Friday, August 03, 2007

WWW - Past, Present and Future

Lately there have been lots of talks going around about World Wide Web. Some people are giving their best shot to describe what the web is today and where it is going in future.

When I started to look at where the web started back in early 1990s and where it is today and how it evolved. I found the whole phenomenon quite interesting and the trend with which it is developing is quite interesting too. In this article its my attempt to capture the Past, Present and Future of World Wide Web. The special emphasis is put on the future trends of Web and how I see it evolving.

It was back in 1991 when Sir Tim Berner Lee along with his colleague Robert Cailliau and Necola Pellow developed the first web browser. This was a command line interface which could read the content from a given location (Servers). But that was just the beginning of a whole new era for the humanity. These browsers were capable of pulling out content (text only) from a server.

It wasn't until 1993 when Marc Andreessen and Eric Bina invented the "" tag for HTML which revolutionized the way web pages look and allowed developers and artist to unleash the creativity. In the same year MIT developed the technology to index and count the web servers which took the architecture of Web to next level.

Today when we talk about Web we talk about many things like Dynamic Web Sites, Blogs, Animations, Social Networking etc. In a nutshell we have everything we need to suffice our requirements. If we have to summarize the Web today we can describe following characteristics for the Web today.

Portability: Today we are not just limited to browse web through our desktops. Instead we access web from our mobile devices, hand-held devices, TV, Digital Camera. Also the choice for input device is not limited to keyboard and mouse. We also use Stylus, voice recognition etc to interact with web.

Diversity: When first started web pages were available in only English. But today we have many languages in which there are web pages available. Google Search Engine is available in 100+ languages and its increasing. Though the percentage of pages in English is still more compared to other languages but, other language web pages are increasing their share of pages on Web.

Distributed Technologies: Web is becoming distributed now. We have technologies like Web Services which allow the user to share the applications over Internet (not Web). We can not build a new application by using services which is already out there available.

Collaborative: In today's web if we have to name one technology which is been evolutionary it is collaboration. Wikipedia is the largest online encyclopedia available today and contains information about almost everything. The wiki is the best example of what collaboration can produce.

Social Networking: Today we have websites which facilitate social networking and allow users to interact with other users of the site. MySpace, Orkut, Facebook are few in this list who have got a larger share of this market. There are other sites like LinkedIn where one can create their professional network. So in a nutshell the web is not just publish and read.

Consumer and Producer: Today the user is not just the consumer of the information published on the web. The user is also the publisher and consumer at the same time. A web user can publish his thoughts / ideas etc in form of a blog which may include some of the texts which is been published at some other site or contains a link to an external site.

With so many technology choices available today, one might as well start to think what new we need on web? We have the tools and technologies which are pretty much sufficient for our requirement. The current buzzword in Industry is Web 2.0 (which is the technologies available today) and Web 3.0.

The evolution of Web 2.0 will lead us into Web 3.0. It has enabled the users to start thinking in a new paradigm (which is really an old paradigm) collaboration. This was the original idea why World Wide Web was created in the first place. Web 3.0 (aka The Semantic Web) - is really just an extension of the original collaborative concepts which was the main driving factor for the World Wide Web. But it makes the data connected in a sense that is more relevant to the user i.e. based on Contextual.

With the advent of Web 2.0 we have seen the rise of user generated Taxonomies, Folksonomies, and other related Information Architectural Methodologies. However they are still limited as in 2.0. The classic example is the taxonomy of one source does not equal to the taxonomy of another source. Though with the growing usage of open API's we are starting to see the taxonomies shared on a collaborative level between systems. In the Web 3.0 conceptualization we will see the data is shared not through API's, but through the structure of the data, i.e. through the meaning and context of the data.

In the Semantic Web the data (entities) will be linked to each other at a deeper level which is most likely to be in their raw form. The linking among the data is not going to be pre-defined rather it will be based on the few aspects like Context (in which they exist), the meaning, any other similar behavior they might exhibit. According to few I had discussion with in past they feel that there will be some kinds of standard emerging to link the data. But as we have witnessed in past the standards are not always the best approach either. More often than not those standards are heavily influenced by vendors and their proprietary technologies.

But then the question arises is how will this work out? and how will be able to achieve the Semantic Web? Whether we ever be able to achieve it or not. One of my friend (Nathan McCosker ) with whom I regularly discuss on Semantic Web thinks that it is going to be an iterative and evolving process. Initially there will be few groups coming together to form a standard what we may like to call Web 3.0 but then there will be further corrections and the standard will evolve and we may as well end up versioning them as 3.1, 3.2, 3.x etc.

But this is not where it ends. Current research works have no (or very less) emphasis on what the user experience is going to be with Semantic Web. The research is useful and accepted by masses only when it is done for the masses. The research labs around the world have started to throw different technologies like RDF, RDFS, OWL, RUL, RVL etc in the basket but they have not touched the nerve i.e. the problem they are trying to address or the pain they are trying to relieve. The technology is not the bottleneck here. Today or tomorrow the experts will find the technology solution to make the things happen, but the biggest hurdle is why? As in "The Matrix" Movie they always talked about the reason/purpose for anything to happen we need to apply the similar logic here and find out why we need the Semantic Web and when (not if) that is defined it will not be a theoretical discussion at all.

Suggested Reading

Those who are interested in knowing more about Web 3.0 and beyond would like to read through the following links.,1895,2102852,00.asp

Semantic Web is becoming next buzzword in the industry and without knowing what it is in detail many people have started to claim their product being suitable for Semantic Web etc. So far it is been purely theoretical in approach and those who are claiming that their product is based on Semantic Web technologies are still on the way. They are not there yet.

Until Next Time.. :).