The Internet of 2020 Takes Shape

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The Internet of 2020 Takes Shape

The first generation of the Internet, or Web 1.0 as some now call it, was all about giving people access to information. The big winners of Web 1.0 were businesses that gave people more power over the purchases they made. Google helped users sift through the billions of pages on the Web in seconds to find the ones that matched the criteria on which they were searching. Amazon, leveraging the power of the "long tail" of demand, opened the inventory of the entire book publishing industry to customers who were searching for hard-to-find books, and it ultimately rolled out its business model to sell every product imaginable.

Next came Web 2.0, which focuses on giving users access to other people. This generation of the Internet is best exemplified by social networking sites like MySpace, Facebook, and YouTube, where people post their thoughts, photos, and videos for others to view. Other Web 2.0 sites like Digg enable people to recommend news stories that are worth reading; and Wikipedia harnesses the "knowledge of crowds" to collaborate in building a constantly evolving encyclopedia.

What will Web 3.0 be like? While it is developing in several directions at once, the common theme appears to be that it will give people access to intelligence. Let's not confuse today's online experience with intelligence: Web 2.0 is based on the collective brainpower of billions of people who are connected to the Internet. Contributors range from MIT professors to schoolchildren to village idiots. And each opinion, no matter how clever or uninformed, is given equal weight.

Web 3.0, also known as "the semantic Web," will represent a quantum leap in the world's wisdom because the Internet itself will become smart. What does this mean? It means that the powerful network of computers that make up the Internet will analyze the unlimited bits of data linked to the Web and will actually "understand" it. In doing so, it will enrich the understanding of people who use it.

According to a report by Jonathan Richards in Times Online, the Web site of The Times of London, Britain's leading newspaper, Web 3.0 will pull together all of a person's digital activities.1 If you are typing an e-mail, it will understand what you are writing about, and will suggest links to photos, videos, or documents that you have stored on your PC or that are available elsewhere on the Web...

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