The mainstream adoption of cloud and semantic technologies will turn the internet into a ‘ubiquitous utility’, says Boris Motusic, Chief Evangelist of United Experts, in this interview for Brightfire.
– Boris, during your Internet World speech you proclaimed the arrival of the Web 3.0! What exactly is it?
– The key feature of Web 3.0, or better said – Internet 3.0, is its ubiquitousness. We will be creating and consuming information without being aware of doing so. We are moving away from classic machines which require a lot of input and interaction towards devices and, more importantly, infrastructures which would enable us to forget about the machine and focus on content, thus providing and obtaining relevant information or help with getting a job done.
For example, when we are using car navigation and traffic updates, we are not interacting actively with a device. However, without being fully aware, or without putting any particular effort, we are participating in creating and consuming information as the car navigation system is sending data about our location and speed to a server which is also aggregating data from other users. Once in the system, data is intelligently processed by the server and made available in numerous forms to various devices. It could thus be presented as a traffic update by car navigation systems; a website could feature details, history, predictions etc., with chunks of that information ending up on the home page of another news website; and another user might just receive a text message on his mobile about heavy traffic on his usual home route.
– And when can we expect the Web 3.0 to see the light of day?
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– As is generally the case, infrastructure technologies are accepted through gradual adoption. Web 3.0 is already in action, just not on a wide enough scale to change people’s perceptions and business strategies. When acceptance reaches a critical point, it would suddenly become state of the art, triggering an avalanche of rapid adoption. We can expect this to happen within the next two years.
– What are the main distinctions between Web 1.0, Web 2.0 and Web 3.0?
– Web 1.0 was the “read-only” web where users were just consuming information, mostly text and images. Web 2.0 became a “read –write” web where users, in addition to consuming information, could also create it, and as result, we witnessed explosion of social networks, blogs, applications, etc. As I already stated, Web 3.0 is ubiquitous; it is about creating and consuming information without being aware of it.
– During your presentation you said the internet was to become just like electricity. What do you mean by this analogy?
– In the early days of electricity people were impressed with it and it was not available to everyone. For example, factories which powered their machinery by electricity had an advantage over the competition. It was an expensive upstart investment as electricity had to be produced locally at the factory by private electric generators. The big change arrived when economies of scale made private power production obsolete; everyone obtained electricity from central, distant power plants. Electricity became a utility available to most.
Nowadays, we cannot imagine our lives without it, and we press the switch to turn the lights on automatically, without paying any special attention to the process. It is ubiquitous! What central power plants did for electricity, cloud-based services and data storage are doing for the Internet.
– Apart from cloud-based technologies, is there anything else that will accelerate the adoption of Web 3.0?
– Building on top of the infrastructure I mentioned, we have technologies that enable an easy link between the digital and physical worlds, such as QR codes, NFC (Near Field Communication), RFID, AR, and all sorts of Internet-enabled devices. Furthermore, we have semantic and personalisation technologies adding meaning and context to data, which facilitates intelligent communication between devices and systems and enables minimum user interaction. All that put together will turn the Internet into a ubiquitous utility.
– There has indeed been a lot of talk of personalisation in the digital space – do you see semantic technologies as the building blocks of the web of the future?
– Ubiquitous interaction with minimum user input cannot exist without personalisation and semantic technologies adding meaning and context to data which is intelligently exchanged between different machines and systems. Our challenge is to implement personalisation without sacrificing privacy. We could address this issue by using only machine-interpretable representation of knowledge about the user, which needs to be managed separately from user accounts and other forms of private information. I believe this is achievable within the business sector, but at the same time, I am a bit sceptical about how governments would approach the issue.
– From a business perspective, what is a Web 3.0 strategy and what conditions need to be in place for it to work and deliver results?
– As a consultant on numerous web projects, I always tell managers that their Web 2.0 strategy would generally work if their users generate content and at the same time promote it, typically by sharing. Obviously, YouTube’s strategy would not work if their employees had to prepare and upload videos. Instead, content on YouTube is generated by users who also share and recommend it to other users, thus providing free promotion.
A Web 3.0 strategy would work if users generate content without conscious engagement and at the same time, benefit from information and services in a ubiquitous way. On the technical side, a different kind of CMS platform would be needed. Businesses would no longer just input content for their websites and manage user-generated content, but would also need to easily and efficiently get data in and out of other websites and systems.
Furthermore, a Web 3.0-ready CMS would need to be a unified platform, to empower various devices, to read and provide contextual content, to provide easy access to multiple data sources and web services, and to utilise easy-to-use API (Application Programing Interface) that would help developers to deal with content in its entirety. The problem with most widely used CMS platforms, especially the open source ones, is that they are for years building on top of old architecture, just upgrading the feature set. In my company, we have decided to bet all our cards on Sitefinity CMS which has rebuilt its engine from the ground up; only this way a CMS could easily exchange data and flexibly manipulate it through API. The crucial emphasis is on the ease of use, without which we could not count on developers to fully embrace Web 3.0.
About the expert
Boris Motusic is a senior consultant, author, speaker on ICT-related topics, and co-founder and Chief Evangelist at United Experts, a leading web consulting company based in London with primary focus on Sitefinity CMS platform. Boris has worked on various projects for clients such as Coca Cola, Microsoft, Panasonic, ARM and FTI Consulting. We caught up with him for a chat after his session on Web 3.0 at Internet World 2012.
Images courtesy of Boris Motusic, ‘Web 3.0: Invisible Internet, Visible Opportunity’