Can't Touch This

Last week was the Web 2.0 Conference in San Francisco, and MediaPost had the best headline to come out of the event’s coverage: “MC Hammer Launches Search Engine.”

It’s no joke. That was perhaps the high point of a conference that seems to have completely exhausted its founding thesis.  While the conference is more than ever focused on social and mobile, and the convergence of the two, I’m not sure new depths were plumbed on those or other subjects. 

There were the small lessons that bear repeating and that one is always glad to hear, like the one captured in this tweet:

matthicks: The new "hit" is humanity, imagination and truth. It's about people first and how I add value to people's lives. @f3cooper of @Pepsi at #w2s

It’s just this sort of thinking that the creators of Hammer’s new search engine, WireDoo, had in mind.  Hammer was interviewed by Alex Howard at Web 2.0 and described the new offering like this:



"'The engine crawls and the algorithm is designed in a way to get all of the related information to your query, and then package it consistently in one environment,' Hammer said. 'Kind of thinking, right? The way you would think. If it's a car ... it's not just about the word "car," but it's about insurance, it's about the specs, it's about mileage, it's about style, it's about all these things. So that's the way it works.'"

Or, put more succinctly: 2 legit 2 quit.

Compelling stuff, right? Look out, Google --  there’s a new Bing in town.

Still, I think it was the conference’s closing moments that resonated most for me. LinkedIn cofounder Reid Hoffman, in conversation with conference convener John Battelle, made the argument (though not for the first time) that we should move beyond discussing Web 2.0 and start the really interesting (and tough) discussion that is Web 3.0.  And what is Web 3.0? It’s all about data -- data as context, data as product, data as a platform. Data that’s semantically rich, and therefore infinitely more interesting.

The pervasiveness of data is a truly untapped trove of future innovation.  Putting aside the privacy concerns for a moment (but only a moment), we’re only just now discovering how the data companies, governments and organizations possess can be put to productive new uses, if only others knew it existed.

Consider the Smart Cities initiatives in New York, San Francisco, Copenhagen and elsewhere. Because of APIs that open up certain key data amassed by these cities, entrepreneurs have built useful apps that tell us where all the cabs are at any moment in time, or when the next bus will arrive at my stop or (in the instance of San Francisco) where the nearest shady tree is located.  (Take a look at how MIT’s SENSEable Cities initiative considers these developments and the exhibit by the Gray Area Foundation for the Arts, which was mounted with MIT.) 

Data can make everything better for individuals, for companies, for governments and for companies. Data will make advertising smarter, more useful, more targeted and less… not what I’m interested in seeing. Data will make moving through our world easier and more convenient. Data will help us consume better and more thoughtfully.  And I agree with Hoffman that data is Web 3.0.

Can’t touch that.

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