From its humble roots as a scientific, military, and academic data transfer protocol, the Internet has attained almost unfathomable ubiquity and importance, worldwide. Yet, even as it’s popularity soars to heights unknown, the simple truth remains: we don’t know what the future holds for the Internet.
There is ample debate circulating the Internet regarding the future of the Web, and we’d like to share our perspective on the question. Before we can do so, however, we ought to address an even more fundamental question: what is going on with the Internet today?
Web 1.0 + Web 2.0
In it’s earliest form, the Internet offered little more than a means to view static Web pages. During this highly developmental period in the early ‘90s, the primary focus was on building the Web and it’s core technologies, as well as ensuring accessibility and ease of commercialization.
Web 1.0 existed within the confines of the available technology — it was an amalgamation of read-only, static web pages — therefore it’s potential to be of strong social significance was quite limited.
As a result, the late ‘90s and early ‘00s saw the rise of internet-based services such as social media sites, wikis, folksonomies, tools for sharing, and sites for online collaboration.
The shift toward a utilization of the Web as a platform for Internet-based services paved the way for the next evolution of the Internet. During this period, the Web reflected a totally new level of public involvement on the Internet. “Web 2.0” was born.
The rest is history.
The Internet of today is an entirely different entity than it was just ten years ago, and even more so than it was twenty years ago. It is so deeply entrenched in our lives that any changes to the Web are likely to have a significant effect on people everywhere.
So what is Web 3.0?
Web 3.0 as a hub for social issues.
As we continue to determine and define the various iterations of the Web as we know it, we ought to consider it’s far reaching effects as a hub for social change and influence.
Due to the degree to which it has become an integrated part of 21st century living, the Web has opened itself up as a colossal stage for social and political warfare.
Maintaining a certain level of awareness of the present and future of the Web is, among other things, an integral part of safeguarding your personal rights. Just think of net neutrality laws, and what they imply about your right to a free and open web.
Ever-Present Web 3.0
The early stages of the Ever-Present Web 3.0 can be seen all around us – how many smartphones have you seen today? In it’s simplest form, the Ever-Present Web was born out of a desire to be connected to the Internet no matter where we are.
The ability to connect to the Internet anytime, anywhere, is a distinct feature of modern technology, so much so that many airlines offer Wi-Fi access on their flights.
If the third iteration of the Web is to be defined strictly as the manifestation of an Ever-Present Web, then by all means, we are already in Web 3.0. There are other arguments, however, for what constitutes an adequate enough jump in technological distinctiveness to warrant the use of “3.0” terminology.
As the Ever-Present Web continues to grow evermore robust, it may act as a conduit through which analytics and intelligence data can help bring about the Semantic Web.
Semantic Web 3.0
According to the International Journal of Web & Semantic Technology (IJWesT) Vol.3, No.1, January 2012:
“Semantic web was thought up by Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web. There is a dedicated team at the World Wide Web consortium (W3C) working to improve, extend and standardize the system, languages, publications and tools have already been developed . Semantic web is a web that can demonstrate things in the approach which computer can understand. The main important purpose of [the] semantic web is to make the web readable by machines and not only by humans.”
Although there is very little consensus on whether or not it exists yet, the Semantic Web is held to be the manifestation of a machine-oriented information organization system. That is, a Web that can learn from the vast library of information available on the Internet.
If and when the Semantic Web becomes a fully realized entity, capable of learning from itself and from its users, it may act as a platform for the Artificially Intelligent Web to become a reality.
Artificially Intelligent Web 3.0
While it is a relatively underground concept, an Artificially Intelligent Web would be a remarkable thing to behold. Imagine a Web built on the IoT revolution, where every household object, every piece of technology will not only be connected to the Internet, but also “smart” enough to make decisions for you.
The concept of a “self-sustained” house is not a new one – just think of Ray Bradbury’s famous short story, The Veldt. Yet, the rate at which Web-based technology has been developing indicates that this may no longer be science fiction in the near future.
In fact, there is evidence that the Artificially Intelligent Web is not so far off. Just look at The Grid a modern website builder that promises artificially intelligent website designs, based on analytics and user information.
Consider Google’s self driving car technology. It is currently integrated with maps of the world, and many, many sensors – but imagine if it was integrated with other Google services, such as Google Calendar, or Google Music.
Your car could be smart enough not only to drive you to and from work, but perhaps pick up your friends for some carpooling if your schedules line up, and automatically play music that you both share in common.
Our Conclusions On The Web 3.0 Debate
So which Web 3.0 camp do we belong to?
We don’t believe that they are mutually exclusive – rather, we believe them to be milestones in the life of the Web. We can determine the adequate terminology based on the historical precedent set by Web 1.0 and Web 2.0.
Web 1.0 offered the world a means to view static web pages, and little more. Web 2.0 represented not only a major shift toward an increased social significance of the Internet, but also a shift in the mechanics of page interaction.
As such, any incremental changes to the “Web x.x” moniker ought to be justified by an apparent change in either the social importance of the Web, or the way in which it can be operated.
Thus, the “Web as a hub for social issues” can be dubbed Web 2.5, since it does not represent a significant departure from the substance of Web 2.0. On the contrary, it adds merely a deeper element of social significance to the mix.
The “Ever-Present Web” represents a significant evolution in the way that people interact with the Internet, thanks to technological advancements of the last decade. As such, we consider it to be the true manifestation of Web 3.0.
While it defines a shift in the way the Web functions, the “Semantic Web” does not necessarily represent a significant change in the way that users interact with it. Hence, we believe that the Web 3.5 moniker is appropriate here.
The “Artificially Intelligent Web,” on the other hand, could require users to learn an entirely new way of interacting with the Internet. In fact, this iteration of the Web could be characterized by an apparent lack of human interaction, as opposed to any particular mode of interaction. As such we believe that the Artificially Intelligent Web ought to be referred to as Web 4.0.
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