In the early days of the web, pages and sites were fairly static, although they were hyperlinked, of course. You visited a page, absorbed or ignored its content, and clicked on to the next site or back to the search engine results page to find another target for your eyeballs. Then came Web 2.0, the social web, with all its user-generated content – think Youtube, Facebook, Blogs – and the interactivity of comment forms, walls, tweets and crowd-sourcing.
Currently, those in the know are talking about the next-generation, Web 3.0, which will be more akin to the Web’s inventor, CERN physicist Tim Berners-Lee, originally had in mind. Web 3.0 is also known as the “semantic Web”, where interactive and hyperlinked pages are “knowing”. Built-in to the hidden meta data are the tools and tags so that computers can understand the contents and media assets (graphics, videos etc) of any page and allow agents, scripts and bots to utilize the data, the information contained within to carry out useful tasks for us, retrieve the most relevant news, assess the financial markets based on activity across the Web, and perhaps even predict the impact next natural disaster or epidemic outbreak based on social activity on the Internet. The Semantic Web is the “internet of things”.
See this superb graphic from Intel showing the state of the internet of things. Of course, some computer scientists have already moved way beyond 2.0, shuffled past 3.0, and are now thinking about the next-big-thing after that – the Pragmatic Web. If the original web was static and then social, the coming web knowing and semantic, then what is the pragmatic web? Pragmatic concerns the interaction between people, the virtual agents that run scripts, searches and processing and the creators of the content, websites. It’s the practical web, in other words.
Before we reach the next version of the web (3.1, anyone?), we and our virtual agents need to find a unified way through which we might communicate. Writing in the less than prosaic sounding International Journal of Metadata, Semantics and Ontologies, researchers in Canada and Norway, explain that there is not yet a common agreement on what the pragmatic web should be and how it should be formalized, despite the preliminary sketches and initial ideas that computer scientists have put forward.
The team has now proposed a methodology that could act as the go-between, the information mediator, the translator, that connects the natural language of human input and output via the formal object languages of scripts, bots and agents. We’re not quite ready for 3.0, but these researchers are already pushing towards 3.1. It cannot come too soon, as they explain: “The pragmatic web [will] be an augmentation of the semantic web with virtual agents exploiting web content on behalf of human contractors.”
Terje Aaberge, Rajendra Akerkar, & Harold Boley (2011). An intensional perspective on the semantic and pragmatic web Int. J. Metadata, Semantics and Ontologies, 6 (1), 74-80
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