Our last week of the unit and this week we are looking at the future of the Web and the possible move from Web 2.0 to Web 3.0, otherwise known as The Semantic Web.

Not surprisingly, the Semantic Web will deal with semantics i.e. be able to interpret meaning. Essentially “most of the Web’s content today is designed for humans to read, not for computer programs to manipulate meaningfully” (Berners-Lee et al, 2001). Enter the Semantic Web , which will act as an extension rather than a replacement to the Web we use today, assigning meaning to Web content and ushering in a new functionality. The Semantic Web is still at the theoretical stage and further developments in automated reasoning or knowledge representation are needed before this potential is realised.

In this week’s reading, Berners-Lee et al identify two key technologies needed for the Semantic Web – XML and RDF (2001, p.3). The former allows the user to create their own tags to annotate Web content and the latter assigns meaning. Berners-Lee et al also suggest that the third key component of the Semantic Web are collections of information known as ontologies and that these ontologies are files that formally define the relation between terms (2001, p.3).

The authors go on to suggest that the real potential of the Semantic Web will be realised as “more machine-readable Web content and automated services become available” (2001, p.4). Digital signatures will be part and parcel of this, providing proof of the authenticity of specific sources.

What is even more appealing about this technology is the ability for it to be applied to our ‘offline’ lives. I enjoyed the authors’ example of the tv or stereo automatically decreasing their volume when a person answers their phone.

Perhaps the Semantic Web is best summarised as such…

It will open up the knowledge and workings of humankind to meaningful analysis by software agents, providing a new class of tools by which we can live, work and learn together.” (Berners-Lee et al, 2001).

One last area to touch upon is the growing adoption of mobile and wireless Web connections. The increasing use of these technologies promotes the delivery of localised content through GPS-enabled tools. The idea of the Web in your pocket has become phenomenally popular since the development of Apple’s iPhone and similar smart phone technology.

As for what the future of the Web holds… watch this space.