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Meaningful Web 3.0

web 3.0

Web 3.0 is about meaning

Who would be Gordon Brown after the last few days in British politics? He might be thinking about how he would like to be making decisions which will have a dramatic and positive impact upon the electorate’s lives rather than worrying about the less than spotless behaviour of some of his MP’s and their expenses.

It would be interesting to have dinner with him this weekend. You would doubt that he would be in a position to be very cheerful. Except that he has invited Tim Berners-Lee to dinner this weekend at Chequers, where it is likely that he is going to be talking about the future of the world wide web.

What is the future of the web? Many people may know about what is called ‘web 2.0’ which has seen the web moving from a one-way conversation in its early days to a two-way conversation which enabled us to contribute to the web. Web 2.0 has seen the massive growth of services like Facebook and Twitter where we can self-publish.

Despite the amazing ability for everyone to publish their thoughts, to find information through Google or to publish their videos for the world to see, we are starting to stretch the current web structure to its limits. For instance, searching on Google limits your query to the search engine finding words which you typed into the search box which will bring up relevant web sites which have those words in them.

But the words (or keywords) which Google found in the web site might not actually bring up a web page which is useful to you. The words in it might not be related to your query and, therefore, your search results are meaningless because the search engine looks for words and not for the meaning of the words. e.g. If you type in the sentence “The sky has the colour blue” Google will look for web sites with those words in them but it may not connect the words together to seek the meaning of that sentence.

This is one the most important aspects of where the web will go in the next few months and years. Web 3.0 is about meaning. When you type a question into a search engine such as “Why is my left foot larger than my right foot?” search engines will be able to understand the question and not just search for the words in a web page. The search results will bring up web sites which answer the question and which also make suggestions on what you can do about it if it is a problem, rather than bringing up a load of web pages just about feet. 

This is called the ‘semantic web’. And this is what Tim Berners-Lee, Dame Wendy Hall and their colleagues have been developing for a long time. The UK Government will soon require that all of their published information to be described with something called ‘RDF’ (Resource Description Framework) so that all their data and information will be linked and so we will be able to find meaningful information more easily than we can today. 

So, cheer up, Gordon Brown. The freedom of information which has opened up a few weeks of trouble for you will seem insignificant to what you and Tim will be discussing this weekend. You will be making the first steps to making the web that we know now, which is about masses of information, into a connected world of knowledge and meaning.