Investor's Business Daily, Zepheira, and what some insist on calling "Web 3.0"

O yes, I've been quiet. What a year. My consulting work at Sun is pretty much a full-time job. As if that's not enough, I moved from Fourthought to Kadomo. I'd scarcely been there for a month when most of us decided we needed to restructure and start afresh, and thus was born Zepheira. Joining one company at early stage, and then launching another two months later is no way to have a life left over. I've had no time whatsoever for Weblogging, and what little time I have had for such things I've given over to my OSS projects such as 4Suite, Amara and Bright Content.

Then a curious thing happened today. We learned that our company (which has been getting oodles of good press lately was featured in an Investor's Business Daily story, but that the article would likely disappear from the Web forever by the end of the day. (we've all heard that "Cool URIs don't change", so I'm dismayed that here's a cool URI that might just completely vanish). I guess when those cats say "Daily" they are not playing. Something about the ephemeral nature of the news inspired me to throw in my tuppence.

Anyways "After All This Interactivity, Look Out For Web 3.0 Leap" (linked via PURL, just in case) discusses Semantic Web at suitable high level, and since it includes an interview with Eric Miller, includes a good dose of practicality. Quoting the article:

Software giants Oracle and Adobe Systems already support or plan to back the RDF and OWL standards to represent data in some of their products.

These Web standards should help companies spot new relationships among huge sets of data and use the findings for better conclusions about their business, says Eric Miller, president of Web startup Zepheira.

"We want the ability to free data from applications and use the data in other applications for which it was not originally intended," said Miller.

Current Web 2.0 firms could apply the future benefits of metadata in Web 3.0.

For instance, MySpace might let personal pages share information with the pages of relevant friends or colleagues in the social network.

Take someone whose MySpace page describes a fondness for vintage jazz. By entering that information once, that person could automatically be linked to others who share the same interest.

Furthermore, that information could be applied to future Web searches for new music releases. In effect, using metadata could become a way to make MySpace "truly mine," said Miller.

And no, this is not magic. It's no more than taking the open data precepts people already associate with Web 2.0, and making them a bit easier to aggregate. And yes, this makes them easier for sharp types to run game: the Web has ben easy to game from day one, and we've managed just fine. Even phishies in Russia, despite dire warnings of Total Internet Meltdown, have never posed more actual threat than any other scam mechanism such as those that come through that other perilous instrument: your phone. As Eric goes on to say:

"This means there is a much more flexible, personalized integration point to really connect people," he said. "The notion here is to enter data just once, but to use it often."

In recent years, Miller led the Semantic Web program at the World Wide Web Consortium.

Yeah, that simple. DRY for Web data. Now does that sound like strong AI redux to you? Apparently some people are incapable of hearing anything else, as the very end of this article shows. Then again, the W3C themselves can take some of the blame for creating that straw man.

Web 3.0 involves building a Web of interconnected data, Miller says. This approach will let companies quickly change computer processes as their business needs evolve.

"What we've got here is a set of useful technologies that when combined become very powerful," he said. "This makes it easier to free the data from the application that created it and make it more useful and easier to combine with other little bits of information."

Yeah. Separating data from applications has kinda been an obsession of mine for a while now, and it really ain't that hard, and it's about time someone brought such practical solutions to the enterprise. It's a very important generalization of the "separate content from presentation" mantra that just about every Web developer has heard 1000 times, and reading Eric, you might get a sense of why I've poured som much of myself into this startup. I think that not only are we architecting like Google, but we're following natural lessons Google brings to a new generation of architecture. And I'm a bit surprised as well as gratified at how well this message has been playing in a growing number of enterprises.

Certainly that's the sort of thing I might mention to an investor type at a cocktail party, although you wouldn't hear me say "Web 3.0" (reminds me too uncomfortably of the RSS wars). And I'd certainly be wary of mentioning to said investor type exactly where I work.

Update: so seems I was too cryptic in the last para. I'm definitely proud of my company; I meant that neither I nor any of the other partners are courting investment

[Uche Ogbuji]

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