Web 2.0, which describes the ability to seamlessly connect applications (like geographic mapping) and services (like photo-sharing) over the Internet, has in recent months become the focus of dot-com-style hype in Silicon Valley. But commercial interest in Web 3.0 — or the “semantic Web,” for the idea of adding meaning — is only now emerging.
The classic example of the Web 2.0 era is the “mash-up” — for example, connecting a rental-housing Web site with Google Maps to create a new, more useful service that automatically shows the location of each rental listing.
In contrast, the Holy Grail for developers of the semantic Web is to build a system that can give a reasonable and complete response to a simple question like: “I’m looking for a warm place to vacation and I have a budget of $3,000. Oh, and I have an 11-year-old child.”
Under today’s system, such a query can lead to hours of sifting — through lists of flights, hotel, car rentals — and the options are often at odds with one another. Under Web 3.0, the same search would ideally call up a complete vacation package that was planned as meticulously as if it had been assembled by a human travel agent.
If Web 2.0 is a revolution of any sort, a thought that might elicit a laugh from cutting-edge website developers, it is the transformation of content consumers to content producers. At least, that's how I see it. Web 3.0 would add value to all these consumer inputs.
While we wait for a smarter search engine to cut through all the noise, research librarians already have a good understanding of how to quickly and effectively search a large catalogue of information. Also, online communities of collaboration do an efficient job of sifting, with amateurs honing expertise in a specific subject matter. In other words, somebody out there knows exactly where to look to find the perfect answer you need.