Beyond Web 2.0 and the Pragmatic Semantic Web 1.0 or Web 3.0?

by : Stig Kristoffersen

You have heard words like Web 2.0, Web 3.0, SaaS, Mashups, Web as Platform, Rich Internet Applications (RIA), Small Pieces, Loosely Joined, Lightweight Service Models, SOA, Business Process Management, Governance, Collaboration, Right To Remix, Orchestration, Products, Enterprise Web 2.0, Global SOA, Web services, Ajax, JSON, SOAP, RSS, ATOM, REST, Encouraging Unintended Uses, Enterprise Mashups, Enterprise 2.0? Then you probably have tried to look into the crystal ball and trying to predict the next trend in web development and what is going to be the future of it.
Well, the future is already here, but we have not yet seen the blossoming of the web 3.0 yet. But it is right around the corner, and just a matter of seeing the emerging web development taking place.

Several IT gurus have mad a description and created visions of Web 3.0, well beyond pure play of Web mashups that we are witnessing. We see a great number of companies are building end-user solutions that can automatically navigate the Internet, weave together tapestries of online information to generate new, useful results. They can even take it a step beyond: dynamically generated situational Web applications that fully interact with the Web ecosystem. Such applications, which are self-assembled by these tools, can perform useful tasks such as planning you vacations, managing personal schedules, or even orchestrating complex, collaborative business processes for example including entire real-world projects. The vision is fantastic but yet futuristic. The rich fabric of the Web today, with hundreds of open APIs and even vaster reservoirs of content and raw data, now opens the door to the possibility.

There has been written lots about the trend in user generated software, applications developed by end-users that use the openness of the Web 2.0 era to interact with high value Web services.
The Programmable Web Mashup Matrix lets you visualize the web mashup ecosystem and enable you to see the various players in the market and how they utilize various API's.

But we are seeing the emergence of the next step beyond the user generated software. We can see the dawn of applications being developed and tasks being completed intelligently by software itself. The trend in number of mashups is from around 1200 of them in 2006 to around 2800 in February 2008. So there has been a drastic increase in the number of mashups during this period of only 14-18 months time. Looking at the widespread use of badges and widgets on Facebook, MySpace, Lulu and other social networking sites indicate that average user are getting more and more comfortable with experimenting with their blog and personal space with content, code, and feeds from elsewhere on the Web. Much of the end-user mashup activity we see today is probably not very deep and do not represent any sophisticated functionality. The new tools we're seeing every day are getting better and better and allowing users to take it deeper, creating a true mashup environment.

So what does really a mashup do for you?
A mashup software will help businesses get more from their data by making it easy for workers to mash together simple tools to create something better. This is known as mashups, these software applications have been very popular with consumers. But few people have the technical ability to create them. Social software developers in smaller and larger international companies say that Mashups will change that, by reducing the technical skill required to combine the applications, and by adding features to protect sensitive data. The ultimate goal of mashups is to make the process simple: users can be able to connect existing applications by dragging and dropping them on the screen without having to program any codes what so ever.
Although there's been an explosion of widgets on the Web in the past year, in most cases, it's easy for users to make widgets share space on a Web page, but not to make them share data, they're mixable, but not mashable. For example the Facebook users can paper their profiles with a variety of simple applications, but those applications are isolated from each other. In contrast, mashups allows users to combine widgets, so that taking an action within one widget triggers the others to act too. For example, a user could build an application for tracking stock prices of different companies, using a chart as the central widget. The chart could include company name, location, and ticker symbol. Clicking a line in the chart could send data to several connected widgets, such as one that looks up the company name on Google, one that maps the location of the company headquarters, and one that retrieves the most recent stock price for the company. Several companies is participating in the Open Ajax Foundation's effort to create standards for widgets, which will hopefully make it more common for widgets from different sources to share data.
The development of the Semantic Web has been the goal of many endeavors on the web ever since Tim Berners Lee proclaimed this type of web development within the W3C Semantic web consortium. The semantic web is the evolving extension of the World Wide Web in which web content can be expressed not only in natural language, but also in a format that can be read and used by automated tools, thus permitting people and machines to find, share and integrate information more easily. But due to the fact that the challenge is large and complex, the development of Semantic Web has not yet been successful.
The core of semantic web comprises a set of design principles, collaborative working groups, and a variety of enabling technologies. Some elements of the semantic web are expressed as prospective future possibilities that have yet to be implemented or realized. Other elements of the semantic web are expressed in formal specifications. Some of these include Resource Description Framework (RDF), a variety of data interchange formats (e.g. RDF/XML, N3, Turtle, N-Triples), and notations such as RDF Schema (RDFS) and the Ontology Web Language (OWL), all of which are intended to provide a formal description of concepts, terms, and relationships within a given knowledge domain.

You will need a software that can coordinate the delivery of construction materials to a job site for the least total cost including materials and shipping, just in time and in the correct order as the items on the construction schedule are completed? Well, it seems like only Mashups and Semantic Web Apps will make this happen and get you up and running with tasks similar to this.

At the moment we see development of tools/ business units enabling the automation of software creation and process management. Interestingly enough they are usually not via true Semantic Web technology, but by virtue of open, simple, easy-to-describe-and-consume services of the Web 2.0 generation. So this will probably create the start of web 3.0 with its mashups and semantic web forming the base for web 3.0.

Web 2.0 is what happened while we were waiting for the Semantic Web 1.0.

Will there be a standardized web 3.0 or will we have a pragmatic Semantic Web beta first?

The latest generation of tools seen in the market seems to be built on simple yet proprietary codes or approaches and not on the open but formal Semantic Web technology. RSS 1.0 had the same issue about userability as semantic web 1.0 can have. Therefor it is more likely that the next generation of approaches will be the Pragmatic Semantic Web beta although we have to be concerned about the lack of standards. This will create a challenge as we see the development of so many mashup tools creating the ability to mashup widgets from all sorts of sources on the internet. Let us not get the battle of which format should survive instead of creating the best tools to solve the consumer and business needs, namely to effectively utilize a collective knowledge collection and analysis of it.