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Web 2.Over?

Check out this piece from Peter Rip, of Crosslink Capital, a VC firm from Silicon Valley. It’s a nice summary of what legs the ‘web 2.0′ movement now has left…. And I guess he ought to know, being one of the guys that’s funding all of this shiny new stuff.

His main point is that “Much of the ‘easy’ innovation seems to have been wrung out of the Web 2.0 wave [my italics]. Web 2.0 was cheap – thanks to open source, simple – thanks to RSS/REST, and distinctive – thanks to AJAX and Flash. It helped more than a little the Google has continued to entice us all with the abundant profits in Internet advertising.”

Whilst on the contrary, the innovation that we’re likely to see next is the really hard stuff… ie, the work involved in creating the much heralded ‘semantic web.’

The Semantic Web, as described here by Tim Berners Lee, creates the promise of machine readable web pages and web apps that can be spliced, mixed and integrated by software into very different, highly valuable new entities. A trivial example of how this might work is the idea of a user profile being portable across applications and/or services – eg, e-Bay, Amazon, etc. Imagine how useful this might be from a user and a marketing perspective – e-Bay could throw recommendations at me based on my last five purchases on Amazon….because it is able to ‘read’ a portable profile that I keep on the web (perhaps in a third party application).

What’s required is a standard metadata set for reading my profile…across all sites, services, applications and platforms. We’re nearly there with some XML schemas, but cross-industry, cross-platform XML schemas have tended to get bogged down in politics and committees, and so they’ve not yet become the kind of universal tool that’s required to do really neat stuff – because these types of REALLY useful things only tend to get generated by the open market.

The semantic web movement is designed to overcome the limitations of today’s XML efforts, and usher in a new era of innovation. What’s needed is a loose framework within which developers can build standards that work for everyone…..

In other words, we’re going to need to build a system that enables lots of different stuff to be integrated on the fly, by machines (or web sites, or apps, or whatever). And it’s the I-word that’s the hard part. Integration usually means creating of a new way of doing things, the rewriting of old things, or the meshing together of bits and bobs (AKA ‘middleware’).

Building a new way of doing things is going to be tough, but the winners will be richly rewarded. And it seems like Mr Rip is already on their trail…

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