By Peter Bowman & Aaron Friedman
As the end of the first decade of the new millennia approaches, Internet developers and strategists are predicting both the timing and impact Web 3.0 will have on the digital landscape. Analysts have proven that the Internet is much larger than most people even comprehend – some 500 times larger than all the content indexed on sites like Google and Yahoo. This “invisible web” is comprised of hidden databases and protected data which are deployed online but only shared in private network environments. As with life itself, the Internet has a way of evolving progressively and sometimes at great speeds. As the adoption of this technical evolution increases – so does related connectivity, community and a new era of personal empowerment online.
The question remains will Web 3.0 and all of its proposed promises become more of a technical milestone or an Internet user expectation?
In the 1980’s, the world saw the adoption of the PC and desktop computing. This phenomenon of personal computing really took hold in the 1990’s with the introduction of the Internet, the World Wide Web and basic applications which took data from file systems and expanded them into file servers for global sharing. This period of the Internet introduction era or Web 1.0 was a major time of transition as many industries were caught off guard in their adoption to a new way of dealing with both communications and business operations. The speculative financial markets in the Y2K years brought with it an investment correction online. The results of the meltdown proved that not everything built online with a business model in mind would find financial success – let alone user adoption.
As the difficult market correction forced a new and more quietly focused period of development online, the power of people online and their social communications began to emerge as a new way to conduct commerce and foster a new level of online community. Web 2.0 has proven that users of the Internet dictate the Web’s progress more than business models and money. The social networking and personal publishing growth of the Internet has empowered a new era of peer to peer sharing – as once static websites have turned rapidly into platforms that engage conversation and commerce.
Today, entrepreneurs and online speculators are envisioning what the next generation Internet means as Web 3.0 and Web 4.0 push for their time. The new generation Internet is not so much a replacement of the old but an extension of what has already been developed to date. As online users become more comfortable with digital and even mobile interaction, the logical, next step Internet will begin to seamlessly understand each user and learn meaning behind both language and user personality. This “semantic Web” will turn the current document driven Internet into a database driven Internet where every information search, online conversation and every movement online is a learned and stored behavior and experience – one that understands, compounds and even learns about knowledge. This cognitive Internet ultimately will create a platform where information and applications are delivered at the right time and at the right place.
With a new, intelligent design in delivering content and community, many thought leaders and institutional online players are discovering just how to move to this new generation Internet. The question is will users have to learn how to interact with this new, self-learning Internet or will this intelligent extension simply fall into place as the Web begins to mirror the needs and personality habits of the individual user? Either way, this new, intelligent and thought-driven Internet will quickly move us to a whole new level of information and marketing delivery.
There are two major shifts that will occur in the Web 3.0 environment. The first is that the abundance of information today will evolve to more controlled information tomorrow. The second is that any and all user movements and activities online become stored and learned behaviors which ultimately benefit both the source and the individual. For the source, understanding user needs on an individual basis changes the entire Internet from a delivery mentality of “this is what we have” to a new thought-platform of “this is what we believe you are looking for.”
For years, the driving force for search and aggregation of user tools has been industry leaders like Google, Yahoo and even newer ventures like BING that are starting to position themselves as next generation engines. To date, these institutional players have been the catalysts to global search content, leaving a “vertical hole” in the semantic search space. Most of the development around semantic search is stemming at the University level and in micro-oriented niche markets and vertical online communities. It will be the predictive thinkers like WebMD (which Microsoft currently has an ownership stake in); that can deliver a large scale, vertical market site based on a cognitive platform.
Leading experts believe it is the micro-niche markets that will ultimately serve as the new catalysts to the semantic and cognitive Web. These focused communities have the ability to not only harness their intellectual and market assets quicker, but they also are in far better positions to leverage their development resources with more accuracy. Additionally, vertical market communities can come to market more rapidly with a captive audience. In the end, these smaller initiatives will become the leaders in the next generation “Intelligent Web”. This trend may validate the reasoning why so many of these vertical market sliver sites and channels are currently under development.
From a marketing perspective, the semantic web offers a truly exciting value as dynamic communication programs become seamlessly integrated with user search and individual behavior. Through learned behavior tracking online, marketing programs can be delivered intelligently to the individual needs supplying the most strategic message at the right time to the right location and in the most compelling media format based on user, device and connectivity platform.
One of the greatest challenges in this evolution of the semantic and intelligent web is for already existing online properties to determine just how to migrate to this new database-driven environment. Although a handful of sites are developing semantic engines, most are burdened with the process of even understanding how to migrate their existing platform to the newer cognitive design. For the user, a semantic engine is merely a seamless progression to being understood and being served. Older online users have already been through so many transitions online from E-commerce, site personalization and even social networking. Younger users seem to have the “built-in” gene code where the latest technology is automatically adopted. The fact is, all users will begin to expect smarter engines as topology and one-dimensional search engines and databases move into the semantic and cognitive space.
In the end, there are three colliding forces that will drive us quickly to a Web 3.0 environment. First, users understand that they have many control options online and the more the web can mirror their needs and wants, the more efficiently they can leverage online resources. Secondly, marketers will continue to invest and move to more intelligent campaigns that target and deliver “smarter messages.” Lastly, institutional leaders in connectivity, search engines, vertical markets and even device manufacturing will continue to foster new technologies while spending countless marketing resources that inform and engage online users to understand and even expect this new, intelligent web.