The World Wide Web. You can find recipes, connect with old class mates and buy practically anything. There seems to be every bit of information available you could possibly want, and more. In fact there seems to be too much information. Web statistics seem to be showing that the number of failed searches, that is where someone types a term in a search engine and doesn’t find what they are looking for or gives up before they do, is on the increase. Fear not. The guys at the top of internet pecking order are already talking about, and planning, the Semantic Web, or Web 3.0, and it is meant to help us make sense of all of this data.
So what is Web 3.0 and what does it have to do with Twitter? To explain I’ll start back a few years…
The beginning of the world wide web, which was really the internet for the masses, was all about links to pages. You would read a webpage and it would contain a link to another web page that you would then visit if you clicked on it. In this way you could “surf the web” and end up in all sorts of strange places. Very quickly this became pretty confusing as the amount of pages increased… until Google came along anyway.
A few years ago social networking burst onto the scene. This evolution gave users the ability to connect to other users directly and edit the content of certain types of pages to create social networks. Today there are many types of social networking sites ranging from Facebook and MySpace to Digg and Delicious. People now have the power to connect with each other, vote on any topic in a myriad of ways and exercise freedom of speech in any way they desire.
The next big evolution in the history of the web will be connecting data to like data or, put another way, ideas to ideas. The amount of data that exists is only going to get bigger. For our scientists, artists and thinkers to make use of this data they need to be able to connect concepts together quickly. This is the basic premise of the semantic web. Connecting semantics. Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, recently gave a talk at a TED conference that explains it in more detail.
So what does this have to do with Twitter? Isn’t Twitter just another social network? “A lot” and “not really”.
Twitter is, in my view, the bridge between web 2.0 and web 3.0. Sure on the surface Twitter looks like a way to connect with people and for Ashton Kutcher to stroke his own ego in 140 characters or less but it is much, much more. The real difference between Twitter and say Facebook is that, on Twitter, you are not connecting with that old school friend who you quickly realise you have little in common with and will never message again, but you are connecting with people who share a common interest. You are connecting to ideas.
As Twitter has progressed the owners have made it easier to search the constant stream of information. Topics can be tagged with the # symbol and then become instantly searchable. If you are into gardening search for #gardening and find every person who is speaking about gardening everywhere in the world in real time. Try it out : http://search.twitter.com/ . That’s where the power and popularity of Twitter come from. That’s why brands around the world are finally learning how to get involved in customers conversations, breaking down the wall that a big brand can build, and talking to individuals on their own terms.
The guys who have been planning Web 3.0 have very big ideas. It will be amazing. Technically, of course it will be way beyond what Twitter can currently offer but still it’s strange how all of us, typing messages of less than 140 characters, seem to have kicked things off. Power to the people.