Friday, September 07, 2007

A Blend of Future --- some thoughts after the "10 Future Web Trends"

At the Read/WriteWeb, Richard MacManus told about his thought of the top ten future web trends. Despite of this well-written post, the author misses something at the end. Certainly there is only ONE future web instead of TEN future webs. As a long-time reader of Read/WriteWeb, I am more interested in MacManus' view about how these ten trends could be mixed well into one big design. Before waiting for MacManus' response, here is my ONE blend with MacManus' TEN condiments.

This blend is adhere to my consistent vision of web evolution. In this vision, the entire web is considered to be a group of virtual children, who has unique identities of themselves but may or may not do actions or has social with other virtual children. At the same time, human web users are addressed as parents of these virtual children. Not surprisingly (or surprisingly to some people), this vision well blend MacManus' TEN into ONE. In this post, I will not follow the same sequence as MacManus did, though I still keep the original sequential numbers for reference.

The evolution of World Wide Web is similar to the growth of a society of children. Parents need to take the responsibility of raising a new generation. As its return, this growing-up new generation can bring more and more surprises to the parents.

2. Artificial Intelligence --- living spirit of children

A living world needs living spirit. Artificial intelligence, as the name suggests, is a simulation of living spirit. Unlike the current web which is an idle world, the future web will be a living world. By being a living web, web nodes can act by themselves based on pre-specified (or even gradually learned) semantics. The realization of this dream (which is indeed the same dream of semantic web) requires the achievements on artificial intelligence. This is a certain direction to the web future.

1. Semantic Web --- real society (playground) of children
3. Virtual Worlds --- visible societies (playgrounds) of children
9. International Web --- society of parents

Living children needs a playground to act. In particular, such a playground is also a container of a society of these children. Physically, Semantic Web is such a playground. Mentally, the Semantic Web represents a living society of machines. With the augmentation of machine-processable semantics, artificial intelligence becomes useful and producible on the web. Otherwise, (artificial) living creatures without playground are incapable of acting. This is why Semantic Web is another certain trend.

Humans are also visual creatures. Humans are often LESS interested in what they could NOT see. Visualizing playgrounds of machines thus becomes an essential issue. The success of Second Life has shown the profit of this achievement. But Second Life is just the beginning of this trend.

If Semantic Web represents the real society of machines and virtual worlds represent visible societies of machines, shouldn't these two technologies be welded together? (More thoughts about this topic could be found here.)

The real world is and will still be dominated by humans. (I am not assuming any Sci-Fi pictures that robots are going to replace real human beings.) So International Web is another trend of future. Though physically the Web will become a world of active machine agents, it is still a world of machine agents that are controlled by humans. Children's world is a reflection of their parents' world. On its reverse, however, a children's world may also affect the constitution of their parents' world. The study of how a virtual world might affect the real human world will become more and more interesting and substantial with the evolution of World Wide Web.

4. Mobile --- natural communication between parents and children
5. Attention Economy --- commercial link between parents and children

When there are a virtual world and a real world, we need connections between the two worlds. In order to facilitate the life in virtual worlds, we need to strengthen the connections between the two worlds. By applying our metaphor, these connections are natural communication between parents (human web users) and children (machine agents). Mobile technologies are essential for humans to contact their virtual children effectively at anywhere and anytime.

One difference between raising human children and machine children is commercial motivations. As we know, child-education is fairly expensive. Due to inborn nature, humans can educate their own children disregarding the cost. This attitude is, however, generally inapplicable to the education of machine agents. This is indeed an essential obstacle on realizing semantic web. The emergence of attention economy is one of the initial steps to break this barrier. When humans can satisfy the balance between contributing to machine-processable semantics and gathering respective benefits, this attention economy technology enables a commercial link between parents (human web users) and children (machine agents). This trend is another important direction to the future web.

6. Web Sites as Web Services --- adding active capabilities to children
8. Rich Internet Apps --- gathering richer resources for children
7. Online Video / Internet TV --- an example of raising children with special capability
10. Personalization --- raising unique child

These last four predictions on MacManus' list are valuable evolutionary trends about future web nodes. Certainly we can tell more than these four trends in this category. Due to the limit of slots, however, these four selections are critical ones.

Both Web Sites as Web Services (WSaWS) and Rich Internet Apps (RIA) focus on enhancing the execution capabilities on future web nodes. The purpose of WSaWS is turning descriptive web nodes to be executing web nodes. It is similar to raising newborn babies (inactive) to be young boys/girls (active or proactive). In addition to the execution capabilities, we need more executable resources to demonstrate these capabilities. The purpose of RIA is thus gathering more resources for individual web nodes to execute. With the merging of online and offline applications, we are trying our best to exploit all possible resources for machines to execute.

Online Video/Internet TV belongs to another sub-category of web-node evolution. Besides enhancing general execution capabilities, we expect to produce special-purpose future web nodes. A typical example is the construction of video-displaying nodes. This type of nodes becomes especially interesting because of the huge traditional entertainment business realm. But still this realm is only ONE of many profitable business realms. The merging of WSaWS into traditional business realms is an important trend of future web.

Finally, the trend of personalization allows web evolution touching to the heart of individual web users. Not only companies, but also individuals are preferring to build their personalized brands on the web. If companies are trying to selling what they have, individuals are more about trying to buying what they want. Both are typical brands in different senses. This trend of personalization will eventually lead to highly variety of future web nodes. When children grow up, don't their individual personalities become diversity? The future web will definitely be more beautiful and exciting than the current one due to this trend.


As several comments at Read/WriteWeb pointed out, these 10 trends by their names are only about the web in near future (such as 2 to 5 years) rather than for a long-term period (such as more than 10 years). But if we can watch deeper at their sharing core and blend them together as a united web, there is a greater uniform picture of web evolution. Though the names of particular technologies would be varied from time to time, the general direction of web evolution is clear and certain. This general trend of web evolution is indeed the most crucial one that we must understand, no matter we are businesspersons or research people.

For other predictions about 10 particular trends of the future web, Stephen Downes, who had predicted that Semantic Web would fail, again posted his varied version. It is fun to read the differences. Does anybody have other suggestions?

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