Posted by: char booth | 15 October 2007

streamlining social technologies (and web 3.0)

Last week O’Reilly Radar discussed the potential for developing “interoperability” between social sites and services – or, using stored data to transform the current ask-and-confim personal network model into a more intelligent and automatic one:

“The move from manual confirmation to automated recognition is one of the major trends that has allowed the web to scale from early manual web directories like GNN to smart search engines like Google. Social networking needs to follow the same path, discovering data about my social relationships, and not just asking me about them.”

This back-end development of how information is read, used, and shared encompasses what some describe as “Web 3.0”. For lack of a better (read: as vague yet somewhat more comprehensible) catch phrase, Web 3.0 most often seems to be used to represent what Read/Write Web characterizes as a transition from “web sites to web services” through more intelligent manipulation of user data.

O’Reilly is not at all keen on the Web 3.0 moniker, and is especially not when it is used to describe what he believes are essentially incremental improvements and/or new applications of currently available Web 2.0 technologies. He envisions the coming transition as “far broader and more pervasive than the web, as mobile technology, sensors, speech recognition, and many other new technologies make computing far more ambient than it is today.”

I definitely see some current utility in using “Web 3.0” to describe the movement towards intelligent, customizable, and interoperable computing – it is a far more accessible concept than the “semantic Web”, and depending on who you’re talking to these terms may either be synonymous, hierarchical, opposed, or completely unrelated. Despite its obvious tiredness, Web 3.0 thus serves an important rhetorical function using language that has become widely familiar to frame discussions about real or perceived breaks from existing technology. I agree with O’Reilly’s final assessment that the next movement of real significance will not (and should not) be called Web 3.0, as it will bear little resemblance to the innovations that Web 2.0 introduced.


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