of it as RSS but for Social Networks. It takes common profile data and puts it into a form that makes it cross-compatible with other social networks. Once Search Engines are properly able to manage meta-data like RSS, FOAF and the half-dozen other protocols out there and present it more intuitively the concept of a truly universal internet is well without our grasp.
Finally, RSS enables users to define their own contexts for information. Imagine a word where creating a mashup between Google maps and your Twitter account was no more difficult than sticking a few widgets together. This type of widgetizing of the web is not too far off, already Yahoo has a mashup creator — Yahoo Pipes that lets you do just this. Web 3.0′s real power will be in the ability to create data and transfer it effectively, even now we are well on our way.
Meme: The transportable web
Related Products: iGoogle, Netvibes, Yahoo Pipes
Software Agents And Expert Systems
Human beings are intrinsically lazy creatures. That might not sit well with you, but intuitively you know its true. OK, fine, for the sake of discussion lets exchange the word lazy for efficient. Feel better now?
Now for a few definitions to seed our discussion:
Expert System: An expert system, also known as a knowledge based system, is a computer program that contains some of the subject-specific knowledge, and contains the knowledge and analytical skills of one or more human experts.
Software Agent: In computer science, a software agent is a piece of software that acts for a user or other program in a relationship of agency. Such “action on behalf of” implies the authority to decide when (and if) action is appropriate. The idea is that agents are not strictly invoked for a task, but activate themselves.
Software Agents and Expert systems will be our off line access point to Web 3.0.
If you have ever had a sniffle and gone to WebMD for advice, then you understand what an Expert System is. The short version is that it is a software agent that takes user input, runs it through a knowledge database and then generates an output using fancy technologies like neural nets (which since this is not a hard science blog, is beyond the scope of this post).
Ten years from now, Expert Systems won’t only be designed for general cases, but will be able to be easily generated to understand individuals tastes. Already we see contextual advertising and contextual search, but what if you could extend this concepts to a web browser or to your mobile phone. Imagine a world where your computer would generate a profile, a meme map about you based on your interactions with the web and refine your experience based on this map.
If you used a search engine, your results would be weighted based not only on the standard Web 3.0 metrics, but also on “what you care about” as defined by all your previous interactions with this particular search engine and all of this would be completely transparent.
It is a world defined not by the strength of a arbitrary search algorithm, but one of mass personalization where every search that you make and every result that you decide to follow up on means that your next search will be more and more personalized. You push all of this data into your FOAF, and you really have something.
Meme: Mass customization and the personalized web.
Related Products: Google Search History, WebMD, Contextual Advertising
Programs that surf the web for you will become more and more powerful. In a world where your personal profile containing your likes, dislikes and search history is as easy to upload as it is to add a feed to your RSS reader, it is no surprise that a major industry will be software that does your searching for you.
Imagine a scenario where you want to find a new camera. Since you have personal meme map containing a listing of all the cameras you have ever searched and this list is ordered by the frequency of those searches, you can set your software agent to continue this search for you in your absence. When you return home you would be presented with a list of sites ordered by price, relevance (to you) and features that have been found based on your preference. What you do with this list is fed back into the system, improving future searches.
Meme: Self-serve search is history…
Related Projects: MIT Media Lab
The Privacy Caveat
Reputation management, Meme management and Data privacy will be the major issues of the day. When you have a world where everything that you do is being written into an RSS feed (in one form or another), the ability to protect this feed will be crucial. New industries that are currently being developed will be expanded on. Professional and Semi-Professional netizens will hire SEO experts to ensure that their reputations are being properly managed.
Where once there was only an industry for corporate level intelligence and brand protection, bloggers with a vested interest in how they are perceived online (the Robert Scobles and Mike Arringtons of the world) will join into the mix.
Also, lets not forget the improvement in privacy features. The ability to block certain actions from being indexed, or limit the access to your profile by third party sources will be the next big push in internet security and privacy.
Meme: Reputation hacking / Reputation gaming
Related Products: RepuTrace
- Information will be pushed into feed services like FOAF and RSS transparently.
- Information will be aggregated by Search Engines and indexed in a human readable format.
- Expert systems will be able to act as a proxy for you online.
- Managed search through software agents will become cheap and available.
- Privacy protection technologies will come to the forefront.
The Future Of Blogging
If there is any concept that has become a part of the daily life of the average netizen, it’s the idea of the blog. In the last ten years, blogging has developed from HTML entries on a personal webpage, to hosed journaling sites like “Live Journal” to the pseudo-journalistic, CMS based juggernaut it has become. What does the future hold for blogging? It’s impossible to truly know, but as the web is currently developing it looks like what we consider blogging will become more rich and technologies will improve to the point where our entire lives can be streamed online.
Microblogging will be the critical change in the way we write in Web 3.0. Imagine a world where your mobile phone, your email, and you television could all produce feedback that could easily be pushed to any or all blogging platforms. If you take a picture from your smart-phone, it would be automatically tagged, bagged and forwarded to your “lifestream”. If you rated a television show that you were watching, your review would be forwarded into the stream.
This is the type of seamless integration that will finally bring the concept of blogging to the masses. Posts will become shorter and more topical, the world of rehashing the meme will be replaced by one where life and news generation go hand in hand. Blogging won’t be a hobby reserved for internet enthusiasts, but a past time for the MySpace generation.
Of course, the allure of any individual blog would be much more limited. As the popularity of micro-blogging explodes, more and more basically “unreadable” blog will start to populate the blogosphere. It’s not hard to imagine a world where the vast majority of your posts amount to, “stuck in traffic, ugh…”
Fortunately, microblogging also opens up the world to new opportunities. Live blogging, a technique usually reserved for important events, would become common. If you can’t actually be at a conference, pictures, video and commentary could be pushed to you in real time. The entire world would become an Op-Ed piece.
Refined searching methods would also transform blog writers into brands themselves. Since everything would be happening in near real-time, it’s the writer who can get to the event and convey it most convincingly that will draw the crowds. Everyone has the same information, the question will be who makes you want to read it.
Meme: Blogging, life recorded…
Related Companies: Jiaku, Tumblr, Twitter
Web 3.0 will be the age of the RSS. Web services will enable you to blog from anywhere, and RSS will enable you to combine all of these divergent feeds into one coherent picture. Blogs themselves will be reduced to a stream of consciousness interspersed with longer, traditional news pieces. Where once we could only hope to get one or two posts written a day, it won’t be strange to have two dozen posts in one afternoon on a Web 3.0 enabled blog.
If you want to take a peek into the future, look at web services like Twitter or Facebook status.These streams only ask for one line worth of information describing exactly what you are doing at the moment. As a result, they provide extremely concise, constantly updated information. Now that you have the ability to stream these services through RSS, the amount of information that you can easily generate from anywhere that you have mobile phone or web access as exploded.
Think of your blog as a combination off all the pseudo-blogging tools that you will be using in a few years. Your Flickr feed and your Jaiku account, your Upcoming calendar and the latest Google maps mashup. Your blog will, in short, be a living, breathing approximation to who you are.
Meme: My blog knows more about me than my friends do.
Related Companies: iGoogle, Netvibes
Choosing Not To Blog
As blogging becomes more invasive, a common societal backlash will be those who simply refuse to do it. Even if they do blog, it will be from within walled gardens (like social networks) that they can tightly control. Generally, people are more than willing to give information out online, as long as they are given the option to make that information private. In Web 3.0, access control and role based privacy features will be the speaking points of the day.
Some new places that you will be able to push information to your blog from.
- Mobile Phones
- Video Game Consoles
- Smart Watches
- Your Local Gym
If it produces data, it is likely that there will be a method to upload that data. If data can be uploaded into a universal format (like RSS) it will be able to be pushed into whichever receptacle you deem appropriate.
Meme: Is there anywhere that we aren’t connected?
Related Projects: Lifebits
- One massive blog containing all of your feeds
- Blog from anywhere
- Lifestreaming replacing typical blog journalism
- Internet fame based around being able to tell the story of your life most effectively through feeds.
Blogging in the future will be much less like Journalism, and much more like Microsoft’s Lifebits project. It will be easy, transparent and as much a part of how we live as email. Enabled by advanced searching capability, there is little doubt that the superstars of tomorrow may be those with the most “readable” lives. Traditional blogging will have its niche, but it will be no means be the most pervasive (or necessarily the most important) one.
If you take a look at the evolution of online advertising in the last decade you will see a market that has evolved from purely banner advertising to painful pop-ups to the rich array of advertising alternatives that we currently tolerate. What will the future look like? We will seem a movement towards blurring the lines between advertising and content. Not only this, but rich media will become all the more important.
The first thing that we should look at are the different publishing options that are currently coming into fashion. As our ability to produce new content and promote this content improves, the move will be from purely text options to richer media like podcasting and video blogging.
Ease of production, increased quality and the creation of more strongly branded Podcasting networks will mark the next evolution in Podcasting. Networks like TWiT and PodTech are prime examples of this movement. As genres become more tightly defined, PodCasters — at least those who aspire towards a wide distribution — will realize that combining their content will allow them to scale their operations to the point where advertisers will be much more willing to take them seriously.
The first and probably most common form of advertising that will define Podcasting in Web 3.0 are pre and post-roll advertising. Since content will be longer, and it will be streamed continuously, podcasting will more closely resemble terrestrial radio stations. As such, these podcasting networks will be able to attract advertisers who have a specific interest in courting the extremely specialized niches of most podcasts.
Advertising itself will have to be redesigned to properly exploit a listening audience that is so deeply segmented. At present, most advertising is designed for audiences with little knowledge of the technical specifications of products; however, listeners of — for example — tech podcasts may be turned off by advertisers who they feel produce patronizing content. Advertising will have to become more sophisticated and provide more value by both entertaining and informing the listening audience.
Meme: We want to be sold on value, not patronized.
Related Companies: PodTech, TWiT
Google is currently experimenting with contextual advertising designed for rich media content, startups like LiveRail are also taking a similar approach. These contextual ads will likely take the form of pre and post-roll advertising as well as ads placed inside the content itself.
The current technical barriers are that the software needed to actually transcribe the podcast content such that keywords can be extracted is in its infancy. Web 3.0 will mark a substantial improvement in audio analytics, and will enable the use of contextual advertising.
The major sociological hurdle is how to place advertising without distracting from the content. Right now, most people are used to ad banners and have learned to ignore them. When it comes to rich media content these ads will be impossible to ignore. Since all of this content will streamed it won’t be long before software is developed to strip these ads from the rich media content itself.
While the vast majority of podcasts will be distributed through content distribution systems like iTunes, there will still be a substantial amount of viewers who get their content straight from the media portals themselves. Instead of placing advertising inside of the content itself, an alternative method may be to place the ads around the content. This is especially true in services that use specialized flash players to deliver their content. Text based advertising might be a way to move into a new media while still retaining the strengths of a previous one.
Like radio before it, as Podcasts begin to produce “personalities” the move towards product placement will only increase. It has always been more effective to have a “real person” promote a product than to do so through traditional advertising. That’s why sponsorship contracts are so lucrative. That brings up the idea of the advertorial, an idea that has recently come over from traditional media into the blogosphere.
As readers, writers and entrepreneurs we are conditioned to filter out that which, “does not matter”. About fifteen minutes after the banner ad was created, sometime near the dawn of time, it was added to that list. As a result, your average web surfer does not even “see” ads, let alone respond to them in any of the ways that advertisers would prefer us to.
Click Thru Rate is not the king of the hill any longer, advertisers need to be sure that they are getting their message across. As a result, new modes of getting the attention of an increasingly jaded public have to be devised.
Conversational Media involves generating buzz through linking an idea (meme) to endorsers that have credibility in associated fields. An example would be a be sports bloggers being quoted as describing in what situations they have been called on to, “Just Do It!” and how that has positively affected their lives.
The way this media works is to use cults of personality to add creditability to claims made about a product or brand. This is done not through a clear endorsement, but through “discussing” a topic of the sponsors choosing. Of course, this is most effective when this topic is a registered trademark of the company doing the sponsorship.
This is a wildly effective way of turning an incredibly boring topic into something worthy of discussion. This conversation will occasionally become a meme, causing other bloggers to start using the phrase and linking ideas of trust and creditability back to the advertiser who devised it.
Meme: I blog therefore I ad.
Related Concepts: Endorsements
All Press Is Good
Conversational Media is one of those trends that works regardless of how you slice it. If people blindly believe the endorsers (as we occasional do when we see quotes from movie reviewers) then the catch phrase becomes associated with warm feelings, and the company sees a small spike in customer contentment and brand recognition.
If things go horribly wrong, brands that are interesting but have a hard time evoking the passion of the masses (Microsoft) get their 15 minutes in the limelight. Everyone involved in the controversy gets a bit of a traffic boost, and three days letter the blogosphere forgets why it was angry to begin with. It also creates evangelists, there is nothing like a controversy to drive people away from the fence.
All in all, at worse it can temporarily hurt PR while substantially improving brand cohesion for the people who like your company. It also greatly improves exposure of the idea, and has built in viral effects should things get “out of hand”.
Meme: I love controversy, it drives up my ad sales.
Related Companies: Federated Media, Gawkers, Pay Per Post
As cults of personality become more dominant in the Web 3.0 culture, they will need to apply checks and balances to the way that they “use” their celebrity. Public trust is a finite thing, and once you lose it you can’t get it back very easily. Publishers and advertisers will need to strike a balance between the needs of a particular ad campaign, and the loss of creditability associated with paid endorsements. I think Robert Scoble said it best, do whatever you want but if you don’t want to leave yourself open to attack — disclose it.
For PodCasts, advertisers will have the advantage of being able to target very specific niches. Clever companies will be able to use this fact to substantially increase their conversion rates by creating cheaper advertisements geared towards describing the added benefits of their products over their competitors. In a lot of way, Web 3.0 advertising will more closely resemble television advertising in the 1950s. Companies will rely heavily on product placement and informational advertising directed specifically towards a tech savvy audience.
Meme: Smart Advertising
Related Companies: PodZinger, CallMiner
As pay per click loses its appeal in the wake of lower and lower conversion rates, the future of online advertising for blogs and other information portals will take on a “pay for time” model. Instead of advertisers paying for the number of clicks, they will contract bloggers out for particular periods of time. Depending on the placement of the ads, and the nature of the advertisement, the advertisers will pay a flat fee. The contracts will be renewed should the blogger maintain a high enough conversion rate. Text Link Ads currently follows a similar model, offering a residual for the right to sell text links on your site.
As blogging becomes a more important medium, direct sales of advertising will become more common. Major companies will develop simple ways to price advertising based on traffic and “popularity” statistics. Using this, they will be able to more easily treat bloggers in the same way that they treat other more mainstream news sources, purchasing advertising space for blogs that meet specific demographic criteria.
The biggest enabling technology for such a change in how advertising operates will be in the ability to match companies to bloggers with minimum friction. Currently, selling advertising directly to companies requires a substantial amount of effort. In Web 3.0, the system will be made more smooth through freely available and highly accurate statistical data.
Meme: Paying for “air time”
Related Companies: TextLinkAds, Pay Per Post, Compete
What Will Ads Look Like?
For this section I am concentrating specifically on rich media advertising. Text based Ads and banners will continue to become “prettier” and the biggest change will be the ability to “bookmark” ads for later viewing. As advertising more closely resembles entertainment, people will want the ability to go back and look at their favorite ads. More notable than banner ads, however, will be the future of video advertising.
As it stands, the line between advertising and entertainment has already blurred. In Web 3.0, this line will simply cease to exist. Advertising will be such that it is completely indistinguishable from entertainment. Ads will be designed to make brands memorable, and drive people to seek out more information for themselves. Viral marketing will come to the fore, as advertisers attempt to tap the huge number of eyeballs that the internet offers them.
Success in the new advertising model is in the number of people that you can get to actually view your ads. Assuming that only a tiny fraction of people will ever be converted by advertising, developing extremely viral, extremely popular content will maximize the number of people available to convert.
Look forward to advertising networks on portals like YouTube and Joost, and longer advertising blocks that seem more like short films than commercials.
Meme: Sell the sizzle, not the steak.
Related Products: YouTube, Joost
- Increased number of product placements
- Pre and Post-roll advertising on PodCasts
- Increased number of PodCasting networks
- Pay Per Time Advertising Models
- Post and blog sponsorships
- Advertising as entertainment
No matter how technology evolves there will always be a constant, people want to be entertained. In this Web 3.0 world, entertainment will become far more interactive and a much stronger part of our daily lives. Whether it is video, audio or advertising exciting new methods of viewing media are in development.
As it stands, people are watching less TV because of services like YouTube. As people have less time to sit in front of a set-top box and spend more of their leisure time sitting in front of their computer screens, greater shifts seem almost inevitable. This paradigm shift notwithstanding no matter what direction our society moves, we are always looking for entertainment. Systems like YouTube and now Joost will become more popular. Their main advantage is that they allow us to consume entertainment in small, manageable chucks and then get back to work.
The future of the web will provide us with more dense media. Instead of passive entertainment (which will still have its place), Web 3.0 will see the introduction of Active Media. The next time you are watching reruns of Buffy the Vampire Slayer you might be presented with a side-panel containing other, similar programs.
You’ll have a social network available to you of others who are watching the episode at the same time. You will be able to find programs with similar actors, similar styles, similar lengths or maybe something as obscure as similar musical scores. You’ll have statistical information available to you like the highest rated episodes and you’ll be able to interact with your media, voting on your favorite everything.
For those who prefer to let themselves be entertained, then software agents will keep track of what you have been watching and push programs to you that you should like as a result. The point is that we will watch media along a spectrum ranging from the familiar passive entertainment that we are used to, to a rich media experience combining every aspect of social networking with media.
The newest version of YouTube takes a stab at adding social networking elements to online video, and Pandora — everyone’s favorite digital radio station — allows you to create a playlist of music that you will enjoy based on an initial selection.
Set Top Boost
What will you do with your Plasma Screen and HD-DVD set top boxes in Web 3.0? No fear, they will be as important a part of your life as always. Companies like Joost are taking the first step to move digital content to the set-top box as they attempt to make deals with hardware manufacturers. In this future, all digital content will available alongside traditional mass media. You’ll be able to see watch Lost and Ask A Ninja one after another, and use all the features of a DVR to remix them to your heart’s content.
Traditional “channels” will still be available, but the majority of entertainment from television connoisseurs will come in the form of “playlists”. Tell your television what you want to see, and it will scour the Media Web for content that you will like based on your preferences and the preferences of those with similar entertainment tastes. All of this will be presented in HD quality.
This isn’t that far off, already systems like TiVo can keep track of your preferences and record content that it believes you will enjoy. This just takes that, adds social networking elements from systems like YouTube and embeds them into your set-top.
Meme: Take your media anywhere.
Related Companies: YouTube, Pandora, Joost
Season One BETA
The way television programs are produced will be the next big change in media. Take a look at any of the major networks. An enormous amount money is spent creating pilots and advertiser dollars are wasted when those pilots tank. Unfortunately, some of those shows later become incredibly popular in niche markets. A prime example is Firefly, which failed on its initial run on Fox, but is now one of the most popular Sci-Fri television programs to date.
A way to correct this in the Web 3.0 landscape is by making every new show a BETA. The networks can film the pilots, present them online and then allow the public to decide which should be given a traditional media run. The winners end up on television, the losers finish their one season runs online, where they have a chance to redeem themselves if it turns out that initial impressions failed to take something into account.
Current.tv currently does this on a small scale, allowing users to submit content which ends up being broadcast on their television network if it is popular enough. The real power of Web 3.0 will come into effect when program managers give over some of their power to the consumer and every television program is vetted by the public.
Taken one step further, the public will be able to rate whether they believe a show is too long or too short, whether they like particular actors and what changes should be made to make the programs better. Since the feedback loop is so tight, corrections could be made from episode to episode. Of course, these changes would have to be within reason and at the end of the day, the program managers will always have the final say. Consider it a massive suggestion box rather than fully democratized television.
Meme: All television shows are BETA projects
Related Companies: Current.tv
The biggest change to come out of Web 3.0 will be the lifestream. I define a lifestream as a media stream (podcast, video, blog) by you and about your life. As the barriers to entry for creating decent quality digital video become lower, and companies spring up that allow you to aggregate this video more easily, more and more people will see this as a way to communicate with the world around them.
Take a look at PBS (Public Access Television) and imagine if there was a system that would allow you to use the soapbox that it provides without the strong barriers to entry that currently limits it.
Bloggers, some of whom currently run podcasts will start recording themselves and presenting it for public consumption (Chris Pirillo is a fine example). New television personalities will be created as this content migrates to the set-top and is picked up as “related content” through the social network. Your average person with a good idea will be able to become a wildly popular media star from the comfort of his or her basement. Advertisers will sponsor the most popular of these programs, and well liked new media stars will spin off programs and form ad hoc “channels” around their content.
YouTube currently does something similar to this with their “channels”, Justin.tv is a lifestream that has spun off a sister program Justine TV, and Your Truman Show is a young company that seeks to make it easier for people to generate lifestreams and aggregate them through a social network.
The start of almost everyone’s journey through the web begins at the search engine. Understanding how search will evolve is understanding how the Web will evolve. As the amount of information available becomes greater, our means of getting at that information will need to become more sophisticated. Web 3.0 will provide us with a new paradigm as search is concerned.
Specialized Search Engines
As it stands now, search is usually a hit or miss proposition. You begin the trek for any particular piece of information at one of the major content portals. You type in your query and you have results pushed to you that have been sorted algorithmically. For the most part, it works, but the biggest problem that search engines face today is context.
When I search for my name, for instance, I would likely end up with a much more famous version of “Steven” appearing at the top of the SERP. If I am interested in knowing who is talking about me online, the imdb page on Steven Spielberg is completely irrelevant. The Web 3.0 solution is one that Google and many others have been toying with for quite some time now, specialized search engines.
The work flow for systems like this are as follows. Before I ever query a term, I first choose my context. It could be something as broad as “authors” or something as narrowly defined as “Gainesville, FL authors”. This context acts as filter over which my query is run. A prime example of this is Google’s Blog Search. Quite a few times, I am not interested in an eCommerce site about the “iPod”, what I am interested in is the blogosphere’s opinion on the device. By allowing me to set my context initially, I got a lot more value from my searches.
Web 3.0 will expand upon this idea. Instead of thinking of a search engine in terms of a huge aggregation of “everything imaginable”. The search engine itself will be nothing more than a portal to smaller “searchlets”. Lets not confuse this with a directory structure. In directory based search, you’re forced to wade your way through often obscure multi-level link trees to find information. It also relies strictly on a human being to sort that information properly. This leads to tiny, often irrelevant datasets.
In Web 3.0 search engines will need to have a better understanding of “context”. One way to accomplish this is to take a nod from directories and allow results to be tagged. These tags can be voted on by the community and would only be an addition to, not a replacement for, traditional sorting algorithms. Thus, if an eCommerce site is tagged as being a source for information on “iPods”, the community has validated this with their votes and the algorithm acknowledges that this is true, it would appear high on the listing for searches within the context “iPod”.
Context is the major driving force behind all Web 3.0 thinking. As the amount of data we are subjected to on a daily basis increases, the only way we will have any chance of using it effectively is if systems are put into place to allow us to refine our context. Everything in the terrestrial world works like this.
When you are looking for a book, you go into a book store or library. If you are looking for a movie, you go to a movie theater or video rental shop. Nowhere in the natural world is there an “everything” store that just contains a hodgepodge of unsorted products. Schools are broken into classes and Malls are broken into stores. The point is that in the “real world” when we ask a question or look for something, we get answers that are relevant to the context we are currently in. In order for search to truly evolve, it must act like this.
Meme: My search engine understands me better than you do!
Related Projects: Swicki, Google Blog Search, WebMD
Natural Language Search
The second biggest hurdle to search as it stands today is that we can’t really ask search engines questions. The issue has always been that search engines don’t understand context very well.
When people ask each other questions, there is generally enough feedback available that allows us, with very little trouble, to understand what the other person is “really” asking. If someone who is coughing comes up to you and asks, “What do you know about the common cold?” chances are good you will recommend a decent cough suppressant. Machines don’t have this luxury. Up until now, the answer to the question has always been to either ignore natural language search or to tell the users of such an engine to be more specific or to use more strongly phrased questions. Web 3.0 is a web that understands context, thus in it the power of natural language search can be more fully exploited.
Search My Past
If, for example, I have spent a lot of time researching the causes and cures for a cough and all of my searches have fallen into associated contexts, the engine will be able to understand that when I query, “What do you know about the cold?” that I am not talking about what it knows about the Antarctic, my real concern is in the common cold and its cures.
This sort of intelligence will require that we change the way that we understand search engines. Search engines will become full web services that we will have control over and be able to train to understand our behavior. Instead of it taking the moving average of the population’s behavior like the current trends dictate, it will start with this moving average and become more personalized to our needs as we use it.
In order to make this useful, stronger privacy infrastructure will need to be put into place. As likely as not, these search “profiles” would be stored locally instead of being kept on the search engines servers. The advantage of this is that these profiles would then be portable to other engines and could be loaded or not at the searchers discretion. Storing this information locally would also somewhat limit search engines ability to use this information as demographic data for advertising, unless the end user wished for that to be the case.
Digital Body Language
Having a universal search profile would also be useful to “flesh out” our digital persona. What machine lack right now is the digital equivalent to body language. They have no way of understanding us based on their interactions with us. Having a portable, shareable, locally stored search profile will allow us to share information with web applications that will allow us to interact with them in a way more reminiscent of real conversation.
In the identity space, systems like OpenID are doing a tiny subset of this. They are giving us the ability to take our profile data with us. In the Web 3.0 world this will be expanded to include a much larger set of information.
Meme: Digital body language
Related Projects: Powerset, Ask.com, Google Search History, OpenID
A huge part of Web 3.0 search will be surrounding “People Search”. As our social networks expand, and more cults of personality make their way into the digital wastelands we will want ways to find out who is who.
What Web 3.0 will allow us to do is not just find websites related to concepts, but using natural language we will be able to find answers to questions from experts who have written about them previously. Think of it as a melding of Digg and Google’s specialized search engines. If, for example, you wanted to know about the common cold and you found a great blog post on curing it, you could then vote for this post and if others agreed, over time when someone asked that question or if someone searched for that author, what would appear is a listing of that person’s “core competencies”. This listing will contain articles, profiles, images, videos and so on that the recommendation engine most closely relates to that person. Since we are dealing in context, the results of this search would be as good as the context you are in. I, for example, would neither appear in searches around the common cold nor searches for “movies”.
Guided search engines always belong in the context of their creators. The reason that guided search, in at of itself, is not sufficient is that it ignores the “wisdom of the crowds” by seeing search through an editor’s eyes. Guided search solves the problem of context while ignoring the problems associated with a purely editorial infrastructure.
The future of systems like this will be in combining them with more traditional algorithms to produce a search engine that allows you to “fill in the blanks” with the aid of guides. Guides and human based search is most powerful when the other types of search have absolutely failed. If, for example, you are looking for some very specific piece of information on an obscure subject matter, a search engine quite often fails to “understand” what you are trying to accomplish. Editorially powered search, when combined with fast search algorithms, natural language and a strong database of previously answered questions could plug this hole.
Meme: My search guide’s database is better than yours!
Related Projects: Mahalo, ChaCha, About.com
- Search engines will be replaced by smaller, specialized searchlets
- Search engines will be able to understand context through tagging and community interaction.
- Search “profiles” will become portable, allowing us to have the digital equivalent of body language.
- Natural language search will be improved once search engines have a stronger understanding of context.
- People search will become more important.
- Guided / Editorial search will be a stopgap where search engines still fail to provide relevance.
Other Web 3.0 Conjecture
Phil Wainewright, ZDNet
API services form the foundation layer. These are the raw hosted services that have powered Web 2.0 and will become the engines of Web 3.0 â€” Googleâ€™s search and AdWords APIs, Amazonâ€™s affiliate APIs, a seemingly infinite ocean of RSS feeds, a multitude of functional services, such as those included in the StrikeIron Web Services Marketplace, and many other examples. Some of the providers, like Google and Amazon, are important players, but there is a huge long tail of smaller providers. One of the most significant characteristics of this layer is that it is a commodity layer. As Web 3.0 matures, an almost perfect market will emerge and squeeze out virtually all of the profit margin from the highest-volume services â€” and sometimes squeeze them into loss-leading or worse.
1) Easier, cheaper, and more pervasive. Only a fraction of humanity has anything to do with Web 2.0. Others stay to the sidelines because they find the technology too confusing or expensive, or they don’t see the relevance. Bring another billion or so people into Web 2.0, and Metcalfe’s Law alone will make it a radically different phenomenon.
I feel that Web 3.0 will be characterized and fueled by the successful marriage of artificial intelligence and the web. Artificial Intelligence? Isn’t that the kool-aid that the Semantic Web community is drinking? Yes and no. The technologies considered pivotal in the Semantic Web are indeed considered by many to have their underpinnings in artificial intelligence. But, most of the Semantic Web projects I’ve seen are focused squarely on the creation of, and communication between, intelligent agents that do the natural language and topical matching work in a transparent manner, behind the scenes, without requiring human intervention.
Alex Iskold, ReadWriteWeb
Today’s Web has terabytes of information available to humans, but hidden from computers. It is a paradox that information is stuck inside HTML pages, formatted in esoteric ways that are difficult for machines to process. The so called Web 3.0, which is likely to be a pre-cursor of the real semantic web, is going to change this. What we mean by ‘Web 3.0′ is that major web sites are going to be transformed into web services – and will effectively expose their information to the world.
Web 2.0 Roundup
That completes volume one of the How To Split An Atom guide to Web 3.0. There are quite a few aspects of the net that need to be discussed, and I will try to do so in the coming weeks.
Analyzing Web 3.0 is an exercise in understanding how human beings naturally consume data. We tend to gravitate towards specialized information silos for the majority of our information. That’s why we have television stations instead of one massive GooTube, and why we buy magazines about our favorite subjects instead of white sheets containing random news articles.
Web 1.0 lacked context, Web 2.0 lacked interoperability, Web 3.0 will be a web where websites become web services and access to any information you desire is no more difficult than installing a widget onto your website.