Semantic Web now Web 3.0

The NYTimes reports on what they seem present as a new effort to “add a layer of meaning on top of the existing Web that would make it less of a catalog and more of a guide — and even provide the foundation for systems that can reason in a human fashion.” They call it “Web 3.0”. We know it as the “Semantic Web,” which Tim Berners-Lee has been working towards since, oh, 1998.

Anyway, the Times does a fair job describing the value of the Semantic Web Web 3.0:

…the Holy Grail for developers of the semantic Web is to build a system that can give a reasonable and complete response to a simple question like: “I’m looking for a warm place to vacation and I have a budget of $3,000. Oh, and I have an 11-year-old child.”

Under today’s system, such a query can lead to hours of sifting — through lists of flights, hotel, car rentals — and the options are often at odds with one another. Under Web 3.0, the same search would ideally call up a complete vacation package that was planned as meticulously as if it had been assembled by a human travel agent.

I haven’t fully theorized the privacy aspects of the Semantic Web Web 3.0 (future project), but there seems to be a key difference between Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 from a privacy perspective. Web 2.0 – specifically Search 2.0 – is dependent on the ability to know as much about the searcher in order to deliver personalized results. So if you search for “warm vacation spot,” the search engine would know from your search profile that you like Hawaii but not Mexico, that you have kids, and might even know your general income level, and then deliver personalized results based on all that personal data they’ve collected.

With this vision of Web 3.0, perhaps the Semantic Web would not need to know everything about me since it would be able to process my natural language requests, such as “warm vacation place under $3,000 that’s good for kids.” But, after writing that, perhaps the ability to process natural language searches would encourage users to provider even more personal information, allowing more precise user profiles to emerge. The Semantic Web also relies on a much closer “reading” of the content already on the web, mining pages for meaning, not just keywords.
Like I said, I haven’t yet had a chance to wrap my ahead around these implications. Future work ahead…

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