Many futurists believe that our relationship with computers will evolve. The first stage was the use of them to read and produce documents or financial calculations. The second stage was the use of them networked to produce a web of communications and research. The third stage is where we are now, the use of these networked computers to "understand" what the objects are in the world, whether they be people, things or places. The digital enlightenment of the "noun." The fourth stage is happening at the same time as the third in a different area. We are beginning to think of a computer in a very small size. We are even beginning to imagine wearing them, or even having them implanted in us to enhance our powers, abilities and even intelligence. The last stage will be when we merge with them to the point that we will indistinguishable from them and they from us.
This next level in the evolution of the Internet has several names. It was first mentioned by Tim Berners-Lee in 2001, in an article titled, The Semantic Web. Here he referred to "intelligent agents," which were web applications which could carry out tasks, like personal digital assistants through the web. By semantic, it is meant that the web agents "understand" what they are doing and the final goal towards which they are to work for. Another name for this technology is Web 3.0 or the Internet of Things. This is Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of HTML and designer of the first web browser, on a video speaking about the Semantic Web.
Here, we will speak of this third stage we are presently in, the creation of the internet of things. This stage has already begun. Already on Facebook people identify their friends in pictures, Apple computers come with iPhoto, that can do a face scan of pictures and remember the face in the future for identification. When one labels anything, people's names, or any other object, they are using metatags, (which is a set of rules for encoding documents in a way that computers can "read" them), titled XML (eXtensible Markup Language). Today there are hundreds of forms of XML with the RSS standard by which we get what are called "feeds" being one of them.
We are teaching the web who people are. They are understanding where they live, what music they like, what their shopping habits are, etc. The web is beginning to understand what a location is. It is no longer thinking strictly like a dumb machine, functioning only by statistics, confusing Los Angeles with a phrase in Spanish as opposed to a city in California.
But this is just the beginning. The next logical and inevitable step is for all things to be connected to this web. By things, we mean physical objects. This video shows why we must move in the direction of a Semantic Web as well as the opinions of those who do not think that this semantic web will ever happen.
This is another video which further explains the semantic web.
The Many Definitions of Web 3.0
Jonathan Strickland mentions an excellent article on the different uses of the term web 3.0 by Jonas Bolinder. Although the article was written in 2008, it is still pretty current. The fact is that no one has one definition of what web 3.0 means or even if it is equivalent to the term semantic web. The major definitions seem to be that web 3.0 equals either semantic web, APIs and new web services, a time based definition like an epoch, that it involves 3D graphics and virtual worlds, the involvement of more professional media formats, the advent of high-quality content creation by programmers, a marketing ploy, and the all inclusive view sees all of these others happening concurrently. We are of the opinion that all of the latter view that all of these other things will happen concurrently.
Strickland gives examples of applications that implement these different ideas of Web 3.0. Amazon is an example of the idea that people will be able to make changes to the web by their reviews on products sold there. Social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace emphasize the intercommunication of this web 3.0. Sharing of media files is best illustrated by youtube with its ability to upload videos. RSS demonstrated the transfer of information and notifications. Finally, cell phones and other devices show that the user is accessing the internet through non-traditional computers.
The time based definition of web 3.0 sees the decades:
1. 1990-2000 Web 1.0
2. 2000-2010 Web 2.0
3. 2010-2020 Web 3.0 and so forth **
One view of web 3.0 is that it is going to be influenced by the development of a mashup. What is that?
A mashup is the combination of two or more applications into a single application. For example, a developer might combine a program that lets users review restaurants with Google Maps. The new mashup application could show not only restaurant reviews, but also map them out so that the user could see the restaurants' locations.***Some believe that HTML will not be able to handle these new demands on the Internet. They see a new language emerging. Here is a classic view of this idea:
To represent information on the web, html is widely used. However, it does have some limitations. html is not able to semantically connect pieces of information within itself. For example, one may create a list of employees on a webpage. The html of this page can make simple, document-level assertions like “This is a list of employees.” There isn't any capability within the actual code, however, to assert unambiguously that employee with the id “2335” works in the sales department. Therefore there is no way to add connections between pieces of information that are present on a page. A solution to this problem within html is to add semantic value to html elements, which is currently being implemented in the latest (fifth) version of html. For example, using an <em> tag denotes “emphasis” in places where it's needed (this works in all versions of html). Another way is to use microformats, which are unofficial attempts to extend html syntax by adding specific classes and relative attributes to html elements. Microformats create machine-readable semantic markup about objects like persons, events, or feeds of information. In Web 3.0, adding semantic value to elements and using microformats is extended further. It involves publishing information specifically designed for data. Examples of such languages are Resource Description Framework (rdf), Web Ontology Language, and xml. These new descriptive languages can describe arbitrary things like events, structures, and news. They also allow interlinked connections to be created between all sorts of data, which helps aggregators and crawlers to navigate in the huge information graph which represents the Internet. The content is displayed as descriptive data and is stored in relational databases that use cloud computing.Whether it is called web 3.0, semantic web, or any other name. This new internet is coming quickly. It will not be a centralized effort. It will be the work of tens of thousands, and it will be confusing at first. This is the way things have always developed with the Internet. But that all physical objects will be connected to the internet, is, to our minds, inevitable. This new world will have unforeseen and dramatic effects on business models, and lifestyles, like it already has had. It will also create societal strife, since some will see it, as an attempt to eliminate privacy and freedom. The Internet of Things is already being presented in this manner by some, especially among evangelical christians in the United States. You can see it with the controversy over RFID chips, and their possible suggested implantation into human beings. These RFID chips are already in use to track shipments of items to stores and warehouses. We will eventually become part of this matrix called the Internet.
Is there any reason to fear these technologies? The answer is yes. Any of these technologies reduce your privacy. The people of a country have to convince their government that they will not tolerate unwarranted invasions of their privacy. It is clear that the Internet has turned the world in many ways, into a small village, with all the good and the bad that the metaphor might carry. It is up to US to shape our own world. We will live in the world we created or the world we settled for. That is our decision.