The shape of webs to come?

The web moves ever onward and upward, and the bloggers are now busy speculating on the shape Web 3.0 will take.

However, the media graveyard is littered with the reputations of those who have dared to predict future trends in technology.

That said, here’s a peek into what shape the web may assume in a few years’ time.

The way we were

To put things into context, a little rewinding may be in order. Rather like Dr. Who, the web has the habit of re-inventing itself and changing dramatically. The original incarnation was all about content – heavy, academic-style, read-only information and static HTML sites. Back then in the Web 1.0 days, visiting a web site was an experience that could be equated with reading a magazine or book.

Round about 2003 things started to evolve, with the customer getting involved. Web 2.0 was characterised by more and more interaction and the advent of social media sites and blogs. A bit more like reading a magazine like Hello, but with stuff about people you actually know.

Fast forward ten years and these trends are accelerating with the imminent coming of Web 3.0, aka the semantic web, the term being a reference to the actual meaning of the data being stored, processed and accessed. In Web 3.0 human intelligence will meet artificial intelligence, with data based on human behaviour being utilised.

Meet your partner – your search engine!

Technically, Web 3.0 will be much more connected, open, seamless and interoperable. Siloing – independent, unconnected data banks – will be a thing of the past. As stated, the consensus is that this next phase of the web will be characterised by far greater personalisation and interaction, a new level of intelligent search and more personalised marketing. There’ll also be more mobile, more home entertainment, more blurring between business and leisure, and possibly more invasiveness into our personal lives.

On a positive note, search engines will be able to handle complex requests, and refer to banks of personalised data based on previous purchasing and behavioural trends to make far more intelligent and informed suggestions. For example, rather than ask Google to find a restaurant in Manchester you’ll say ‘I’ve got a day free. What should I do?’

And they will reply – go and see a sci-fi movie at Cineworld, have a chicken dupiaza at the Shere Khan and finish off with a nightcap at Wetherspoons. Or whatever floats your own boat. The point is the more you use the web, the more it gets to know about you. You can afford to simplify your requests, as many of your personal characteristics are a given. At the same time, the search robot can handle more complexity too, with multiple but related requests.

Web 3.0 will be a leap forward of dimensions even Chairman Mao would be proud of. The search engine becomes a personal assistant, if not a wife/husband/partner. Now, that may be both good and bad news for some, but such is life.

Promises, promises

Another world of caution is that the status quo never holds. Underlying technology evolves at an ever faster rate, with Moore’s Law informing us that server power doubles every two years. There’ll be changes, but we can’t say with any confidence which way things will go right now. For example, the cloud has been with us a little while now, but adoption by companies is far from the tidal wave proportions widely predicted.

Talking of predictions wide of the mark, some have been so bold as to predict the online shopping experience will morph into something akin to virtual reality. One enters a virtual store, inside an equally realistic virtual mall, inside a virtual town. All lovingly recreated online. As somebody who’s been left decidedly underwhelmed by the current experience of buying groceries online, I would welcome this with open arms. Yet to pull it off would mean online marketers getting together to agree on a massive range of standards and protocols. Not going to happen, at least not any time soon. Obstacle 1? Fundamentally, the players are competitive rather than co-operative. Obstacle 2? Programming and design would be massively more complex. Obstacle 3? The cost would soar, effectively ruling most SMEs out of the game. Enough said.

Evolution meets revolution

To gain a more accurate insight into the web of the future, it’s interesting to note how sites have evolved thus far. I visited the Wayback Machine to see how one of the world’s most successful sites has changed over the years, Amazon.

Today’s Amazon, at least at the front of the site, is very image-driven. It’s all product, product, product, plus click-through ads and offers left right and centre. Five years ago, these trends can be discerned, but much more in their infancy. And ten years ago? The direct opposite. Loads of text, no visuals whatsoever.

Increasing personalisation has been a trend over the decade, to the extent that if you’re registered and logged in your home page will now consist of a range of tailored suggestions, based on previous purchase history and wish lists.

You can clearly see the ongoing genesis of Web 3.0 in action. Businesses should take note, and begin to plan now for an online future with greater personalisation, interaction and proactivity.

The future is multilingual

Another dimension, pertinent to both international marketers and consumers, is the multilingual aspect of the semantic web. The data is semantically structured and linked, which means that it’s based on language.

However, increasingly this will be input via speech as well as text, and in different languages. As they interact to an ever greater level with visitors, sites will be more and more concerned with providing access to and generating data in multiple languages.

This means multilingual queries, presentation, verbalisation, data extraction, from both text and semi-structured data.

The demand for multilingual content will therefore become a growing challenge to web marketers worldwide and is something that companies like Capita Translation and Interpreting can help with.

New infrastructures and architectures will be needed for a more multi-language environment. What’s more, it will be an environment with more native users who speak languages other than English – three times more, in fact.

Together with the growing trend towards localised content, this development means translation and interpretation services are becoming essential to companies serious about conquering overseas markets. Web 3.0 and localisation can be the highways to global success, but only with the right strategy in place.