Making sense of the web chaos
“Semantic, shemantics” says Alan Wilensky in reaction to today’s ReadWriteweb post: Top 10 Semantic Web Products of 2008. I have to agree with him that these apps just all seem to process existing data in different ways to create a new node in the network rather than to deliver content that is relevant to me and that I can trust (key word: trust). But these apps are exciting because they show glimpse of what’s possible when we push beyond the search engines, particularlyZemanta, which helps you produce content better, and Glue, which helps you connect better.
When Web 2.0 became the buzzword du jour, it had to define what Web 1.0 was, and inevitably people started to question what would Web 3.0 be, if anything. However, a few publications, including a New York Times article from November 2006, shaped to the vision of what Web 3.0 is expected to become. PC Magazine defined it as:
“to many, Web 3.0 is something called the Semantic Web, a term coined by Tim Berners-Lee, the man who invented the (first) World Wide Web. In essence, the Semantic Web is a place where machines can read web pages much as we humans read them, a place where search engines and software agents can better troll the Net and find what we’re looking for.”
Initially people thought that having a Semantic Web requires a major overhaul of data tagging and a standard organizational structure that translates across browsers and platforms. This goes against the organizational (or rather disorganization) principles of Web 2.0, where tools allow individual users to tag their content to create taxonomies that may be unrelated to one another, thus making Semantic Web an almost inconceivable plan. Yet, in MIT Technology Review (2007), John Borland wrote how the growth of UGC and social sites like flickr and del.icio.us have changed the approach to building a smarter Web, directing the research to finding ways to extract data from unstructured environments. They realize the power of self-regulating communities and it has become the Eden for the latest initiatives around Web 3.0. And that’s where companies such as the ones highlighted by ReadWriteWeb come in.
Ultimately, we need a smarter solution to Web 2.0’s explosion of content. Current search engines and organizational principles are not sufficient to make sense of the data. Critics of Web 2.0, and in particular social media, argue that we have created an uncontrollable amount of content that is highly unreliable and impossible to distinguish. And those concerns are precisely what’s driving the arrival of Web 3.0.
Meanwhile I’m trying out a few of these applications and seeing what they do for me and how helpful they really are. I’ll post on December 15 with results.