Web 4.0: The Enabling Web

Forgive me, this post is going to be a long one.

In the brief span of its existence, the web has evolved at such an alarming rate, that it outstrips evolution of any living organism. Even as Indian web users and web development companies are creating (and using) Web 2.0 platforms, the more developed nations are already talking about Web 3.0, the semantic web.

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Not so surprisingly, I have found to my chagrin that 80% or more of the Indian populace associate Web 2.0 with client side technologies instead of a collaborative technology. People associate it with all the wrong ideas … I do not blame them. Awareness has always been the bane of comprehension. Having said that, I decided that it would do some good if we can somehow capture the evolution of the internet in these already popular phrases, and somehow manage to extrapolate what the next stage could be – so that we are prepared when it comes ;-)

Or even better, a host of Indian companies could bring in the era of Web 4.0: The Enabling Web. So what are these evolutionary milestones?

Web 1.0: The Information Superhighway

This is the internet of yore. Those were the days when people would make separate HTML pages and upload it on the net. Content was written within these pages and uploaded. It was authoritative in nature, since most of these sites were a one way communication stream. People came to different sites with the sole aim of gathering information – hence the name, the Information Superhighway.

Web 2.0: A Collaborative Medium

This is the internet that we see around us these days. The web is more social now, its a place to meet interesting people – to collaboratively create content. Content is not written within pages, content is created by the users themselves. The more the users, the more the content. What the developers create is a platform which enables this co-creation between the users. A great example of this is Wikipedia or IMDB.

 

 

 

Web 3.0: A sense making layer

The new era of internet is coming, this can somehow make sense out of the user’s inputs and act accordingly. So when I say “Show me a blue lotus”, the internet should show me the image of a blue car instead of a blue flower. How does it do this? It already has my preferences for cars over flowers somewhere. This is where collaborative filtering mechanisms and business intelligence algorithms are used to correctly profile the user. The internet is capable of understanding what the user is speaking. It differentiates a Gandhi from a Hitler. Some examples of this would be WolframAlpha or Amazon.

Web 4.0: The Enabling Web

So what happens when the web begins the “understand” the user. The sole question is – “What’s the point?”. If it can understand the user, it can also understand the purpose with which the user is driven to visit a particular web application. And, if that can be done, then it won’t be too difficult to understand and provide what other resources would help the user reach his outcome. The web suddenly becomes a more intertwined place with each web application talking to others, so as to provide the best experience to its user. Not only experience, but to ensure that the user is enabled with the right set of resources to get his job done. The purpose of the user is kept at the center. That’s my vision for web 4.0 akin to a more evolved Ubiquity extension of Firefox.

Aside

LK Advani does an Obama!!

I am trying my hand with Google Adsense again. Something always interesting comes out of these ads, trust me. This time around, one of the first ads I saw on the blog was of our very own beloved LK Advaniji.

I am sure most the net-aware citizens would already be knowing of this, but still thought that I would pen a few thoughts on this. The recent US Elections, which were closely followed by the rest of the world to see who becomes the leader of one of the most powerful (really? even now? I dont know) economies of the world. Take a look at this article, which outlines how Mr. Obama used the medium of the internet to garner in those votes. Can LK Advani do the same? Only time will tell … let me dig up my voters card till then.

I deleted iexplore.exe

Funny, I had not talked about Google Chrome uptil now. I still won’t rave about it, since I prefer Firefox over Chrome. Tried it, uninstalled it. End of story. But with the recent launch of this browser, people are now forced to relook at their choice of browser. I hope this helps informed users take a decision and switch to Opera or Firefox, which are way better browsers than the rest available in the market. The last one of which is the market leader, Internet Explorer. Phycuk!! Just talking about it makes me want to spit, and clean my tongue. I hate it. Not because it is a Microsoft product, but because it actually is a pretty crappy browser. The fact that you cannot take it out of your Windows Operating System just goes to show how smart the MS IE Product management team is, full marks to them!!

So, I took it upon myself to remove this insult to a browser once and for all from my WinXP machine. I went to Add/Remove programs, and removed it. The icon on my desktop went away … yaay!! Then when I went to Start -> Run and typed iexplore.exe, back again it rears its ugly head. Grrr!! You can’t remove it, that’s that. So finally I did what I should have done when I installed WinXp, delete the folder Internet Explorer in my Program Files. And life was good.

I forgot one teensy weensy thing, I work in a web retailing firm, which has a propensity of churning out portals. These portals need to be tested. Since my marketing guys feel that a major portion of their customer base would be on IE, they expect me to make the portal IE-Compatible (read compatible javascripts, reduced effects, workaround on ajax), nothing that we can’t do, of course not. Just I ask my readers, why?

Why bother to make things compatible with IE? Why not force those ignoramuses to switch to a better browser. You are not only doing yourself a favour but improving the world. Impacting your customers positively. Being the change not just trying to make it. Yes, “customer-centric” people would say that you need to sell what your customer wants, I say, tell that to an artist and see his reaction. So if you agree with me, go delete your iexplore.exe and make the world a better place.

Technology Hype Cycle

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For the uninitiated, please read more dope on the Hype Cycle.

Just came across this diagram, I thought that I might share this with you :)

What I would like to highlight here is that, Web 2.0 is going to go for mainstream adoption within the next 2 years (assuming that Gartner has done their homework), and it is about to hit the Trough of Disillusionment.

Are we to see another dotcom bust?

PS – Advice for freshers about to choose their careers, go towards ERP, EAI, BI side … or towards storage and hardware side.

Bandwidth

The fastest I have surfed is when I was alone on the campus (during a brief stay in summers) at Planet-I. It was a glorious 2mbps speed. And it rocked! All you want at a click of a button. Even when the campus was in full swing, with 300 odd participants surfing the internet, the net was still at a decent pace. This is India we are talking, where people still pay a big premium for connectivity.

Last week, one of my room-mate informs me that in UK, they are working on this new technology thats going to shoot the transfer rates beyond imagination. Just imagine, what would you do with transfer rates of 100mbps!! All data you want is completely accessible and available to you within seconds. An entire movie within seconds … infact, the individual user’s need for a personal storage drive just might go down. This combined with the fact that many websites are now showing a conceptual web-OS … like Desktop2 or Fanbox. Also, many SMEs are now opting for the Software As a Service (SAS) model, where in the firm does not have to invest in the licensing cost of any software, but would rather pay a periodical amount for that service.

You could in fact, cut costs by having an hosted ERP, Google Docs, a web OS and dumb terminals hooked up to a hosted storage server all on the internet. Your capital expenditures go down, but the variable expenditures might go up. If the opportunity cost of your capex beats your opex, then you definitely have a winner here.

Think about an individual user, all media content available … on a pay per usage basis of course. For gamers, there is the WWW as your LAN … talk about one huge LAN party.

It does change your perspective on connectivity and storage doesn’t it?