Saturday, November 21, 2009

Web 2.0 Five Year Anniversary

As we approach the six-year mark from the original Web 2.0 thesis, Tim O'Reilly and John Battelle come together in a refocusing session of where the social web is going. Once applications live in the cloud, the key to success will be harnessing network effects so that those applications literally get better the more people use them. In the recent Web 2.0 Summit, O'Reilly and Battelle penned a white paper which they argue,

today we see that applications are being driven by sensors, not just by people typing on keyboards. They are becoming platforms for collective action, not just collective intelligence. The "data shadows" that people and things leave in cyberspace are becoming richer and deeper, and are being exploited in new ways. All this is adding up to something profound and different. When web meets world, we get Web Squared.
1. Sensory Input - We're not searching via keyboard and search grammar; we're talking to and with the Web. With new search applications such as Google's Mobile App for the iPhone, speech recognition is detected as soon as the application detects movement of the phone to the ear. The Web is growing, and is to the point of getting smart enough to understand things without us having to tell it explicity.

2. Implied Metadata - Because the Web is "learning," meaning is being learned "inferentially" from the body of data each day, and speech recognition and computer vision are examples of this kind of machine learning. The Web 2.0 era is about discovering such implied metadata, and then building a database to capture that metadata and fostering an ecosystem around it.

3. Information Shadows - Real world objects have "information shadows" in cyberspace. Because of sensor applications like the iPhone's, a book that has information shadows on Amazon, Google Book Search, LibraryThing, eBay, Twitter, and in a thousand blogs.

4. Digital Returns to the Physical - As a result, these shadows are linked with their real world analogues by unique identifiers: an ISBN, a serial number, etc. Real-world objects can be "tagged" and its metadata on the Web. Libraries have long been innovators in this field (as information managers), with some cataloguing systems based on the idea of FRBR, which represents a holistic approach to retrieval and access as the relationships between the entities provide links to navigate through the hierarchy of relationships.

5. Rise of the Real-Time - The Web has become a conversation - meaning, search has gotten faster. Microblogging (such as Twitter) has required instantaneous updating -- a significant shift in both infrastructure and approach. Search has become real-time and human participation has added a layer of structure (and metadata). This new information layer being built around Twitter could rival existing services such as search, analytics, and social networks. Moreover, real-time is not limited to social media or mobile. As the authors point out, Walmart has been doing such instantaneous information cascading for many years: real-time feedback (from customers) drive inventory. As a "Web Squared" company, its operations are infused with IT, and innately driven by data from their customers -- the physical being driven by the digital and vice-versa.

What does this all mean? Librarians have a role to play. We've been doing it for years with FRBR and RFID. It's time we turn the page and write the first sentence for this new Web.

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