Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Difference between Yahoo and Facebook

Web 2.0 is a web of platform; this is a commonly accepted viewpoint. But what does a platform mean to particular companies? The answers are not necessarily the same.

For example, do the platform of Facebook and the platform of Yahoo (if it would ever be built) mean the same? In a recent report from Bits, a blog hosted by The New York Times, Jerry Yang explained Yahoo's interpretation of platform. "A business that has a set of standards that allows a set of companies to participate and find benefit from it," he said. This is, however, exactly what the Facebook Platform is: "Facebook Platform is a set of APIs and tools that provides a way for external applications to access Facebook content on behalf of Facebook users." So did Yang suggest that every platform was the same?

What is the difference between Yahoo and Facebook? Yahoo produces web resources by itself, while the present Facebook does not. Facebook is only a social playground. Facebook itself produces few unique data but only service functions. Facebook very much relies on user-contributed data to survive. Yahoo is, however, a major web-resource manufacturer. Yahoo produces numerous unique consumable data to the public every day. Yahoo can survive without user-contributed data. But Yahoo can certainly live better when effectively engaged with user-contributed data. This is the difference between Yahoo and Facebook at present.

Facebook knows its strengths and weaknesses. So the strategy of its platform is to be fully open and maximizes user contribution. This policy both facilitates the usage of its main products (services) and minimizes its main shortcomings (lack of data production line by itself).

Yahoo can simply clone this successful policy, as Yang said. But it is a pity if Yahoo would not adjust this policy with its own strength. As we have discussed, Yahoo produces a lot of data. Yahoo could transform its data production line to user-accessible services. By this transformation, Yahoo is not only a social-network platform as Facebook is, but also a data production platform that Facebook is not. Jeff Jarvis suggested that Yahoo should "turn absolutely every — every — piece of Yahoo into a widget any of us could export and use on our own sites." This is what Yahoo really should approach.


Although the web of a platform is a general concept, individual platforms are different. Every company should design their own unique platform based on their own strengths and weaknesses. Simply cloning others may lead to a tremendous waste of its resources. This case study between Yahoo and Facebook is an example.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Current Status of Web Evolution by Watching Web 2.0 Summit

The 2007 Web 2.0 Summit conference has come to its end. Richard MacManus at Read/WriteWeb has summarized the conference by saying that this conference is a success but lack of a focused theme. By contrast, he listed a timeline of Web 2.0 as follows.

       * Oct '04: Web 2.0 is Born
       * Oct '05: Web 2.0 Tips (a.k.a. "cautious optimism and cynical buzz")
       * Nov '06: Web 2.0 Matures
       * Apr '07: Web 2.0 Goes Mainstream

I, however, made a complement to this timeline.

       * Oct '07: Web 2.0 Starts to be flourishing

Impression of Web 2.0 Summit 2007

Web 2.0 is starting to be flourishing! This is the most important signal delivered by this Web 2.0 Summit 2007. Technologies are ready, and it's time to exploit human creativity on manipulating these technologies. This is what this conference tells the world.

That Web 2.0 is starting to be flourishing explains why it seems that this conference is short of a focused theme. Web 2.0 is now going everywhere. Different people are thinking of how to apply this vision to their professional realms and make profits from this hype. It thus causes the diversity of topics, and so the theme is hard to be focused.

But, isn't the lack of a theme itself also a theme? Yes, it is. Diversity dominates this conference. People all talk about themselves. It is short of extra energy to care of a common theme to everyone. This is the sign of being flourishing.

Current Status from the View of Web Evolution

So what does this current status mean? I want to share my view based on my vision of web evolution. I have three predictions based on the observation of this Web 2.0 Summit.

1. We are now at the stage of rapid quantitative accumulation of Web-2.0 resources.

The core technologies of Web 2.0 mature. The rest of the work is how to maximize the usage of these technologies. From traditional big boys such as Microsoft to numerous small startups, everyone is trying their own way to dig gold from this Web 2.0 hype. In the following few year, we are going to see tremendous increase of quantity of Web-2.0 resources on the Web. Now it is the best to produce revenue from Web-2.0 products.

2. The preparation of transition to Web 3.0 has begun.

I emphasize that it is the preparation but not the transition itself. At present online Web-2.0 resources are still too few on both its quantity and diversity to really trigger the next transition. As we know, sufficient quantitative accumulation is the prerequisite of a qualitative transition. The general philosophical theory tells us that a qualitative transition can never happen without such a sufficient quantitative accumulation, and certainly we are not there yet.

This observation tells why Twine is still only a Web-2.0 or at most a Web-2.5 product but not a true Web-3.0 product. In some sense, Twine likes an early-born baby and the entire environment has not been ready to its healthy growth yet. But Twine is a sign that Web 3.0 is ahead.

3. Web-2.0 bubble is unavoidable, but probably it is also necessary.

In order to accelerate the emergence of Web 3.0, we need more Web-2.0 companies (instead of more Web-3.0 startups) at present. It sounds controversy. But remember that no Web-3.0 companies can exist before the world of Web 2.0 has been flourishing enough. Since no one knows how much flourishing is enough, only over-flourishing can tell us that it has already been enough. By over-flourishing, we get a bubble. This is thus the dilemma.

Web 2.0 stands on the flourishing world of Web 1.0, and it was so flourishing that caused a bubble. Similarly, Web 3.0 must stand on the flourishing world of Web 2.0, and there is no other way to make Web 3.0 happen. By this mean, Web-2.0 bubble is not only unavoidable, but also necessary. In order to survive from this coming bubble, however, any ambitious Web-2.0 company must prepare its own shift from Web 2.0 to Web 3.0 when at present it is still focusing on producing Web-2.0 products.

Metadata or Hyperdata, Link or Thread, What is a Web of Data?

This is my most recent post at Semantic Focus. In this post I shared my view of a web of data. The following are selected quotes from the article.

A web of data is a network of data whose local characters are specified by metadata and global characters are specified by hyperdata.

A web thread is a reference to a named web location. Unlike a web link, a web thread connects arbitrary numbers of objects at the same time. In contrast to unidirectional, a web thread is omnidirectional. Data in a thread is automatically connected to all other data in the same thread. All the data connected by the same web thread mutually supplements each other in semantics.

With web threads, do we still need web links in a web of data? The answer is yes. Web threads cannot completely replace web links. Web links have their irreplaceable semantics.

But isn't "incorrectness" a synonym of creativeness? If we want to engage collective intelligence in a web of data, allowing and encouraging subjective (and biased) assignment of web links is fundamental to explore human creativity.

In summary, a web of agents is what ordinary users can see about the Semantic Web at the front end, while a web of data is what professional developers understand to be the essence of the Semantic Web at the back end. These two presentations tell a common story from two different sides.

If you are interested in my interpretation about "a web of data," check out the full story at Semantic Focus.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Twine, the first impression

One big news flying over the blogosphere this past weekend is the first public announcement of Twine. Richard MacManus at Read/WriteWeb asked whether it is the first mainstream Semantic Web application.

I have not gotten the chance to test the beta myself yet, and I know that neither do many of my readers too at this moment. By analyzing released information in various blogs, I would like to share my first impression of Twine. I may post a follow-up of this post later when I get to know better about Twine. Unless otherwise mentioned, the figures used in this post are from the references I cite at the end of this post.

Twine in a nutshell

This is my one-sentence impression on what Twine is after reading all the referenced posts.

Twine produces a personalized knowledge network for every user by allowing them to find, share, and organize information from people they trust.

As usual, I unfold this sentence so that we may peek the core of Twine.

Twine produces knowledge network. This is the main goal of Twine. That a knowledge network versus a normal social network is What-You-Know versus Who-You-Know. Peter Rip had a fairly well explanation of this issue.

The knowledge networks produced by Twine are personalized. This clause actually has two folds of meanings. If we only read these words, it tells that Twine leverages the management of personal knowledge and improves the usage of knowledge for individual users. If we think of this expression deeper, very likely the knowledge management inside Twines may hardly run across the boundaries of individual knowledge networks at the semantic level. In fact, "personalization" is a comparatively weak term in the realm of knowledge management because globalization is much harder than personalization. But certainly this claim from Twine is reasonable and understandable. (It would be less believable if Twine claims that it could effectively manage knowledge across all the knowledge networks.) Indeed I have already been very much impressed on this claim Twine has made.

A knowledge network in Twine allows users to find, share, and organize information. The keyword in this clause is users, i.e. humans find, share, and organize (with help from machines) rather than machines find, share, and organize. It shows that we are still half way to the real Semantic Web.

Information in a knowledge network is from people who are trusted by the owners of the knowledge network. Obviously, the quality of any knowledge network is related to the quality of its content. The quality of content is, however, related to whether the information providers are trustworthy. Recently, Paul Miller and I had a talk and both of us also agreed that the trust issue must be fundamental to any form of networks on the future Web. Obviously Twine has already addressed this issue for its knowledge networks. How does Twine actually has modeled and implemented trust? This is an interesting question waiting to be revealed.

Impressions from Released Screen-shots

Now we look at two screen-shots and take a close feeling about Twine.

The first screen-shot shows a standard front page of a Twine. The design is familiar to other Web 2.0 sites. The page contains various imports, which could be seen as widget components. On the right side, there are standard tags and list of friends. In general, this screen-shot hardly reveals why Twine is more than another Web 2.0 site.

I am a little bit disappointed about this front-page design. The most important shortcoming is that there is lack of new thought in the design. It is hard to convince me that this site is a new-generation product as it is advertised.

This second screen-shot reveals something new. Typically, it shows an automated annotation mechanism behind the screen. It seems that the Radar's semantic engine can automatically annotate new imports based on existing user-specified tags. Annotated data are stored in RDF files, as Twine is advertised. The interface does not reveal whether there is an underlying ontology management mechanism that may automatically upgrade taxonomies based on users' activities. From the pragmatic point of view, I guess that there might be pre-constructed small ontologies or taxonomies (e.g. learned from Wikipedia) in Radar's semantic engine. Based on user-specified tags, the Radar's semantic engine can automatically (or semi-automatically) select proper taxonomies for users. Then these taxonomies become the seeds for further annotation and query requests.

This screen-shot demonstrates that Twine is beginning to distinguish itself from the other Web-2.0 products. The integration of semantic-web technologies brings new elements to the design and further enriches user experiences on leveraging web information management.

From the two screen-shots, we have seen the use of novel semantic web technologies in Twine. The main problem is, however, that Twine seems only mechanically lay the techniques together. What is the philosophy underneath these techniques and what kind of revolution can these improvement bring to the world? Unfortunately, Twine does not provide a clear answer. As the result, "Twine looks like it's just del.icio.us 2.0," quoted from Tim O'Reilly's comment for his own post about Twine. This is also exactly my feeling after carefully reading all the discussions about Twine up to now.

Semantics behind Twine

Which philosophy does Twine want to bring to the world? This is the grand question to Radar Networks and Nova Spivack.

What I can see is that Twine is still aiming to leverage a web of platform. Certainly this goal is timely and exciting at this moment. But if Twine stops its goal only at the web of platform, Twine is not (and will not be) a Web-3.0 product as it is advertised. Twine is an excellent Web-2.0 product; or maybe we could call it a Web-2.5 product because it shows inevitable distinction to many other Web-2.0 products. But unfortunately, it is not a Web-3.0 product because Twine so far does not bring us revolutionary thoughts. Web 3.0 is more than just a plain layout of new technologies. Web 3.0 must be a revolutionary layout of new technologies. A revolutionary layout means to bring a new philosophy to the world; but Twine fails in this ultimate goal.

To understand revolution, let's compare the current Twine to the Google when it was risen and we can understand the lack of Twine at present. The greatness of Google is not because of its PageRank algorithm. Nevertheless is the algorithm a magnificent contribution to the world, Google changes the philosophy of the Web. Google redefined itself to be a center hub of a social network of users who use Google products instead of defining itself to be a traditional entry-portal to the Web. This upgrade of philosophy lifts Google from a 1.0 company to a leading 2.0 company. This is called revolution. So far Twine has not shown a sign of this type of revolution. By the way, I am not sure whether Yahoo had really understood this revolution until now.

If Radar Networks would like to welcome my comments, I would suggest changing the name "Twine" to "Twin". Check dictionary again if you are curious of these two words. Email me if you really want to know my opinion, which is hard to be explained in short sentences and out of the focus of this post. (Certainly I do not insist on literally changing the name. But they'd better change the philosophy underneath the name if their goal is really about Web 3.0.)


Twine is an exciting product. Although this Twine beta is not a Web-3.0 product yet, it is already one of the greatest Web-2.0 products up to the present. Moreover, we must not neglect that Twine still has a huge space to grow before it gets out of its beta version. Twine has the potential to grow to be a real Web-3.0 product. The question is what kind of ultimate philosophy Nova Spivack and his peers are preparing to bring to the world. Let's be optimistic to the future of Twine.


Many other related discussions can be found at here.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Social Network: devoting to plebeians or elites?

Not a social network, but a business networking tool. This was what Linkedin CEO Dan Nye spoke to New York Times recently. "Not a social network!" Is there anything wrong within the statement? Actually, nothing went wrong. What Linkedin really want to express (but be shy to say) is that Linkedin is aiming to be a social network devoting to elites but not plebeians.

By contrast, Facebook's policy of open platform (or open API) is the manifesto of devoting to the general public, i.e. plebeians. Anyone can get a free place for their dreams of social networking. The realization of dreams, however, may be inelegant and lack of well maintenance. But open platform gives rewards to creative and diligent minds, even if they are short of money and their plans are lack of consideration.

Plebeians do not care much about security. As a matter of fact, plebeians are often more willing to try unknown applications than the rich elites. Why? If one does not own much at the beginning, how much could he lose to the end?

Certainly noble elites think of things in some other ways. They own much, and thus they worry more. Noble elites care much of confidential. They want to be safer, i.e. to be more closed to themselves, even within a "social" network.

Well, I guess Linkedin has properly found their customers. However, isn't being noble also equivalent to being solitude and short of choices? So will Linkedin be.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Web Evolution

(last updated, June 10th, 2008)

Many people agree on Web evolution, but few take it seriously. As a term, "Web evolution" is commonly used. But few people have thoughtfully studied its principles, i.e. why and how the Web evolves. Even after the initiative of Web Science, Web evolution, supposed to be a major branch of Web Science, is still lack of considerable attention. For example, Wikipedia, the most popular online encyclopedia, does not have an entry of Web evolution till now (last checked June 10th, 2008). We need to change this situation.

A Brief History

One of the early attempts of formalizing the concept of evolution on the Web was done by Tim Berners-Lee, the father of World Wide Web. In 1998, he explained the importance of evolvability of Web technology. In short, we need to preserve spaces for Web technologies so that they can be continuously upgraded to compromise new requests. According to Tim, "evolvability" is one of the two fundamental goals of all W3C technologies (the other goal is "Interoperability"). Berners-Lee also emphasized that the key evolutionary issues at the meantime should be language evolution and data evolution. Within the context of his discussion, the term "evolvable" was actually closer to the meaning of "extensible" than the meaning of "evolutionary".

A more recent discussion about Web evolution was at the panel "Meaning on the Web: Evolution or Intelligent Design?" at Edinburgh, Unite Kingdom during the WWW-2006 conference. This panel invited five well-known web researchers, Ron Brachman, Dan Connolly, Rohit Khare, Frank Smadja, and Frank van Harmelen. In the description of this panel, it was written as follows.

"should meaning on the Web be evolutionary, driven organically through the bottom-up human assignment of tags? Or does it need to be carefully crafted and managed by a higher authority, using structured representations with defined semantics?"

The evolution of meaning specifications on the Web is a central issue of Web evolution; and this issue is particularly critical to the vision of Semantic Web. But this panel still did not touch the very core of Web evolution, i.e. what the essential driving force of web evolution is and how this force really drives the Web forward.

Very recently at WWW 2008, we finally have a workshop organized by the WSRI that focused solely on the study of Web evolution. Nevertheless is it a big step forward, most of the accepted papers in the workshop still focuses on describing the various phenomena of Web technology evolution rather than digging the fundamental reasons that drive the progress of Web evolution and how these reasons may drive the Web forward in the future.

Formal Study of Web Evolution

To the best of my knowledge, the article "Evolution of World Wide Web, a historical view and analogical study" is the first attempt to explain the essence of Web evolution on the ground of a theoretical study. The first draft of Part 1 was posted at January 12, 2007, and the first draft of Part 2 was posted at April 27, 2007. The Part 3 is still in progress. The Part 1 describes an analogical comparison between the growth of World Wide Web and the growth of humans. The Part 2 makes a scientific abstraction of the analogy discussed in Part 1 and concludes a view of Web evolution by two postulates and seven corollaries. Furthermore, in Part 2 we have also applied the newly abstracted Web-evolution theory to predict the path towards the next-generation Web (or Web 3.0 in someone's mind).

We have taken a great deal of effort to write and revise the articles. But it is simply too broad and sophisticated project to make it perfect in short time. Hence at the same time, I have authored a compact series about Web evolution in ten installments here at Thinking Space (the whole list of the post is attached at the end of this post). This series is more updated than the original article.

Brief Summary of the Web Evolution Theory

If World Wide Web does evolve, we believe that the progress of Web evolution must obey the general law of Transformation of Quantity into Quality, which is a general law of any evolutionary process in the world. In particular to the case of Web evolution, the general law is shown as a spiral advancement that consists of unstopping quantitative accumulation of Web resources and successive qualitative stage transitions. On the Web, whenever the quantity of Web resources reaches a certain level so that the amount becomes too many to be efficiently operated by the Web resource operating mechanism at the meantime, the Web will demand an upgrade of Web resource operating mechanism (a qualitative transition) to ensure the continuity of Web evolution. After the qualitative transition is done, the Web then start a new round of quantitative accumulation of Web resources at a higher level. The transition from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 is a typical example of this theory.

Although the general law of Transformation of Quantity into Quality explains the path of Web evolution, it does not explain the reasons beneath the unstopping quantitative accumulation of Web resources. In other words, why does such a unstopping quantitative accumulation of Web resources happen and never stop? The answer to this question is related to the human aspect of World Wide Web. To the end, World Wide Web is a project produced by humans, contributed by humans, and serving humans.

The fundamental power of unstopping human contribution to the Web is laid on a nature of mankind---the desire of being known when alive and still being remembered after death. Human is a social creature. The invention of World Wide Web helps satisfy the deep concern of humanity itself. This fulfillment is the fundamental momentum that drives the resource accumulation on the Web.

This theory of Web evolution is not flawless. Many arguments might be debatable and amendable. The main purpose of this work is to bring the world a fresh new vision of Web evolution. In fact, Web evolution is not just about the Web, it is indeed about all humans and our society.

A View of Web Evolution

1. In the Beginning …
2. Three Evolutionary Elements
3. Two Postulates
4. Web Evolution and Human Growth
5. Evolutionary Stage
6. Qualities of Evolutionary Stages
7. Trigger of Transition
8. Beginning of a Stage Transition
9. Essence of Web Evolution
10. Completion of a Stage Transition

Monday, October 08, 2007

Planet Semantic Focus went to the public

Allow me to do a little bit advertisement. (Very rarely I do so.) Planet Semantic Focus is now open to the public. Planet Semantic Focus is an automated aggregator that delivers the most up-to-time news and discussions primarily from various semantic-web-oriented blogs. It is a nice place to check if you do not have the time or patience to wander through all these sites. Added with this important piece, SemanticFocus grows closer and closer to be a central hub of digested semantic-web information. James Simmons has done terrific work on building up the site. Great work, James!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

What is Web 2.0? | The Path towards Next Generation, Series No.1

(Revised October 19, 2007)

towards next generationThis new series is the follow-up of A View of Web Evolution. In the previous series, we studied a theory of web evolution. In this new series, we apply the web-evolution theory to predict the next generation web. Since this new generation web follows Web 2.0, I adopt the name "Web 3.0" for it. So this series may also be called The Path towards Web 3.0.

To know a path, the first thing we need to discover is its starting point. The starting point toward the next generation web is the current web, which is well known as Web 2.0. So in this first installment we begin with the question: what is Web 2.0?

Various Expressions of Web 2.0

There have been dozens of expressions about what Web 2.0 is. I picked five representative ones that complement to each other. By analyzing these five expressions, I am going to conclude a new definition of Web 2.0 from which our path towards the next generation starts.

Expression from Tim O'Reilly

Tim O'Reilly, one of the co-inventors of the term "Web 2.0," had a substantial explanation of Web 2.0. I summarized the 5-page-long explanation into one compact definition.

Web 2.0 is a platform web that enriches user experiences by harnessing collective intelligence, encouraging explicitly declaration of ownership over data, and prompting the conversion from software products to services.

This definition seems complicated. It is, however, not sophisticated. Let's unfold its meaning one clause by another.

1. A platform web is a web of platform. Components in a platform web are portable. Users can freely plug and unplug these portable web components into arbitrary web spaces.
2. Since users can freely plug and unplug their favorite web components into their own web spaces, a platform web enriches user experiences on the Web.

Enriching user experiences is actually a general long-term goal of web evolution. But the typical methods used to enrich user experiences are, however, varied to different evolutionary stages. At the current stage, three typical methods are applied to enable this web of platform. In particular, they are collective intelligence, explicit ownership over web resources, and SaaS (Software as a Service). These methods are the identifiers of Web 2.0.

3. Originally, World Wide Web allows everybody contributes and everybody enjoys contributions from everybody else. A web of platform upgrades this philosophy by making every contribution be not only enjoyable but also freely portable to everybody else. Through this augmentation, the web intelligence becomes collective.
4. When web components are freely portable, the clarification of their ownership becomes a crucial issue. A web of platform requires an explicit mechanism of declaring ownerships over web resources so that they would not be mixed up during the deployment.
5. In particular, traditional software products are not suitable for a web of platform because they are generally not portable. The conversion from software products to services prompts the growth of a platform web.

Expression from Joining Dots

Joining Dots, a research consultancy company at UK, published its vision of Web 2.0. People at Joining Dots had not tried to define Web 2.0 in general but expressed Web 2.0 in their own way.

Web 2.0 is the joining dot of digital natives, internet economics, and the Read/Write Web.

This compact expression contains three clauses.

Web 2.0 connects people; and the connected people are digitalized and become native to the Web. This observation is illuminating. Real humans become part of the Web 2.0. In comparison, real humans were foreigners (not native) to the Web before Web 2.0. Humans visit Web 1.0; but humans live on Web 2.0.

Web 2.0 represents special economical opportunities. The theory of Long Tail is a commercial mutant of collective intelligence. With the participation of "native web people", the execution of Long Tail becomes not only practical but also profitable.

Web 2.0 is a Read/Write Web. Blogs and wikis (primarily read and write) prompt the transformation of web users from foreigners to natives on the Web. This presentation of Read/Write Web is the precise description of Web-2.0 front end. Comparatively, the presentation of platform web in Tim O'Reilly's expression is the description of Web-2.0 back end.

Expression from Andy Budd
Andy Budd, an internationally renowned user experience designer and web standards expert, has his understanding of Web 2.0.

"Web 2.0 isn't a thing... It's a state of mind."

Sound even more weird this time. What Andy emphasizes is that Web 2.0 is a change of thought. The essence of WWW never changes; what does change regularly how we indeed understand about the Web. Before Web 2.0, we commonly think of the Web as a document delivery system. On Web 2.0, we start to watch the Web as an application platform. This updated view gives the Web a new life.

Although it is short, Andy's expression helps us to understand better about web evolution. Web evolution does not change the essence of WWW, i.e. an interlinked system that prompts human communication. But with continuously upgraded views, WWW may mean differently to us within different time periods. Looking for a revolutionary but pragmatic view is the key to investigate the unknown future of World Wide Web. This discovery is a principle when we foresee Web 3.0.

Expression from Nicholas Carr

Nicholas Carr, an acclaimed business writer and speaker whose work centers on strategy, innovation, and technology, had his fabulous vision that "Web 2.0 is amoral."

"From the start, the World Wide Web has been a vessel of quasi-religious longing." Nicholas said. He also quoted from Kevin Kelly's marvelous article We Are the Web that "because of the ease of creation and dissemination, online culture is the culture." At the end, Nicholas conclude that Web 2.0 is "what it is, not what we wish it would be."

These expressions are enlightening. As "a vessel of quasi-religious longing," the Web is a religionary existence. The growth of WWW is thus beyond the judgment of right or wrong, mortal or immortal, profitable or nonprofitable, and favorite or unfavorite to individuals. Based on Nicholas's expressions, the emergence and growth of Web 2.0 is due to objective principles that reflect amoral willingness of the general public. The emergence of this Web 2.0 is not due to that we wish there was a Web 2.0. Web 2.0 emerged only because it was the time for it to emerge. Web evolution is independent to humans' will.

Expression from Dion Hinchcliffe

Dion Hinchcliffe, a well-known evangelist of Web 2.0, SOA, and Enterprise 2.0, had another outstanding explanation on how we got Web 2.0. His expression supplements to Nicholas's expressions.

"Web 2.0 is what happened while we were waiting for the Semantic Web."

In real, no one had expected Web 2.0 before this Web 2.0 suddenly boomed out. What did people originally expect? The answer was Semantic Web. The plot of Semantic Web was drawn several years before the name "Web 2.0" was coined. Many web evangelists had looked for a web that machines could understand. Barely few people had thought of a web in which humans were digitalized. Most of the web evangelists back to the pre-2.0 age and even a few top-tier web professionals at present think of connecting humans on the Web to be a fake question. Hadn't we already connected humans in the original World Wide Web? they asked. They have mistaken "the connect to the Web" and "the connection on the Web."

Dion's observation is revealing. We didn't expect the emergence of Web 2.0 at all from the beginning. The emergence of blogging was a minor improvement on online communication; the spread of web services was a standard advance on leveraging web applications; the rise of tagging was a little bit more than a semantic sugar; and the invention of AJAX was nothing but another one out of one hundred new technologies that had invented. Few people had seen how all these little things might constitute a grand new version of World Wide Web.

When few people were aware, the transition to Web 2.0 had already started. Web 2.0 simply came to the world as an uninvited guest. But this unexpected guest received one of the most magnificent welcome parties ever. This is the astonishing story of Web 2.0.

My Expression of Web 2.0

Web 2.0 tells that the World Wide Web has evolved to its second major stage in its history of evolution. Web 2.0 is a new amoral view of World Wide Web that digitalizes humans participation through collective intelligence, explicit ownership over web resources, and portable web services. At the front-end, Web 2.0 is a Read/Write Web. At the back-end, Web 2.0 is a web of platform.

This expression summarizes the five Web-2.0 expressions we just reviewed besides my addition of explanations. In the following I explain its clauses one-by-one.

Web 2.0 is a major stage in web evolution. This claim is directly based on the view of web evolution. I do not view "2.0" as a pure marketing term. By contrast, it is a precise declaration that the World Wide Web is coming to its second major stage in history.

Web 2.0 is a new view of World World Web instead of a new World Wide Web. We had not built a new Web. We are still on the only Web. But we do have a new vision to the Web. This clause is an alternative to Andy Budd's expression.

Web 2.0 is an amoral new view. Web 2.0 is not a human-designed plan. This view of Web 2.0 exists independent to individual prejudice. Web 2.0 would be in this current form disregarding the human efforts on either prompting or blocking it. Humans may either accelerate or decelerate its progress. But there is no way to stop or deviate this progress. This clause is a reassessment of expressions from Nicholas Carr and Dion Hinchcliffe.

Humans participate onto Web 2.0 as digitalized natives. Humans at Web 2.0 are connected within the Web instead of to the Web. The transformation of humans from foreigners to natives to the Web is a primal symptom. This clause is based on the expression from Joining Dots.

The immigration process (humans from foreigners to natives to the Web) is only at its beginning on Web 2.0. At Web 2.0, digitalization of humans is still far away from its potential ultimate form. The transformation is at its unnoticed start. Few people have really recognized its revolutionary value. The further web evolution will gradually show how this transformation impacts the world. This clause is a composition of the view of web evolution and the expression from Joining Dots.

This engagement of human participation on Web 2.0 is achieved by prompting collective intelligence, explicit ownership over web resources, and portable web services. Tim O'Reilly's expression explains which characters of humans are digitalized and how they are digitalized on Web 2.0. At the individual level, Web 2.0 digitalizes ownership (i.e. self, the fundamental of individual) and service (i.e. action, the fundamental of being alive). Mashup is an improvement on actions, which we will specifically discuss in later installments. At the community level, Web 2.0 digitalizes aggregation of individual contributions, which is collective intelligence. These three typical achievements constitutes the foundation of a digital society. A social network aggregated with digitalized living selves is the essence of Web 2.0.

Web 2.0 have two basic presentations respectively for professional web developers and ordinary web users. To developers, the back-end of Web 2.0 is a web of platform. This presentation tells how developers can contribute to Web 2.0 and manipulate Web-2.0 resources. Typical technology-side advances such as mashup and SaaS are upon this presentation.

To ordinary users, the front-end of Web 2.0 is a Read/Write Web. This presentation tells how ordinary users play with Web 2.0 and business people venture into Web 2.0. Typical non-technology-side advances such as social network and Long Tail are upon this presentation.


Web 2.0 is more than a commercial slogan "to signify that the web was roaring back after the dot com bust!" Although the initiative of this term might be with this sole purpose, it actually ended on a grand picture far beyond a commercial trick. From the various expressions of Web 2.0, we have seen that Web 2.0 is a major stage upgrade in the history of web evolution. After a long time accumulation, the dot-com bubble ultimately triggered the Web 2.0 off; the web evangelists Tim O'Reilly and others happened to be the first ones who caught and named this big moment.

In this first installment, I present a new expression of Web 2.0 by integrating several previous expressions together with my own viewpoints of web evolution. With this new expression, Web 2.0 is a revolutionary new vision of World Wide Web. From this Web 2.0 age, World Wide Web becomes not only a great human conducted project, but also a digital society of real people. Web 2.0 is the starting point of the path towards the fascinating next generation web.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Abandon Babel, Welcome Society

In this most recent post at SemanticFocus, I present two philosophies about realizing Semantic Web. Whether we want to approach it by building a Tower of Babel, or we want to approach it by building a virtual society. From the pure academic point of view, "a web of data" is equivalent to "a web of agents." From the practical point of view, however, this philosophical difference may eventually lead to different fate of Semantic Web.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Upgrade RW to RWR

Invited by Scott Koegler, the editor of SemanticReport.com, I wrote an article to explain the Read/Write/Request Web and its potential business impacts. Since SemanticReport is primarily a business-oriented site, I did not have many chances to explain the technical side of this Read/Write/Request Web. But to the least I have explained where this term comes and the prediction of the addition of Request, a new fundamental web operation, to the next generation web. Moreover, I also briefly discussed why the plot of Read/Write/Request Web is technically achievable, commercially marketable, and materially profitable.

This article is also an informal response to the 10 More Future Web Trends, in which Richard at Read/WriteWeb argued that the description of Read/Write/Request Web was complex. Indeed, however, this description is not complex at all after we understand what Request is.

This Read/Write/Request Web is part of my vision of Web 3.0. I am just about to start the first installment of this new series on towards the new generation web. In this series, I will discuss the vision of Read/Write/Request Web deeper and broader from the technology and web evolution points of view. So please remember to keep watching this new series if you are interested in Read/Write/Request Web.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Yahoo updated its search

Believe or not, I like Yahoo though many of my discussions about Yahoo are negative so far. It was because of Yahoo that I were able to learn Unite States. I still remember those old days when I explored the Yahoo list of US universities and how much exciting I was. I do love Yahoo.

But I do blame Yahoo a lot too. Yahoo has been just stayed where it was for long time. The Yahoo site is still popular. But the reputation of Yahoo search is ruined indefinitely. I blog about and blame Yahoo because in personal feeling I still love it, though I am now using Google as my default search engine.

My Experiences on New Yahoo! Search

It has been long time not hearing Yahoo search declaring exciting news of its creation. Finally, it seems we got one. Yahoo updates it search engine and brings us some new hope for this classic site.

new Yahoo

By typing in my name "Yihong Ding", I got several suggestion of related concepts about this search request. Fortunately (or unfortunately), all of the Yahoo suggested keywords are actually about me. (Sorry, the other "Yihong Ding"s.) For instance, "semantic web", "ontologies", "web evolution", and "Web 2.0". Bingo! All of them are in my expertise areas.

Moreover, Yahoo also suggested "innsbruck, austria". Good enough, this is where I did my internship last summer. The next one is "w. embley", who is my PhD advisor. Weird! Where does his first name go? The rest ones are "semantic annotation" and "rdf". All of them are indeed related to me. Done!

Am I satisfied? Sure, indeed. But how about the other "Yihong Ding"s (not me), are they satisfied? Probably not. Very likely they, if any, will drop off Yahoo for another search engine immediately.

So the problem is that this suggested set is heavily biased. They are only about one particular "Yihong Ding" but not the others. This is an intrinsic problem of the current semantic understanding technologies.

If the semantic technology would succeed at the end, it must overcome the winner-take-all problem. In this world, the general public are unpopular ones and they do not want to see that their existence has been overlooked.


To me, the really inspiring contribution this new Yahoo search brings is the philosophy beneath these keyword suggestions, i.e. the idea of "search assist". Presented by Yahoo researchers, search assist is an attempt of changing from what to do to what have done. By leveraging the search history collected by Yahoo servers, Yahoo tries to provide as many suggestions as possible to help users rapidly get their search assignment done. This is definitely a positive progress.

A curious question about this new Yahoo search assist is which direction it is going to pursue. I feel two paths, while one is dangerous and the other is adventurous. The dangerous path is to repeat the fallacy of Yahoo Directory. Eventually, the search assist becomes a tedious human-managed taxonomy. The adventurous path is, however, to upgrade "search assist" to "search assistant". That is, Yahoo should give up the control of search assist. By contrast, Yahoo hands the power of control to individual users and let them hire Yahoo search assistant to search. Yahoo changes its role from a central web search hub to a central search distribution hub. Digital search assistants become Yahoo's employees who work for individual web users.

In summary, new Yahoo Search does bring new hope. Will Yahoo start to go for a new path and avoid being trapped again into the same old problem? We don't know, but I wish Yahoo the best of its future.

Monday, October 01, 2007

First Anniversary of the Thinking Space Blog

(read the story also in Chinese)

thinking spaceIt has been a year since the first launch of this blog. The community of Thinking Space blog grows dramatically in the past year. An unknown author, a pure scientific blog, an average of 6 day/post, no entertainment at all. Thinking Space has grown from less than 400 visits during the first three months to more than 8600 visits after a year. I must express my sincere appreciation to all the readers. It is you who give me and this blog the honor to be one of the few must-read blogs about semantic web and new-generation web technologies.

The Thinking Space blog now has a visual logo, which is a purple blowing dandelion. This logo presents an expectation from the author that distinguished thoughts land on and grow up at anywhere.

Theme of Thinking Space

Bloggers author for various reasons. Thinking Space is distinct from many other blogs in its theme.

1. Thinking Space does not focus on broadcasting newest achievements on the current Web. For readers who are more interested in this theme, blog sites such as Read/WriteWeb, Nadilities, and Between the Lines are better choices.

2. Thinking Space is not an information digest center. For readers who want to read more about digested commentary of recent web achievements, blog sites such as ebiquity (more academic oriented), Enterprise Web 2.0 (more industrial oriented), and SemanticFocus (in the middle) are better choices.

3. Thinking Space is also not a normal personal web blog that produces daily reports on events happening around the authors. Blog sites fitted into this category are numerous. Some marvelous examples such as Nova Spivack's Minding the Planet, Tim O'Reilly's O'Reilly Radar, Jeff Jarvis' BuzzMachine, Jeremiah Owyang's Web Strategy, Stephen Downes' Half an Hour, and Danny Ayers' Raw.

Thinking Space is an explorative blog. The theme is to suggest innovative thoughts on the future of World Wide Web. Being innovative is providing distinctive observations and novel viewpoints. The motto of this blog is to be original, be venturous, and be real.
       (1) Innovation requires original thoughts.
       (2) Innovation requires venturous spirit. We take risks on claiming.
       (3) Innovations are not wild dreams. Thinking space is not dreaming space. We carefully exam persuasive evidences to the claims we made.

The Thinking Space primarily thinks of future rather than present or past. Though I often apply historical and evolutionary analysis in this blog, the ultimate goal is fixed on discovering the hidden paths to the unknown future.

I recommend a few other blogs who are also about innovation and future. For examples, Tom Stafford and Matt Webb's Mind Hacks, Kevin Kelly's The Technium and Tim Berners-Lee's blog.

Annual Summary of Posts

During the past year, there are totally 64 posts in Thinking Space. On average the updating frequency is close to 6 day/post. These posts cover the topics from philosophical thoughts to practical advices, and from general web evolution paradigm to particular industrial event. In the following I briefly summarize these posts.

Special series: A View of Web Evolution
This series expresses what this blog is distinct to the others. In this series, I explain a new thought of why and how World Wide Web grows. In short, this view is based on two hypotheses: (1) the Web is a self-organizing system that obeys objective web evolution laws, and (2) the growth of WWW simulates the growth of humans. This series contains 10 installments, which are ...

1. In the Beginning …
2. Three Basic Evolutionary Properties of World Wide Web
3. Two Fundamental Postulates
4. Mapping between Web Evolution and Human Growth
5. Identity of Evolutionary Stages
6. Qualities of Evolutionary Stages
7. Trigger of Transition
8. Initiative of a Stage Transition
9. Essence of Web Evolution
10. Signal of the Completion of a Web Stage Transition

Other posts on fundamentals of Web Evolution

1. Kelly's Theory of Personality
       a foundation of the view of web evolution
2. Quality and Quantity
       another philosophical foundation of the view of web evolution
3. How deep do we want to clone ourselves?
       a foundational thought about web evolution
4. The religionary side of World Wide Web
       watch WWW from a new angle, is WWW a religion? another foundational thought about web evolution
5. Web Space
       explain a particular definition based on web evolution

The Facts of Semantic Web from the Evolutionary Point of View
Many readers of this blog are either energetic supporters or persistent opponents to semantic web. I am a supporter, but not an unconditional supporter. I persist on several principles that are currently uncommon. In my belief, the realization of Semantic Web is an evolutionary event but not an instant goal attempt.

1. A Simple Picture of Web Evolution
       a visualized path towards the Semantic Web (The most visited post at Thinking Space in the past year, close to 1000 visits in the first ten days.)
2. Semantic Web: Difficulties and Opportunities
       marketing semantic web is beyond the claim of "a web of data"
3. Semantic Web is closer to be real, isn't it or is it?
       who will take the control of semantic definitions is a main obstacle to construct semantic web (from the macroscopic view)
4. The Key to Initiate the Semantic Web
       to satisfy the nature of selfishness is another main obstacle to construct semantic web (from the microscopic view) (full version of this post is at SemanticFocus)
5. Some Truth about the Semantic Web
       several often confused but debatable issues about semantic web (full version of this post is at SemanticFocus)
6. What does tagging contribute to the web evolution? | An introduction of web thread
       a new vision of the underlying structure of a semantic web, see also Weaving the Thread-Driven Semantic Web (full version of this post is at SemanticFocus)
7. Semantic search has two legs
       semantic search is not "semantic" + "search," but "semantic understanding" + "proactive collaboration"
8. Epistemological extension to ontologies: a key of realizing Semantic Web?
       the importance of epistemological declarations to the construction of semantic web
9. Semantic Web and The World is Flat
       semantic web fits to the vision of flat world
10. Ultra-scale Information Management: no place for rigid standards
       the gap between visible data and understandable data is more far away than we think in ultra-scale information management systems

Web 2.0
Web 2.0 is an earlier stage to Semantic Web in web evolution. Several posts in the category of Semantic Web are also about Web 2.0. Here are a few more.

1. We and Machine
       "We are becoming part of a great machine." Do you agree on it? This claim fits my view of web evolution, while the previous sentence was actually made by Tim O'Reilly.
2. Web 2.0 panel on World Economic Forum
       What is Web 2.0? Caterina Fake, Bill Gates, Chad Hurley, Mark G. Parker, and Viviane Reding answered; and I responded to their answers.
3. The Two-Year Birthday of AJAX
       Why is Web 2.0 "2.0" but not "1.x"? AJAX.
4. Moving toward machine processing---the certain destiny of web evolution
       Web 2.0 and continuous partial attention, and how they affect web evolution
5. Degree of Separation on Web 2.0
       the degree of separation at Web 2.0 must be less than the degree of separation at Web 1.0 studied by Albert-Laszlo Barabasi

Responses to Industrial Achievements
A few personal opinions about several interesting industrial news in the past year.

1. Clone: An Interesting Topic on the Web
       Are web clones positive to the growth of World Wide Web? My answer is yes.
2. Web Search, is Google the ultimate monster?
       Is Google unbeatable in the market of web search? Certainly not and there are reasons.
3. New web battle is announced
       Google versus Microsoft. But why Yahoo is also mentioned?
4. Yahoo! had a new CEO. Can Jerry Yang lead the company to a new level?
       Yahoo hires a new CEO. Does it help?
5. Lessons Learned from Yahoo's Mistake
       There is a deadly internal reason to the growth of Yahoo.
6. A Blend of Future --- some thoughts after the "10 Future Web Trends"
       We do not need ten futures; we need only one. How to blend 10 trends into one vision?

Responses to Academic Literature
Personal responses after casually reading a few good academic literature in the past year. The selected academic literature is well written to normal readers.

1. Creating a Science of the Web
       Tim Berners-Lee, Wendy Hall, James Hendler, Nigel Shadbolt, Daniel J. Weitzner. The masterpiece about initiative of Web Science.
2. Embracing "Web 3.0"
       Ora Lassila and James Hendler's vision of Web 3.0
3. Evolution of Web Links, another direction of thoughts
       Danny Ayers' thoughts of web link evolution
4. Two Websense columns by Danny Ayers
       Danny Ayers' vision about the future web
5. We are the Web
       Kevin Kelly's remarkable article about humans and World Wide Web
6. The Death of Computing
       Neil McBride's hot and much debatable article on the future of Computer Science education

Announcement of a New Series: "The Path towards Next Generation"

This new series is the follow-up of "A View of Web Evolution." In the previous series, we have discussed a new view of why and how World Wide Web grows. In this new series I continue the discussion to foresee the next generation Web. I will make many claims and show the evidences of the claims. When no one can indeed guarantee things that have not happened, please read with much attention, and try to argue the claims to the limit.

Let this blog be a real thinking space, a hub of collective intelligence.