Monday, January 12, 2009

Web 3.0 and Web 4.0 - a first approach

I really have to get going for my presentation on Web 2.0 and change management next week at the German Forum for Large Group Facilitation. A lot of things happened since I presented on the topic at the IAF conference in Atlanta. During the last weeks I have done a lot of research and it is now time to put all of this in a sequence. But instead of reflecting on Web 2.0, I became interested in what other people call Web 3.0 and Web 4.0 - what's next?

When geeks talk and write about Web 3.0, there isn't much controversy. Web 3.0 is the semantic web, already described more than two years ago by Tim Berners-Lee, the originator of hyperlinks and the WWW. The semantic web will be able to distill meaning out of the information that is out in the Internet. It will be able to understand how words connect to each - rather than currently deduce that words are related if they are located close enough in a text. Then finally, I can type in a sentence like "What Christmas dinner suits a group of six highly sophisticated people?" and I will get a smart answer, or "My blood pressue is 130/90, I have eaten lots of junk food recently, shall I see a doctor?"

Although Web 3.0 might be real in 5 or 10 or more years (or never), people talk about what could be Web 4.0. A more grim outlook is that of an Orwellian world intelligence service (don't we have that already), portrayed perfectly in this video on Pizza Surveillance:

On the more positive side, Seth Godin, one of the leading technology bloggers writes:

Web4 is about making connections, about serendipity and about the network taking initiative. Some deliberately provocative examples:

I'm typing an email to someone, and we're brainstorming about doing a business development deal with Apple. A little window pops up and lets me know that David over in our Tucscon office is already having a similar conversation with Apple and perhaps we should coordinate.

As a project manager, my computer knows my flow chart and dependencies for what we're working on. And so does the computer of every person on the project, inside my team and out. As soon as something goes wrong (or right) the entire chart updates.
I don't get company spam any more ("fill out your TPS reports") because whenever anyone in my group of extended colleagues highlights a piece of corporate spam, it's gone for all of us. But wait, it's also smart enough that when a recipient highlights a mail as worth reading, it goes to the top of my queue. If, over time, the system senses (from how long I read the mail, or that I delete it, or that I don't take action) that the guy's recommendations are lame, he loses cred.

In my words, I could ask the Internet - which, this goes without saying, will be my iPhone instead of my laptop, or my kitchen aid, or my blood pressure device - "What would be the best Christmas dinner for my friends Goetz, Verena, Stefan, Marilha, my wife and me?", or "Shall I be concerned about my health?"

Fascinating, and frightening, isn't it? I'll keep researching.

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