Posted by: mcgratha | December 30, 2010

Evolutionary Road

Continuing the theme of the Future of ECM … trend #4 …

Web sites, powered by Web Content Management systems, have already evolved from the initial “static / brochure ware” web sites into more dynamic sites that personalise the information that is delivered to the end-user. However, this initial “web 1.0” evolution has predominantly been a one-way conversation, with information being pushed from the web site to the end-user.

The next “web 2.0” evolution that is well underway involves injecting social computing and collaboration functionality into web content management, introducing “conversational” web sites that offer a far more engaging and interactive media-rich experience for end-users. Depending on the nature of the site, there can be a huge value in harnessing the collective intelligence/wisdom of end-users (crowd sourcing), allowing them to participate on the site rather than simply using the site as a passive visitor. This next evolution will take hold and peak over the next five years and will form the basis from which to measure and attribute metrics around the value of the inter-relationships between people, process and content. An overlapping discussion on how organisations will leverage social computing to better engage with their customers is covered in my blog Customer Engagement.

Web Evolution

The evolution into “web 3.0” is still in the early stages with a vision of opening up and semantic enabling a revamped, ubiquitous web where data, people and appliances are all inter-connected. An essential aspect of this vision is making data, distributed across the web or indeed within organisations, readable by machines (by adding semantics to the data that can be interpreted by machines). In this manner, the web could be conceptually thought of as one “very large database” where all data is connected and accessible. The evolution here is more towards an intelligent web and the implications of this are huge. For example, governments collate huge volumes of data every day across many different agencies, and by seamlessly connecting this data, far greater intelligence can be inferred, enabling national security threats to be flagged and acted upon far earlier than was previously possible. Another example would be in relation to a merger or acquisition between two financial institutions, where it would not be necessary to go through a lengthy IT systems integration process before a common view of customer data was available; the semantically enabled customer data would connect and find itself. The concepts around the discovery of information using semantic technology are discussed in my blog Semantonomics.

Web 4.0 will firmly build on its predecessor, introducing semi-cognitive applications that take full advantage of a semantic web, and which will probably eventually run on a web operating system (WebOS). They are likely to display some level of memory, judgment, and reasoning, and with the ability to act and communicate autonomously. As a simple example, an intelligent semantic web agent that could be called upon to, say, “find me all research on topic X across our internal data sources, cross-referencing against all available data on the web, especially by our competitors, summarise the results and keep me updated every day by 3pm with what you find”. Such an agent could be running continuously in the background, learning from your information preferences, and automatically pushing this highly relevant and personalised information that it finds to you. This could include an amalgamation of different types of information, such as TV programs, music, and consumables like clothes and holidays.

As observed by Nova Spivack (an evangelist on the next phase of the web’s development, www.novaspivack.com), there would seem to be a “back-end / front-end” pattern in how the web is evolving:

  • Web 1.0 primarily focused on getting the back-end infrastructure in place to support and drive the development of the Web, with web 2.0 primarily focusing on engaging user participation through front-end applications and user interfaces;
  • This “back-end / front-end” pattern is likely to repeat itself again, with web 3.0 focusing on the back-end activities to open up and build a semantic web that can be readable by machines, with web 4.0 capitalising on the new semantic web at the front-end through the next level of powerful, innovative and potentially cognitive applications and user interfaces.
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