New York Times Article on Web 3.0

In Entrepreneurs See a Web Guided by Common Sense the New York Times has launched what I think is the beginning of the breakthrough of the Semantic Web into public consciousness. Now public consciousness is a huge force that moves according to its own rules, with its own language, and follows its own logic. It is a force that is difficult to contain when unleashed. I hope we will be able to control the wilder expressions of it, keep it moving in a reasonable path, towards this quite amazing goal. Here is a short extract:

Their goal is to add a layer of meaning on top of the existing Web that would make it less of a catalog and more of a guide — and even provide the foundation for systems that can reason in a human fashion. That level of artificial intelligence, with machines doing the thinking instead of simply following commands, has eluded researchers for more than half a century.

Referred to as Web 3.0, the effort is in its infancy, and the very idea has given rise to skeptics who have called it an unobtainable vision. But the underlying technologies are rapidly gaining adherents, at big companies like I.B.M. and Google as well as small ones. Their projects often center on simple, practical uses, from producing vacation recommendations to predicting the next hit song.

But in the future, more powerful systems could act as personal advisers in areas as diverse as financial planning, with an intelligent system mapping out a retirement plan for a couple, for instance, or educational consulting, with the Web helping a high school student identify the right college.

This is very good in that it clearly states how this is working with the vision of Web 2.0, of simple services, easy to understand and manipulate data (served in a RESTful manner). The vision will lead to amazingly powerful systems. But the steps to get there should be very simple. The first step is for companies to open up their databases, the way I recently showed by exposing the Roller blogger engine, and so profit from the network effect (see Metcalf's law) as the data about their products becomes more and more easy to combine in novel ways with other information out on the web.

It is good to see how the Semantic Web community is being careful to control the hype. Here are some responses worth reading by key members of the community:

Having said that, we do need a little hype. If only to avoid people unnecessarily reinventing the wheel as happened recently when the CEO of mysql gave a talk where he set out a vision that is pretty much identical to the Semantic Web, oblivious to the 8 years of intense work that have been going on quietly at the W3C.

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