I recall a documentary which traced the global effort to contain the SARS virus. Pathologists were stumped. Their first task was to identify this mysterious killer disease. The Internet played its hand in enabling real time tracking of the disease. Harnessing the wisdom of an international team of medical experts, the disease was identified – where it had come from, what its biology was and so on – and when scientists knew what it looked like, they made their first assault: they gave it a name.
Naming was a crucial first step in getting the measure of the deadly bug. Remember the fable of Rumpelstiltskin? Names are powerful. Giving a phenomenon a name: ‘the impressionists’, a Freudian slip’, ‘the butterfly effect’ is the beginning to understanding what it is that we are dealing with.
And so it’s worth reflecting on Web 2.0.
Tim Berners- Lee never liked it, claiming the WWW was inherently interactive. It was always about the conversation; Web2.0 was nothing new.
Yet when the term first surfaced at the Tim O’Reilly convened Web 2.0 Conference in 2004, tech press pounced on it, not merely for its definitive features, but because in so naming, a line in the sand had been drawn; the downward spiral of the dot-com crash had come to an end.
Now O’Reilly and John Batelle have done it again. No, not Web 2.5 or 3.0 or or virtual reality as one might have predicted , but WEB SQUARED, a term coined to describe the three way partnership between:
1. Our increasingly sensored (that’s with an ‘s’, not a ‘c’ ) environment with real time feedback loops.
2. Global positioning systems and applications via our ‘virtual black boxes’, (thanks Ondi Timoner for the term)
3. The data cloud: big databases in the sky that get better the more they are used.
O’Reilly gives an example of the power of this combined impact : Google mobile search + Googles’ Speech Recognition + Google’s image recognition.
Say the word Pizza into your device and the more people that use this word the better it’s context is understood. Google Search knows it’s probably not ‘Pisa’ because of the context of the other words and location. Within moments, users can access an address, phone number, menu and so on. The more people use this service, the greater the clarity in the informational data cloud. The Machine is learning.
‘Web squared = Web meets world’ O’Reilly and Battelle
Web Squared is the network effect – not of users, as was the thrust of Web2.0 – but of data recognition and processing. Web Squared is ubiquitous, real-time and constantly better augmented intelligence systems.
For those of us working with the immersive web, this construct may not be anything substantially new, but it has been synthesised and even more, it now has a name.
Given the speed at which O’Reilly/Battelle think-pieces gain momentum, it is a timely prod. The immersive web will be a part of our web future, but certainly not all of it. Cloud-based social applications will be the metaverse in which the immersive Web will live.