AUG 22nd 2007

This may just be my own personal way of quantifying and categorizing everything, but I see myself as part of a growing group of people who are working towards creating the Semantic Web. The Semantic Web movement is still relatively small in comparison to other movements ("camps") seen on the Web and that may contribute to my feelings of us vs. them.

There is another big camp out there, bigger than ours, which is currently dominating the techscape. That camp is called Web 2.0. Let me just get this out in the open: I ador Web 2.0. I love the design style (good riddance 19-friggin-94) and I can't help but enjoy the usability features that have become associated with Web 2.0 (tag clouds, Digg-it style buttons, AJAX galore, etc).

Perhaps the greatest thing to emerge from Web 2.0 has been its so called read/write nature. The Wisdom of Crowds (even though people usually use that term incorrectly) has been a primary ideal of the Web 2.0 movement since very early on in its lifetime. This has brought us countless new social opportunities (i.e. networks) and new ways of looking at information.

But all things come to an end, or as the Web goes, come to change. I know I'm not the only person who thinks of these camps on a timeline; Nova Spivack created an interesting diagram depicting that the Semantic Web will enable the next step-function in productivity on the Web. In that diagram we see where we came from (Web 1.0, 1990-2000), where we are now (Web 2.0, 2000-2010), and where we are headed (the Semantic Web and beyond).

An interesting thing to note in that diagram is Nova's idea that the old Web (which Web 2.0 is part of) is on a different, and in the end obsolete, developmental path than the Semantic Web (as depicted by the red time line changing into a green timeline, and with the red timeline just kind of falling off to the right and down). All of this makes perfect sense to me and I feel the same way. After all, the Semantic Web and Web 2.0 rely on (almost) completely different standards, languages, protocols and ideals.

Here are a few observations of mine, and some may disagree but that's ok. Web 2.0 isn't on a decline, but more of a cooling off period for reflection. Alex Iskold at Read/Write Web cleverly dubbed this period the digestion phase. So if this is Camp Web 2.0's digestion phase, the next phase for them will either be continued growth or fizzling out. At least, that's what the diagram on Alex's post would suggest. I don't personally think that the paradigm shift that occurred during Web 2.0 can ever be reversed. I think we will continue to build on the ideals of Web 2.0, even if 90% of its startups tank for lack of market share.

Of course though my feelings are this: We're next, Web 2.0. The Semantic Web is the future. There is little anyone can do to avoid this. We're relatively few in numbers but our research, work, and efforts are far reaching. In fact, I'd like to take this time to congratulate everyone in the Semantic Web camp. You guys (and gals!) are true visionaries and hardcore early adopters.

About the author

James Simmons

It's my goal to help bring about the Semantic Web. I also like to explore related topics like natural language processing, information retrieval, and web evolution. I'm the primary author of Semantic Focus and I'm currently working on several Semantic Web projects.

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