Saturday, January 20, 2007

Internet Evolution

Putting the Web into numeric releases has become very popular to indicate a new evolution on the Internet, although somewhat of a misnomer. It implies a specific point in time for transition (like a software release), when it seems more like a loosely defined time period (like geological periods) characterized by the by the thinking and technology of the time. Maybe we should come up with names that are less finite, however until that happens we seem to be stuck with numbers. Web 2.0 is the current period of evolution that we are in and although there are still Web1.0 companies around, most are either evolving or will become extinct, as newer breeds of applications take over as survival of the fittest takes hold.

The next evolution known as web 3.0 is also thrown around, and often by people that have no idea what it really means (mostly people in the media), but is it their fault or a fault of the people that are supposedly driving the evolution? Maybe the technical people driving the next evolution forward need to come up with better ways of describing it, or maybe they shouldn't be driving it at all... For example - Web 3.0 has also been called the semantic web. I consider myself a technically savvy person, and have done some research into this arena, but in the beginning I had trouble understanding it once you get beyond the elevator pitch, [Websites that are smart about what they are and what they contain], and I still have trouble describing it to others in any type of detail. It sounds great, but what does it really mean? These evolutions need to be described in ways that communicate to people the value that future evolutions can offer, which will in turn likely move us in that direction more quickly.

Seth Godin, talks about Web 4.0. No - its not something you will find exhaustive writing about in the WC3, however after reading his post, although I am not a big fan of the 'release notation' I feel like I have a better idea of what 4.0 could be. He describes it not with a definition statement or a long white paper, but with a series of needs that he (and likely many others have) that could be solved by a future evolution of the Internet.

... it is about activity, not just data, and most human activity takes place offline....

Example of one of his listed needs:
I'm booked on a flight from Toledo to Seattle. It's cancelled. My phone knows that I'm on the flight, knows that it's cancelled and knows what flights I should consider instead. It uses semantic data but it also has permission to interrupt me and tell me about it. Much more important, it knows what my colleagues are doing in response to this event and tells me. 'Follow me' gets a lot easier.

As a whole, its not clear nor succinct, however to me a list of needs does a better job at stimulating thought, than any technical definition someone could come up with, primarily because it give businesses and entrepreneurs a starting point for innovation. Who needs a definition really and besides, why try and box in the future? If we move to create business value, the evolution will happen and we can worry about creating a definition for it after we get there.

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