Posted by: nickgerlich | April 30, 2008

The Next Big Thing

When I was a child, perhaps the question I heard the most from well-meaning people was, “So…what do you want to be when you grow up?”

Since I haven’t grown up yet, I don’t know if I will ever find out. And for what it’s worth, my answer to the question was usually, “Gee…I really don’t want to grow up.”

There’s a certain degree of excitement in not knowing where you are going. Kind of like taking a Destination Unknown vacation, the kind I dragged my wife on back in 1988. Yeah, we were living on a grad student’s meager income, so we couldn’t do much. But I told her to just go to sleep and let me do the driving. We left Indiana…and when she awoke the next morning, we were in South Dakota.

“Honey, why the &%$# did you bring me here?

As humans, though, I suppose it is perfectly normal to want to catch a glimpse of the future, to have a road map with the route already highlighted, to have dinner on the table when you arrive. And I guess that is why pollsters and pundits are all trying to aim their telescope on the future of e-commerce and E-Society. From what I hear, there’s already road construction going on in the next frontier, and since the dotcom world is spinning much faster than earth’s 1000 mph, we could be over those looming hills in a heartbeat.

“Hold yer bonnet, Mama, thar’s change a’coming again!”

Web 3.0And that change is known as Web 3.0. Now wait a minute…didn’t we just start using the phrase Web 2.0? And they’re already wanting to change it? Can’t we enjoy the marvels of the read/write web for a little longer?

Apparently not, for there’s a Promised Land just over that range and around that bend. The read-only web (that’s Web 1.0) was to the internet what acne is to teens: an uncomfortable transition period. The ability to interact with the web, though, signalled a certain maturity, but it is only a taste of full-blown internet adulthood.

Or maybe just wishful thinking.

It seems like everyone’s talking about Web 3.0 now. And while Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt has said that Web 2.0 is just a marketing term, the buzz is about tomorrow, not today. There’s just a little irony in Schmidt’s voice, though, because he works for the biggest “marketing term” on the internet.

Technically, Web 3.0 takes everything that’s in Version 2, combining what we have discussed this semester, and adding more personalization and vertical search. It is basically the era of the Database Web, or as some call it, the Semantic Web. A high level of machine intelligence will be inherent in the system. Comprehensive web sites will be able to not only sell us things, offer community, provide content, etc., but also create the ultimate personalized experience, serving up products and similar users that are a match with our specific needs. And this new web will be available everywhere, as we live under data clouds and the umbrella of free (or cheap) wifi.

I have heard it said that Web 3.0 could be here as early as 2010. Which means that Web 2.0, first coined in 2005, will be just a blip on our historical radar screen.

I already see evidence of this future state, for it won’t be like someone throws a switch (unlike the FCC next February) and everyone must get on board the new train. Amazon.com is well along the path to the new web, for its site is the database. It is a multidimensional shopping experience, tagged and categorized by millions of users, yet orderly in the disorderly messiness of Weinberger’s Everything Is Miscellaneous.

But while all this talk and speculation of Web 3.0 is interesting and almost reads like a sci-fi novel, I’m not sure we should be in such a hurry. South Dakota may have some neat places, but like my wife, it’s probably not my first choice right now. I think I’ll stay in Indiana a little while longer.

Dr “Hoosier Daddy?” Gerlich

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