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WEB 3.0 AND THE SEMANTIC WEB: HOW THE FUTURE INTERNET WILL CHANGE EVERYTHING

Over the past 25 years the internet has transformed our lives in ways that we could hardly have imagined a generation ago. Throughout all levels of business and society, whether we’re at work, or on our morning commute, or shopping for a new iPhone 6, we now rely on the internet and the instantaneous access to information it brings us. In fact, our daily lives and routines are so structured by the internet that we scarcely stop to remember what life was like before the world wide web. What did people do in 1992 before email, before texting, before Google!?

While we admire the epic increase in technologies that the internet has spawned, some experts are suggesting  we haven’t seen anything yet! Earlier this year the Pew Research Center released a report called Digital Life in 2025, which crystallized 15 “theses” representing expert opinion and perspective on what the internet and digital life will look like in the next decade. A nice summary of the 15 predictions are offered here.

The first major thesis of the Digital Life in 2025 report is that “information sharing over the Internet will be so effortlessly interwoven into daily life that it will become invisible, flowing like electricity, often through machine intermediaries.” The Internet of Things/Everything will be the biggest driver towards creating an internet that is ‘like electricity.’ We’re seeing the earliest commercial expressions of this trend with the Nest ThermostatFitbit, and soon to be released Apple Watch.

The internet has undergone major iterations throughout its history. Look at the clear and steady movement from the “Internet of Information,” or what was commonly referred to Web 1.0 in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Next, the web became social and we encountered the “Internet of People and the spawning of new ways of collaboration and the beginning of social networks. Now, we’re on the verge of another epic change as more and more physical objects are linked with IP addresses. In fact, researchers predict that by 2020 over 30 billion objects will wirelessly be connected to the internet in what is now known as the Internet of Things.

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This next epic shift in the internet goes by various names. It’s been called generically Web 3.0 to refer to next iterations beyond the aforementioned Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 stages. But it also can be referred to as the semantic web. The semantic web is basically a collaborative effort to make the internet more automatic or ‘smarter’ in the way it interacts with humans. In other words, the semantic web will bring customized information to the user rather than having the user “go out” and search for a needle in the haystack. It’s the difference between the web of 1999 and the web of today!

To achieve the ability to sort the complex amounts of vast “Big Data” the semantic web of the future will rely on a conceptually different model for storing and modeling the sea of heterogeneous data that flows into it. The progression from relational to NoSQL models have been great for managing real-time, unstructured data, but the next generation web will need an even ‘smarter’ way of finding and making complex inferences and connections in the data. A new key term to watch in the Big Data market is “Triplestore.”

In its simplest definition, a triplestore is “a purpose-built database for the storage and retrieval of triples.” A triple quite simply is a single data entity comprised of three serialized elements: <subject, predicate, object> that makeup a statement. Rather than structured relational models, or even key-value pairs in the NoSQL model, triples have a semantic structure that can easily represent connections in a way that sets triplestores apart from other approaches. Here’s an example of a query you can make through a triplestore: “find all meetings that happened in November 2010 within 5 miles of Berkeley what were attended by the three most influential people among Joe’s friends and friends-of-friends.”

One more paradigm shift in information and database management to keep an eye on is Google’s Physical Web project. This represents a fundamental new way to interact with information and objects over the internet. Because of the impossibility of managing all the objects and data in the internet of the future, Google envisions that it will be URL-based rather than app-based. If this is indeed the case, then new ways will be devised to manage and store massive amounts of data more quickly and efficiently. On the analogy of the internet as a giant “global brain,” triplestores represent a paradigm shift in this direction. They are a way forward in modeling data in real time that is more attuned to the semantic structure of language and to how the human brain works.

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The latest advances in Big Data, Internet of Things, Semantic Web, and the Physical Web, are portents of a future, which is already at our doorstep. Now is the time to start getting acquainted with these new generation of Web 3.0 technologies. If you’re a startup entrepreneur or small business owner, start taking steps to understand what these areas represents as well as the business impacts over the next 5 years. Start to leverage the research services of Gartner to gather key insights on the latest trends, what CIOs are saying, and what strategies you should adopt. Continue to keep an innovation and customer-centric frame of mind, for customers will ultimately be your barometer on when to pivot and scale up on the latest internet technologies. The most successful digital businesses of tomorrow will be the ones that learn today to capture, store, analyze, and visualize data in the semantic and physical web, and use that information to anticipate the needs of their customers before they even know themselves.

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