If Web 2.0 is about web applications and social networking, and Web 3.0 is said to incorporate the semantics of data interpreted by machines, what the heck is Web 4.0 going to look like? If we are in the midst of an evolution, what have the big thinkers been able to conjure up about our futures online? Let’s take a look at some of the insights and theories put forth by the futurists, as us mere mortals breathlessly await the next big shiny thing to capture our hearts, minds and soul.
“What the BLEEP Do We Know,” a movie first released in 2004 went on to become one of the most successful documentaries of all time. Now distributed in over 30 countries, it has stunned audiences with its revolutionary mind-jarring blend of quantum physics and evolutionary thought. While widely popular and panned at the same time, this film is not a journey for closed minded, limited thinkers, or faint-of-mind folks. This is a mystical journey that leaves you curiously rooted in an upside-down-world of invisible unknowns that challenge every belief you’ve ever held sacred. I post it here, because in searching for answers to web 4.0 in our future, sometimes you need to take a trip down the rabbit hole, before you settle down to some more concrete realities.
In 2006, Jeff Moriarty, a Community Manager for Intel was bold enough to suggest that Web 4.0 was an “impending state at which all information converges into a great ball of benevolent self-aware light, and solves every problem from world peace to why Lost stunk last season.” However Jeff also had a small part on the “X-Files” so you might not be so inclined to agree with his epiphany.
On the Brave New World front, Nova Spivack is a technology visionary and entrepreneur with nearly two decades of experience in pioneering ventures. In 1994, he co-founded EarthWeb , one of the first Internet companies, where he helped key cultural institutions and businesses develop their first large-scale Web presences, including the New York Stock Exchange, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, BMG Music Club, Sony, AT&T and US West.
As a futurist and publisher of Twine, Spivack has been contemplating the past, present and future of the Web for quite some time. His timeline of technology from our prehistoric desktop era to our synchronistic future is depicted here.
As you can see, according to Spivak’s predictions we are currently at the tail end of Web 2.0, just starting to lay the groundwork for Web 3.0 or semantic technology which arrives in 2010 (start your stop watches). Web 4.0 or WebOS will be like middleware, where the Web will start functioning like an operating system,or what he calls, “the Intelligent Web.” Nova says he isn’t sure about exact dates or technologies on the top end of the map, but in his view each phase runs in approximate ten-year blocks.
E-Learning Queen is a company that focuses on real-world e-learning issues and emerging technologies. Susan Smith Nash, the founder who goes by the title “Queen’s Assistant” believes that Web 4.0 will include a array of sensors that will gather information from one’s environment to create a deep profile of our behaviors and activities.
Raymond Kurzweil is an inventor and futurist. He has been a pioneer in the fields of optical character recognition (OCR), text-to-speech synthesis, speech recognition technology, and electronic keyboard instruments. predicts that by 2029, the WebOS will be parallel to the human brain. By that time, according to Kurzweil, “intelligent machines will combine the subtle and supple skills that humans now excel in (essentially our powers of pattern recognition) with ways in which machines are already superior, such as remembering trillions of facts accurately, searching quickly through vast databases, and downloading skills and knowledge.”
So are we approaching a moment in time when the Internet will actually transform into a “Learning Web,” where the Web is actually learning by itself, unprompted by humans? Seth Godin, popular speaker at Google and TED conferences and the man who popularized the topic of permission marketing believes Web 4.0 or Web4 (as he calls it) is all about “serendipity and the network taking initiative.”
Some of the future examples he conjures up sheds light on the potential innovation Web4 will be able to add to our lives…
- As a project manager, my computer knows my flow chart and dependencies for what we’re working on. And so does the computer of every person on the project, inside my team and out. As soon as something goes wrong (or right) the entire chart updates.
- I’m late for a dinner. My GPS phone knows this (because it has my calendar, my location, and the traffic status). So, it tells me, and then it alerts the people who are waiting for me.
- I visit a blog for the first time. My browser knows what sort of stories I am interested in and shows me highlights of the new blog based on that history.
- I can invest in stocks as part of a team, a team that gains strength as it grows in size.
- My PDA knows I’m going to a convention. Based on my email logs, it recommends who I ought to see while I’m there–because my friends have opted in to our network and we’re in sync.
As Godin sees it, Web4 is “coming from the edges (we see all sorts of tribal activities popping up in blogs, communities, rankings) as opposed to from the center. Web 2.0 happened in largely the same way…and it’s
entirely possible that Web4 will get here before the semantic web even though Web 3 makes it work a lot better.”
Well, there you have it, sports fans… some of the greatest thinkers of our day all looking into their crystal balls for answers to our digital futures. However, before leaving you, one additional theory did surface that I thought worthy of note. “Gnardonkeys” who describe themselves as “two funny guys from San Diego who naively think Twitter can make them famous” offer some gnarly insights into Web 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0 and why we can’t afford to let Web 4.0 happen…
So which ever fork in the road you decide to take…happy travels down the Rabbit Hole or the Brave New World!