Yes, I know you think it's a little too early--but I read a great article in The New York Times on Nov. 12, and Web 3.0 has been heavy on my brain since then. Web 3.0 is being defined as the "Semantic Web." It's got a long way to go, but it basically refers to the ability to layer technology on top of the existing Web that makes it even easier to guide the user through information and aggregate disparate sources together for ease of use. From my standpoint, it refers to a combination of artificial intelligence, profiling and search that allows any "layman" to seek out and interact with multiple sources of information in a manner that is simple and easy and unique to them. It's a true guide--and exponentially more valuable than basic search.
Web 3.0 would include personal advice capabilities such as astrologers and travel agents. These tools would allow you to cross-reference your birthday and personal health information to create a personalized future unique only to you. The Times article cited the ability to type in something like, "I want to take a vacation, on a beach. I need things to do for my three kids and I want to be able to eat great seafood. I don't want to spend more than $3,000 and I would like to be gone for 6 days." Currently, in Web 2.0 this type of query would provide you with numerous travel sites and vacation guides. In Web 3.0, you would be returned a set of packages with recommendations for restaurants and child-care services, all within your budget and customized for your needs, pulled from five to six different sources. Providing this kind of service is an enormous goal--but one that appears to be achievable if we get a few things in place.
To fulfill the Web 3.0 goal, I can think of at least one tool that will need to be finalized and put into wide usage. Image recognition software for video will haveto be put in place and aligned with speech recognition. The biggest growth area online is currently dedicated to video, which needs strong meta-data applied to it in order for it to be useful. The meta-data for video would be amazingly detailed if we had all these tools allowing us to create detailed data on the content included in these videos. Your vacation videos that you post online and share with your family and friends could now become a source for information on the destinations and resorts you visit, further compiling data on these locations.
There are definitely some Web 2.0 companies that will easily morph into Web 3.0, while others are already launching in that space. The Times article gave one example of the latter, a company called Radar Networks. Companies like Digg and Blinkx may be able to morph into Web 3.0., as well. I have to assume that Google is beginning to think about the space, but it will be interesting to see if it can take the lead as companies emerge in this new space. My bet tends to get placed on the little companies. Innovation in this space always comes from the motivated Davids trying to knock off the digital Goliaths. Google, for all its strength and promise, is starting to sound a little too much like the companies it came to despise. Its executives are starting to become too closed-off and protective of their business, which seems all too familiar and seems to go against the credo that got them where they are at this point. The smaller companies are the "Googles" of Web 3.0, and probably the ones to align with from the start.
It's going to be a fun development to watch, regardless of who takes the lead, so fasten your seat belt and get ready for 2007!