Towards Web 3.0
February 6, 2008 5:26 PM   Subscribe

What are some amazing new things that should be in Web 3.0?

I've been asked to consult on speakers and topics for an upcoming web conference. I have lots of ideas based on my own experience as a web applications programmer and as a user, but I'm specifically looking for suggestions outside of my little dotcom bubble.

I am only interested in:

- ideas, sites or software which have emerged in the last year
- topics which are not of general knowledge to someone in technology
- applications that are on the web, and not, say, only mobile devices (but integration between the two is totally fine)

Wish list:

- world-changing or at least human-focused goals
- related to current events such as food safety, environmentalism, transparency in government, etc.
- open or free alternatives to closed content (or novel business models around closed content)
- a project leader or participant who would be interested in giving a presentation
- projects which have a significant amount of youth involvement, either as entrepreneurs or as target audiences

Projects which are still starting up or in experimental phases are completely appropriate. Self-promotion is A-OK! (I am also going to go through Projects for ideas.) Thanks!
posted by nev to Technology (26 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
world-changing to me would be reliable auto-translation. Popjisho is the prototypical, first baby-step example. I suspect/hope Google Research will be the first to market with the initial actualization of this.
posted by panamax at 6:15 PM on February 6, 2008

To me, I want seemless community (like flickr groups) without everyone having to use the same platform. I think web 3.0 (and I really hate that more than I hated web 2.0) should have ways for lots of people to federate their solutions together but the community acts as one.
posted by mmascolino at 6:29 PM on February 6, 2008

Ok, you're not going to get any real answers here, but I'll try to help.

Web 1.0 (named so well after the fact) was about opening up one-to-many communication to everybody. Any moderately technical person could get a website up on the internet, and soon enough they started offering it as a service to those who couldn't or wouldn't.

Web 2.0 has been about opening up many-to-many communications; that's why it's all about tagging and sharing and social; your facebooks, myspaci, and flickrs.

Now, an overview of modes of communication:
one-to-one (conversations, handwritten letters, etc.)
limited one-to-many (illuminated manuscript, handcopied books)
one-to-many (the printing press, tv, newspapers)
widespread one-to-many (the "web 1.0" internet)
widespread many-to-many (social sites, chat rooms, forums)

Can you think of any more? That would be a big deal, and would be a base for web 3.0 (but they probably won't call it that). Until we come up with a radically mode of communication, web 3.0 will be buzzword bullshit.
posted by tylermoody at 6:30 PM on February 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Yes, "Web 3.0" is lame, but in only seven characters I could convey what I meant well enough for some people to provide helpful suggestions.
posted by nev at 6:48 PM on February 6, 2008

Web 3.0 should provide better coverage for non-US markets. For example, using Google Maps, it is still impossible to find a good selection of dentists (by location) in Canada. The Yellow Pages are still a better and quicker source of information when looking for services.

Web 3.0 should also be able to bridge the gap between different technologies and different situations. Right now, it is difficult to get good internet access in a car. It should be be possible to connect to a remote server while driving in order to access one's media library (or access better maps).

The infrastructure and the technologies exist. It's only politics that keeps this from happening. And Google's half-assed approach to rolling out new products and applications.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:57 PM on February 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

When is your conference? What projects I can talk about depends on how far along they are at the time.
posted by jjg at 7:08 PM on February 6, 2008

I think the next major upgrade in web applications is going to be the next generation of scripting languages. Actionscript 3, which is supported in Flash 9, is JIT compiled and runs 5-10x faster than javascript, which may open up some new kinds of programming, such as games or publishing (I wouldn't want to write a hyphenation and justification engine in javascript, but actionscript might cut it). Silverlight 2.0 will support the entire CLR family of languages (C#, J#, IronPython, etc.). And Microsoft has been causing a fair amount of interference in the ECMAScript 4 drafting process, raising objections (they want a big upgrade, not a new backwards-compatible language, which the other drafting participants support) without offering counterproposals, and there have been rumors for months that they're planning on including their own alternative scripting language upgrade of some sort in IE8.

I also think it's somewhat natural that, given these improved tools for serious programming, it will initially be used to build applications that already exist on the desktop but have been too technically daunting for web apps... in other words, a blurring of the line between web apps and desktop apps. You can see this happening already in Adobe's AIR platform (which I'm really psyched about), the similar but less ambitious Mozilla Prism project, and Google Gears support for creating desktop shortcuts. So I kinda think that Web 3.0 will be the extension of web development methods outside of the browser, using these various desktop shims.

All of this is bad in some sense, because so far the web has, by its very nature, forced the "source code" of its applications to be open. As more development occurs in Flash, AIR, Silverlight, and whatever MS offers in IE8, source will become more likely to be compiled and/or hidden. But it also completely f**ks Microsoft (even if Silverlight gets significant marketshare, which I don't think it will), so I don't mind.
posted by gsteff at 7:19 PM on February 6, 2008

Strictly speaking, web 3.0 will naturally be whatever set of technologies you can collapse into memetic jargon (ideally, salable memetic jargon).

But anyway, some people think Web 3.0 is the delivery of the semantic web. I think depending on what you mean by that, they're either crazy or correct. AI and IAs and inferences from a tag-soup of predicates and ontologies, I highly doubt. However, I think it's entirely possible that thickening web services combined with GIS and real-world object data plus some increasingly sophisticated sifting tools are going to do something like this. Combine that with increasing the number and ubiquity of web-ready devices (it's 1995 for mobiles) and the presence of usefulness of the web increases an increment that's likely going to rival to what the social and rich client apps have brought to users.
posted by weston at 7:44 PM on February 6, 2008

Response by poster: The conference is in September 2008.
posted by nev at 7:47 PM on February 6, 2008

There is a bit of confusion between Web and Internet here, as evident in KokuRyu's answer. But I will jump on the bandwagon and suggest the replacement of current common lines of communication with the internet will probably be a big step.

No more plain old telephone lines; VOIP will become the standard way of placing calls. Already growing in popularity, but by no means standard.

No more SMSs on phones - instead, phones will simply provide an IM client that works over a constantly active internet connection. Once again, becoming more common.

No more television over cable or radio waves - instead, the standard way of watching TV should be over the internet. The same goes for radio.

In short, you will no longer have a phone line, cable internet, cable tv, TV antenna coming into your house. You'll just have the internet, and a router, and your appliances will all just plug into that.
posted by Jimbob at 7:53 PM on February 6, 2008

(Or connect to it by wireless. You know what I'm saying.)
posted by Jimbob at 7:54 PM on February 6, 2008

Response by poster: Jimbob: That's fair. One of the topics I've been considering is at what point the "web" itself, as in this bunch of HTML pages on a browser, will become a hopeless artifact. (The kind that only old people like me use who take 10 minutes to text someone because I have to look up all the letters and insist on spelling out the words.)
posted by nev at 8:05 PM on February 6, 2008

It won't be necessarily be interesting to laypeople, but there's a vast Deep Web out there that is just starting to be mined.

Just think about the things that exponentially increasing capacity and bandwidth will make possible. Streaming video from everywhere to everywhere all the freaking time. Cameras everywhere. Everybody with two or three computers with them at all time. Big enough quantitative differences turn into qualitative ones right fast.
posted by callmejay at 9:10 PM on February 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

iPhone + web => multi-touch web interfaces
posted by smackfu at 9:33 PM on February 6, 2008

Jimbob: what's the difference between web and internet?
posted by milestogo at 10:48 PM on February 6, 2008

btw, here's a guy who saw the whole f'in enchilada back in 1989. . .
posted by panamax at 11:19 PM on February 6, 2008

milestogo: the web was layered over the pre-existing internet?
posted by panamax at 11:25 PM on February 6, 2008

Web 3.0 will feature mostly white text on a white background. It's more professional-looking, and enables some interesting compression techniques.
posted by flabdablet at 12:54 AM on February 7, 2008

Here is Mozilla Prism's thinking about where the internet applications are going (in a Prismly direction, naturally).
posted by shothotbot at 4:31 AM on February 7, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks, guys, this has been really helpful.
posted by nev at 6:36 AM on February 7, 2008

Pursuing world-changing and human-focused goals is a worthy angle. But as I ponder, I'm attracted to a curmudgeon perspective: less focus on tired vs wired and more on will and work. Previous comments suggest that a next level beyond "many to many" may not exist. But specific needs do exist!
- Machine translation has been mentioned.
- How about education via the net? Wikipedia lets anyone contribute bits and pieces. But a visit to Wikibooks shows outlines, wholesale donations, but little in the way of needed courses and practically nothing with basic pedagogical structure such as placement and assessment. I love the OLPC ideas, and these will help education. But at the end of the day, Jon and Juan won't know much more algebra and genetics.
- How about better progress in mitigating problems this technology has created, like spam and viruses?
- Can tech do anything more to help telecommuting?

Are we trotting around with solutions in search of problems, ignoring bona fide information problems? You might address the issue that in your earnest search, not enough ideas have emerged in the last year! Has the low-hanging fruit been mostly harvested?
posted by gregoreo at 7:21 AM on February 7, 2008

Here's my take:

1. The already blurry line between desktop apps and web apps will get much blurrier. More desktop apps with remote data stores, but also local caching of remote data stores, for those awkward moments when you're offline. Desktop apps being written partly using web-oriented technologies (like Javascript).
2. Modularized web apps, where little bits of functionality can be wired together by civilians to do interesting things. Imagine Yahoo Pipes everywhere.
3. More structured data and/or better parsing of unstructured data will lead to increased machine-to-machine communications, where the machines are acting as agents.
4. Better management of personal identity. We're already seeing this kind of thing with Open ID. So like this, but more, where you can choose your own identity server, create your identity there, and sign on everywhere with it.
5. Likewise turning social networks into standardized information that can follow you around, instead of being contained within websites and needing to be recreated every time you sign on to a new site with social-networking features. Facebook is already trying to position itself this way. I'm imagining a standard social-network API that any site can implement.
posted by adamrice at 7:46 AM on February 7, 2008

Response by poster: gregoreo: The conference is in NYC, as opposed to the usual Bay Area, and one of the goals is to address the needs of the East Coast web community (assuming there is one). My take on that is, for better or worse, East Coast developers are less pie-in-the-sky innovative and more hands-on, goal-oriented. Part of that may be related to legal issues and business development and part of it may be cultural.

I'm strictly an East Coast scientific method type, so a focus on measurable outcomes is very important to me.
posted by nev at 8:16 AM on February 7, 2008

tylermoody your layout made me jump straight to "many to one" which made me think government spying on individuals. Which seems like where we are, in fact, going. Gave me chills.
posted by nax at 9:50 AM on February 7, 2008

Just to expand a bit on one of adamrice's points, OpenID is a tremendously important idea which if we are lucky will be part of Web 3.0. There are a number of good presentations about this available online; this one is pretty good as an overview. (Personally, though, I'm looking forward to Email 2.0 much more than Web 3.0.)
posted by whir at 2:55 PM on February 7, 2008

The web, the internet, it's all the same to the average user (like me). And I don't understand JimBob's answer; indeed, in this context, I don't think I need to understand the difference between the two terms.

For Web 3.0, I, as a user, want semantic web. I want it in my car, I want it on my fridge, I want it on my TV, I want it on my phone. I want to be able to purchase a plane ticket while in a taxi, and I don't want dial-up speeds on my mobile phone. If what I am talking about is web or internet, well, I'll leave that for the neckbeards to argue over.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:02 PM on February 7, 2008

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