The Evolution and Future of Web 2.0
12 Aug 2009

The Evolution and Future of Web 2.0

12 Aug 2009

John Battelle and Tim O’Reilly recently published a fascinating white paper on the evolution of the Web (PDF). The report, titled Web Squared: Web 2.0 Five Years On gives an excellent analysis of the last five years of Web 2.0, current trends, and where the Web is heading in the future. Battelle and O’Riley write that “Web 2.0 is all about harnessing collective intelligence,” and in the future, it will be the semantic web, sentient web, social web, and mobile web combined.  The web will increasingly happen in real time and will harness network effects to learn from the vastly expanding body of aggregate data that comes not only from users but also from sensors (like GPS). The applications based on these paradigms will provide new, elegant solutions to real-life problems. The authors write:

The “subsystems” of the emerging internet operating system are increasingly data subsystems: location, identity (of people, products, and places), and the skeins of meaning that tie them together… A key competency of the Web 2.0 era is discovering implied metadata, and then building a database to capture that metadata and/or foster an ecosystem around it.

A fundamental paradigm shift will come from how data is amassed. Data will no longer be manually created by humans but will be automatically generated by countless device sensors.

The smartphone revolution has moved the Web from our desks to our pockets. Collective intelligence applications are no longer being driven solely by humans typing on keyboards but, increasingly, by sensors. Our phones and cameras are being turned into eyes and ears for applications; motion and location sensors tell where we are, what we’re looking at, and how fast we’re moving. Data is being collected, presented, and acted upon in real time…

…The fundamental lessons of Web 2.0 apply to any network application, whether web- or mobile phone-based (and the lines between the two are increasingly blurred). Sensor-based applications can be designed to get better the more people use them, collecting data that creates a virtuous feedback loop that creates more usage…

The Net is getting smarter faster than you might think. Consider geotagging of photos. Initially, users taught their computers the association between photos and locations by tagging them. When cameras know where they are, every photo will be geotagged, with far greater precision than the humans are likely to provide.

The combined universe of data from human and machine input frequently describes the physical world around us and ties it to specific things.

[Real] world objects have “information shadows” in cyberspace. For instance, a book has information shadows on Amazon, on Google Book Search, on Goodreads, Shelfari, and LibraryThing, on eBay and on BookMooch, on Twitter, and in a thousand blogs…

Mapping from unstructured data to structured data sets will be a key Web Squared competency.

Another major change is the rise of real time. We can already see this taking root in many of our online interactions. One example is web search.

As it becomes more conversational, search has also gotten faster. Blogging added tens of millions of sites that needed to be crawled daily or even hourly, but microblogging requires instantaneous update…real-time indications of what is on our collective mind…

Businesses must learn to harness real-time data as key signals that inform a far more efficient feedback loop for product development, customer service, and resource allocation.

To summarize, the future of the Web will consist of more data derived from new and often automated sources that will be tied by a broader network, which will consist of applications that collect and synthesize this data into forms that are useful for people. All this will add boundless new opportunities and challenges for user experience design of products and services in the Web Squared world.

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