Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The so-called Web 3.0

The business section of Sunday’s Mercury had a big cover article on Nokia’s presence in Silicon Valley, specifically the Nokia Research Center Palo Alto. Besides being a great place to host a Mobile Monday meeting, the article notes that the center has about 50 employees — apparently drawn from the alumni of some of Silicon Valley’s best companies. (The NRC PA director, Bob Iannucci, once was VP of research for Compaq and with it, head of DEC’s famed Western Research Laboratory.)

Not surprisingly, the Page Mill Road location is enabling "Nokia's new research relationship with Stanford University." (The normal translation: Nokia is putting up money to support Stanford research or access to that research). In 2006-2007, the two jointly hosted a series of research talks at Stanford.

Most of this was the customary “foreign MNC comes to Silicon Valley” story (to access talent, partners, etc.) But the title was provocative if not silly:

Phone giant Nokia navigates Internet’s third wave from Silicon Valley base
The explanation is buried within the story:
Nokia's efforts, Iannucci said, are aimed at maintaining the company's market lead as handsets equipped with robust Web capabilities - communications, search, video and more - become the third great wave of commercial opportunity.

The first wave, Iannucci said, represented "the democratization of consumption of information. Web 2.0 is about the democratization of information production. Web 3.0 - the next step - takes Web 2.0 and makes it mobile."
The term “Web 3.0” shows up frequently on the Web (2.0? 1.0?). Right now it’s a meaningless buzzword that means “new and improved,” right up there with “4G.”

Apparently I know a little more than the credulous Merc reporter about the mobile Web 2.0, having studied it for the past 5 months while supervising the forthcoming master’s project by Eduardo Sanchez and German Benitez. The short answer is that some Web 2.0 is desktop based, some is mobile, and some is both. So it’s ludicrous to suggest that adding things like ubiquity or mobility to existing Web 2.0 plans is going to transform this into Web 3.0, even though it will make Web 2.0 more widely available and more powerful.

A better definition of Web 3.0 is the semantic web — one where we are finding information based on meaning and not keywords. Interestingly, a Nokia researcher published an article promoting this definition in a peer-reviewed IEEE journal last June.

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