Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Next Step: The Full Semantic Web

It seems clear to me that the next stage in informatic integration is to break down the barriers that exist between the innumerable platforms and content online. The next stage should be a "mash up" of everything that exists so far, so that all the redundant content is no longer separable. For example, as an opinion in the Economist writes, how can one move furniture from Second Life into the newer metaverses like Entropia? This is not possible today, given modern conditions of production and exchange. But arguably, there is a greater metaverse out there, one in which all online content can be exchanged and flow fluidly to and from the existing "gated communities," if you will.

This does not apply to the virtual worlds exclusively, but rather, to all proprietary platforms. The article in the Economist says that these walled-off online communities are proprietary by nature, and adds that "only when a technology is established do standards emerge." As standards evolve over time it should make it easier to move content in and out of these walled-off communities. Today this is not happening, although it would only take some legal clarification and modifications to the XML code, along with some standardized APIs to change this.

Facebook, to use a familiar example, is reluctantly starting to open up. If you look at their growing list of embedded applications you can see the new kinds of "mash ups" internet visionaries are beginning to get excited about. For example, Facebookers can install web 2.0 specs like Twitter--the Derridean message-following, mobile-friendly news caster--onto their Facebook account and not have to worry about doing the exact same thing in two different places. This increases information while decreasing transaction. But this is only the beginning.

Gone were the days of AOL's "you've got mail!", notes the Economist. I remember when AOL had desperately sent copies of their free AOL time discs to millions of internet users in the mid-1990s. I also remember AOL signing me up for an expensive 6-month internet account that I never wanted in the first place. These technological dinosaurs have disappeared, though AOL still exists in new forms and has become a metaphor for slow-paced technological advances that do not open up to new ways. Now that we have greater serviceability through Web 2.0, the next step is to transform the databases into cross-searching, inter-operable networks. The next step is the "Full Semantic Web" and complete metaversal integration. Proprietary or not, whoever can successfully complete that dynamic leap will be more sustainable and not die out as the AOLs of an earlier era had.

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