A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion at Cisco’s Market Research Fair on Web 2.0 and Web 3.0. The consensus opinion of the panel – we’re confused. And if the so-called “experts” are confused, imagine what the rest of the IT community is thinking.
Web 2.0, that nebulous term that to some defines social networking, to others defines web-based applications, and confuses even more has been with us for some time now, having been defined by Tim O’Reilly as being based on “the web as a platform." This approach encompasses both web-based services such as those offered by Google, Flickr, MySpace, YouTube and more, as well as the idea that the web becomes a communications and collaboration platform on its own, leading to social communities and end-user driven applications.
In the consumer/public space, the impact of Web 2.0 has been huge, even culminating with “You” as Time Magazine’s 2006 “Person of the Year,” but from the enterprise perspective, Web 2.0 is creating a lot of confusion. Enterprises have gotten comfortable with application environments based on offerings from vendors such as Microsoft, Oracle, and IBM Lotus. The use of web-based tools and services presents security and control nightmares, not to mention concerns over application management. Enterprises I’ve interviewed continue to struggle with understanding not only the opportunities presented by Web 2.0 applications, but perhaps more importantly, how those service models can be applied in an enterprise environment where regulatory concerns must be met, where investments must be cost justified, and where IT must be able to protect and secure corporate information.
Now, as organizations struggle with Web 2.0, Web 3.0 comes along, again presenting more confusion. Obviously Web 3.0 has to be better than 2.0 because we all know that a version “3” is better than a version “2”, right? But Web 3.0 is even more vague to the enterprise audience than Web 2.0. So what’s Web 3.0 you ask? As described by Tim Berners-Lee, Web 3.0 is based on the concept of a Semantic web in which all data is equally readable by machine and humans alike. The example I’ve heard most often is using a search engine to search on “vacations for kids in the sun” and receiving responses based on compilations of data rather than on keyword and popularity matches.
But Web 3.0 offers new concerns. How can a system be policed to ensure it isn’t overrun by spammers? How can enterprises manage, control, and secure applications? And perhaps most importantly, what’s the business case? How can enterprises either make money or save money by applying Web 3.0 concepts? In all these areas the jury is still very much out.
Maybe by the time we’ll get to Web 99.0 all these concerns will be moot. But at this point I’m still reminded of the early arguments for IPv6 over IPv4 – it’s a higher number so it must be better.
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