(last update, Dec. 17, 2007)
Today I have watched a remarkable panel at World Economic Forum (WEF). I had not attended WEF. But WEF offered an opportunity for many of us who like me to watch some of its sessions free. I am glad that one of them is what I am really interested---The Impact of Web 2.0 and Emerging Social Network Models.
The panelists include
* Caterina Fake, Founder, Flickr, USA
* William H. Gates III, Chairman, Microsoft Corporation, USA
* Chad Hurley, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, YouTube, USA
* Mark G. Parker, President and Chief Executive Officer, Nike, USA
* Viviane Reding, Commissioner, Information Society and Media, European Commission, Brussels
Peter Schwartz, the Chairman of Global Business Network, is the moderator, and Dennis Kneale from Forbes Magazine is the challenger.
The discussion began with the question what the Web 2.0 is. Chad pointed out that the movement of Web 2.0 is "leveraging the power of people and leveraging the power of community." Web 2.0 gives chances for any normal web user to influence (beyond simply contribute to) the world. Chad pointed out that this is indeed THE GOAL of internet. I agree with this point. Due to this reason Web 2.0 succeeds.
Mark's introduction of personalizing shoes with NIKE iD shows another side of Web 2.0 phenomenon. The program of NIKE iD was started several years ago, which was before the coin of the buzzword "Web 2.0." But this simple web interface is indeed a Web-2.0 style practice because it aims to increase the mutual intervention between producers and consumers. Moreover, it encourages consumers contributing their personal design ideas to the producer so that NIKE may gather free surveys on the trend of popularity among its consumers. I have just tested this option in NIKE's web site. It is quite a nice experience. The only missed option I feel is that the site does not explicitly encouraging the forms of user communities. Basically, NIKE still treats its customers individually but not collectively. Perhaps NIKE is already too well-known to care of constructing an explicit user community on the Web. But Web 2.0 practices do tell us that such an achievement really help individual customers, and thus eventually the community moderators such as NIKE itself. For many other smaller companies, this community impact may be a key for them to survive.
In this panel, there is a speaker who is too famous to be ignored---Bill Gates. It is fun to hear Mr. Gates emphasizing the impact of 3D in this panel of Web 2.0. "It turns out that the world is 3D." This is true. But how can 3D be a factor of Web 2.0? In fact, I believe what Bill emphasized was the visualization of the web. The 3D visualization is an important factor to build stronger mutual communication between producers and consumers. This particular technology may bring great benefits for web publishers, especially for the salespeople. But more or less, I feel that Bill's talk is a little bit away from the core of Web 2.0. So it explains the slow adoption of Web 2.0 on Microsoft products.
Caterina made an interesting but certain claim that "What we see [about the current Web 2.0 phenomenon] is returning to the root of the web." What the internet really is about is to connect people together. At the early time of the WWW, web users were exciting about publishing their self-statement, interest, photos, and everything on web. But the requirement of understanding technical details (such as HTML) limits the number of web producers. Later on, the e-commerce hype distracted people away from this original root of web development. Now, both the bubble of dot-com movement and the new hype of Web 2.0 bring these web users back to the original track of web publishing. Even better, the convenience of current tools enables people to publish and organize their information easier than ever. This is a very positive sign for the web evolution.
Viviane was the only politician among the five panel speakers. She mentioned that she was happy to hear from Caterina and Chad that Internet was finally getting back to people. And she believed that this was where Internet should stay. As a politician, her principle is that "Government hands off the Internet." Let people, essentially normal web users, determine the rules on the web. Web is a public space. Web is an open forum. On certain degree, I agree with Viviane's principle. The growth of web should be out of the hand of authorities, at least in the current stage. On the other hand, however, I believe that there will be special societies and even government-like organizations formed on the future stages of web evolution. Allowing the web evolution totally out of the hand of authorities may bring us problems (big problems) in the future. This debate is somewhat similar to the comparison between the market economy to the planned economy. Over-emphasizing on either side may cause big problems. In fact, a proper mixture of them might be the best solution. At this very moment, we still do not have many clues on how to effectively balance the two sides. This is a field worthing of study by both of the web scientists and the economists.
In summary, this panel is worth of listening. I recommend it to all of you.
Sunday, January 28, 2007
(last update, Dec. 17, 2007)
Sunday, January 21, 2007
Here is a new online article about web evolution.
http://www.deg.byu.edu/ding/WebEvolution/evolution-review.html (part 1)
As we know, World Wide Web evolves. Especailly in recent years when the research of Semantic Web moves fast forward, the emergence of Web 2.0 brings a new hype of new-generation web applications. But what is behind all of these phenomena? This article is an attempt to explain them and from which we can predict the future evolution of the web.
In this article, I try to make an analogy between web evolution and the growing up of human generations. In fact, these two evolutionary orbits are amazingly similar to each other. By this analogy, we can successfully explain many of current detates. Such as, why Web 2.0 is a revolutionary new stage rather than a simple jargon, and why it is inappropriate to name Semantic Web as Web 3.0. Then based on these explanations, we can watch clearly how the web evolves forward.
In the meantime, I want to particular denote this article to the initiative of Web Science. I believe that this initiative is a landmark: World Wide Web has been an objective existence that is independent to the human society. World Wide Web has its intrinsic laws (which are focuses of Web Science research) that controls its evolution. Although we may think that humans control all these processes, indeed we do not, however. We humans invent the web and build the web. But after the web is built, it becomes an objective existence. More importantly, this existence has become so powerful and influential that it contains its own laws. This is what the initiative of Web Science tells us.
As its result, we researchers need to be aware that our duties are starting to be changed. Previously, the majority of our duty is to create rules to make the web work. With the mature of WWW, more and more duties of web research are going to become discovering the intrinsic laws on the web and how these pseudo-natural laws may guide us effectively consume web resources. As an interesting observation, the Web 2.0 practices tell us that the web is self-growing when we consume its resources. The reason is that the process of consuming web resources is a process of producing new web resources. This observation leads to a certain conclusion: unless we stop using the web, we cannot stop the evolution of the web; and this process of web evolution is not controlled by any small group of people but by the entire human behavoirs. Therefore, the web evolution itself becomes a natural process, or at least it is pseduo-natural since humans need to participate.
"The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us." (quoted from Bible, Ecclesiastes 1:9-10)
The web is a clone of our society. From its beginning, people use it as an extension of our life. On the web we clone ourselves, not physically but virtually. We leave all information about ourselves on the web, what we believe, what we care of, what we are interested in, what we are living with, who we love, and who we dislike. Web records everything, through which it can rebuild us by our knowledge, our interest, our friendship, and everything else except physically cloning us. It is true that the current web has not been so powerful yet. But it is the future. And this article is discussing this future.
This article is planned to contain three parts: past and present of WWW, future in dream, and inventing the future. Currently, I have finished the first draft of Part 1. Part 2 and Part 3 will be online soon. Sincerely I welcome any comments and discussion about this issue. For comments, critiques and discussion, please drop me an email to "firstname.lastname@example.org" (Web 1.0 method) or leave your comment on my blog here at "http://yihongs-research.blogspot.com/" (Web 2.0 method).
http://www.deg.byu.edu/ding/WebEvolution/evolution-review.html (part 1)
Thank you very much for reading this post and reading my article.
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Available from the web science workshop report.
If the SW is, or depends on, the traditional AI knowledge representation task, then there is no particular reason to expect progress in this new form of presentation as all the problems and challenges of logic reappear and it will be no more successful outside the narrow scientific domains where KR seems to work and the formal ontology movement has brought some benefits.
This is true. Semantic Web practice is different from the traditional AI knowledge representation task, which still have many problems after so many years of research. The most important difference, as I believe, is that traditional AI practices are more or less limited on a small group of people because of its methodology. Semantic Web practices, however, can employ the huge man power through collaborative web applications (as what Web 2.0 is practising now). It is this difference that may determine the varied fate of these two practices. We must try to use the cheap and powerful human resources (regular web users) to realize the Semantic Web. Otherwise, just as what we quoted, the current status of traditional AI practices will be the future of Semantic Web practices.
Alternatively, if the SW is the WWW with its constitute documents annotated so as to yield their content or meaning structure, then NLP/IE will be central as the procedural bridge from texts to KR.
NLP/IE has already been critical technology. It is possible that NLP/IE be not only the procedural bridge but also the universal identifier. As a fundamental question: why must URIs be identifiers? Can procedures be identifiers?
In the discussion, Berners-Lee argued that the SW rests not on NLP but logic. Logic and ontologies will suffice to extract much of the value from the data held in structured relational databases.
NLP-based logic or logic-based NLP, which one is more preferable? Or even Logic NLP, if we simply put them side-by-side.
Wilks responded that the unstructured (legacy) part of the Web needs NLP for annotation, even in other media, at least until visual recognition systems become more reliable.
NLP again. NLP is important and valuable. But have we over-emphasized it?
Monday, January 15, 2007
Recently, Danny Ayers published two successive Websense columns on Internet Computing: "The Shortest Path to the Future Web" and "From Here to There." In these two columns, Danny presented his views of the current web moving towards the Semantic Web. This is a brief summary of the two articles based on my reading.
In his first column, Danny discussed a path to the future web, which, by his words, may or may not be the shortest one, however. Semantic Web technologies offer a logical model that are full of potentials. This is what Danny want to deliver to readers.
This first column starts with a summary of the traditional web. Danny emphasized two points: simplicity of the web and communication model. The majority of web users do not have much knowledge of web technologies. Simplicity is surely a key of success. Moreover, the strength of WWW lies on its communication model. Most of the time, WWW is exciting because it links everybody. By this sense, the evolution of WWW very much depends on the advancement of its communication model.
Then Danny discussed the ways of revising the web. I am particularly interested in his comparison between incremental and leaping progresses. In fact, Web 2.0 shows the combination of these two types of development. With several years of incremental progesses on its key techniques (such as tagging and blogging), the web jumps to a new level (becoming Web 2.0). The aggregation of many minor increments can eventually lead to a fundamental leap. Is the same process happening right now on the realization of Semantic Web? The current Web 2.0 hype can bring Semantic Web researchers many hints. I believe this is what Danny want to express.
In his second column article, Danny quoted an interesting proverb by George E.P. Box: "All models are wrong. Some are useful." This is a very interesting observation, though I am still not very sure how it is applied in the article.
Semantic Web is thought to be the web of data. I have seen this representation in many places. But I am a little bit afraid whether we have pushed this argument too far. Semantic Web adds machine-processible semantics for web data. But is this process of semantic annotation objectively or subjectively? The statement (web of data) likely emphasizes more on the objective side than the subjective side. As a result, the role of humans on deciding the meanings of data becomes unclear. Will it be a big problem later?
Are we on a transitional web now? If yes, are we within the transition from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0, or within the transition from Web 2.0 to Semantic Web? I think these are interesting questions. Microformats have been mentioned by more and more researchers and developers. Will micorformats be a standard presentation in future web? Or is it itself also a "transitional term"? We may still need time to answer these questions.
Monday, January 01, 2007
The World Wide Web has come to a critical turning point. Many web evangelists have predicted a new age be coming in the year 2007. With the continuous advances on Web 2.0 practices, many new philosophies have been introduced to web design and applications. More important, these new philosophies (such as collaborative intelligence) have been gradually accepted by the majority of normal web users. The help from normal web users decreases the cost of both starting up and maintaining a new company. It is now faster than ever that web researchers and developers can turn their new research results to market products. As a result, the progress of web evolution is accelerated.
Many web evangelists predict that the enrichment of semantics to Web 2.0 applications might be a focus of achievement in 2007. This prediction, thus, results in a new hype of an "old" term---Semantic Web. Though self-addressing as a Semantic Web researcher, I am not so optimistic on this movement in 2007 as several other web researchers. Many fundamental problems in Semantic Web research may not be solved immediately because of this hype from the Web 2.0 realm. The realization of the Semantic Web highly relies on great achievement on three main issues: knowledge collection and formalization (essentially ontology construction), knowledge instantiation (essentially semantic annotation and authoring), and knowledge processing (essentially logical inference and reasoning). Until now, however, there are no practical solutions that are scalable to the size of the web for any of the three main issues. Also, we are not sure of any promising solutions that may come soon. The only assured thing is that the hype of Web 2.0 may not bring any immediate break-through to any of these main issues of Semantic Web research.
In this year, I am going to continue my blog with brainstorms and new thoughts on achievement of web technologies. In January, I plan to publish an online article of my historical and analogical view of web evolution. In the article I am going to introduce a novel explanation of Web 2.0 that may better illustrate its natural properties. Moreover, I am going to predict in details of the next-generation web in the article. I hope that these new thoughts might bring the WWW community some fresh ideas especially for the study of web evolution.