In the Meantime: Web 2.5

We're still feeling our way around Web 2.0 and all its implications. Who wants to talk about a 3.0 right now?

Still, at the bleeding edge of site development, we already see companies playing with the concepts of collaborative, virtual media experiences, and a more intelligent, interconnected Web - one that's pushing us to what we need before we know we need it. Glimpses of our possible Internet futures live here too.

Lycos Cinema/Mix: Lycos has quietly become a lab of next-gen experimentation with social media. Its new Cinema lets groups watch movies together online, while also adding information and ideas in real time. The Mix evolves video-sharing into a real-time editing bay, where users collaboratively build clip mixes around topics. Combining and commenting, discovering and filtering is how community adds value to media. Karaoke singers become artists, agents, publishers, and sponsors as they sing to popular songs and create contests for others to enter. Personal and professional media meet in a virtual "American Idol." Electronic Arts just acquired Singshot and we suspect it will show up in some future iteration of The Sims.

StumbleUpon: After search and beyond serendipity comes discovery. This toolbar leverages a social network of 2 million users and their browsing tastes to push sites into your path that match your interests. The media-gorged future needs a filter, and clusters of like-minded humans, not algorithms, are more likely to build it. In protean form, StumbleUpon is the recommendation engine concept applied to the entire Web.

Amazon Mechanical Turk: Amazon's wild experiment in "artificial artificial intelligence." Software companies can contract humans to perform piecemeal tasks that an algorithm or computer cannot. Whether it is identifying the colors of items in a catalog or finding faces in images, some tasks need people in order to tag and categorize. Mechanical Turk is the necessary broker for companies that are making our databases smarter and more human in the way they index and deliver what we need.

Joost: The hottest next thing from the founders of Skype and Kazaa uses a peer-to-peer delivery system to create a blend of programmed and self-mixed TV channels online. Layer onto that video-search services and communal viewing and you have old media mashing it up with new media interactivity and social networking. This is where the lines between professional and user-generated, traditional programming and on-demand could become a hybrid new form. And an ad model is built-in from the start.

Yahoo Pipes: Web 2.0 doyen Tim O'Reilly is calling this "a milestone in the history of the Internet." Pipes lets ambitious users mash-up data feeds and extract items from databases, apply filters and basic programming, and create highly customized rivers of live information and applications that are specific to our interests. If the next-Web is an interconnected set of databases, then Pipes is the first inkling of how we make that brain think for you and me.

Virtual Hills: MTV's newest virtualized TV property hosts party nights with cast members in 3D online space - even paparazzi contests where users take the best snaps of visiting celebs. As fans get the tools to build their own new real estate within these parallel TV worlds and mingle this deeply with settings and characters, they could become co-creators for televised properties.

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