Digital marketing strategist Luis Freitas ponders on the next step the web is going to take and discusses the semantic web, the instant web and Web 3.0
We are always tempted to try to predict the future. You can apply this trend to every aspect of everyday life – be it watching a show, reading a book or even in the anticipation of an important event. Anticipation is a curse that, due to the emergence of digital media, is becoming even more unbearable as time goes by. We’re becoming too fast – we’re becoming too old.
This reflection came after reading an interesting (but Portuguese) article regarding what the Web 3.0 will be. As Erik Lassche puts it, “Web 3.0 is an inevitable buzzword that can’t be avoided after the invention of Web 2.0”. Ever since the concept of Web 2.0 became common knowledge and even derived into sequels – such as the Social Web with the proliferation of social media, or Web 2.5 with the platform-as-a-service-provider principle – many academics ofn the subject have been trying to define what Web 3.0 will be. The sheer anticipation of it has resulted in several articles that, while diverging in opinion, have actually come up with a common ground on what it will be – an intelligent, semantic web that's based on behaviours and usage patterns and gives us fewer, but more tuned, results to our online search. Of course this is a very basic way to put it as we are summing up the Web 3.0 to an evolution in Google’s search results – but it’s an easy way to explain it that doesn’t require explaining a lot more in-depth information regarding database mining.
The more you think about the Web 3.0, the bigger the tendency to look into human behavioural patterns. If you consider the volatility of personal opinion and the fragmentation of a person's tastes, it’s easy to question how effective these personalised results you would obtain from a semantic web would actually be if based on sheer online usage patterns. On one hand we have a problem derived from lack of technological unification – proven by looking into the vast amounts of different databases in which users manifest their opinions but have no touch points between each other due to the fact that they are different companies. And on the other hand we have problems derived from simple human nature – an unpredictable nature that's gifted with free will and is also capable of assuming different personas and behaviours when dealing with digital.
The “fake profile” phenomenon is becoming less frequent online not only due to the unconscious monitorisation from our peers, but also the fact that each user is consciously becoming more consistent in their online behaviours. But the fact is that crossing the offline persona – which is exposed to factors such as social confrontation, adaptation to new environments and the 'anonymous' status (there are no hyperlinks to tell everyone about us in real life) – with the online persona – which is more protected from social confrontation and more prone to seek parallel interests that, without being within your status sphere, are available in the ever expanding web – you obtain a behavioural mismatch that could manipulate the results towards satisfying the online persona, but not the offline one completely.
The Semantic Web is still a concept that, in my opinion, ignores the human factor wild card. This thought leads us to the title of this article – the Instant Web. Being, or not, a sequel to Web 2.0, the Instant Web is a cause, and consequence, of the evolution of smartphones. The manifestation of our needs and tastes in a direct and instant way is becoming almost symptomatic. One way to observe it is to see how location based services (LBS) and instant sharing apps are thriving on Markets – for example, you have Getglue, which was originally an Instant Web app, and the evolution of the Shazam app, which included direct sharing on Facebook from the songs you would discover on the app. The fact is that these apps are one of the reasons that make me actually believe in a Semantic Web as they are bringing down the barriers of real vs virtual. The users’ manifestation in real life through instant digital input provides the Semantic Web players with data that is purer and more contextualised than the data provided on sheer PC/online usage – this, of course, is how the players learn how to prioritise the data source as a criteria when providing with the personalised solutions promised in the next web.
This is, of course, just my two cents. There are no absolute truths to Web 3.0 – but more interesting than getting there is the journey itself. How we will get there and how tuned this web will be on a first instance when confronted with human nature is something nobody can answer at the moment. But it will all come – in due time.