When the World Wide Web (WWW) launched on 6 August 1991, it wasn’t merely intended as an information repository where people could read relevant content. Its inventor Tim Berners-Lee conceived it also as a medium that people could contribute to, exchanging their experiences, thoughts and points of view with those who had similar interests. In other words: the social network.
If the main idea of the internet was to facilitate communication among people, we should then go back to this proposal and expand it to a more sophisticated and useful level. In other words, we should exchange tastes, opinions, beliefs and so on to allow other people to enrich our – and their – experience with suggestions and comments based on a mutual relationship.
Rather than being a network, however, the web becomes a graph – the difference being not in the content itself, but the way it is used, shaped and exchanged. As Berners-Lee pointed out: “People would put a document on the web for one reason, but it would end up being found by people using it in completely different ways […] so the Net and the Web may both be shaped as something mathematicians call a Graph, but they are at different levels. The Net links computers, the Web links documents. Now, people are making another mental move. There is realization now, ‘It’s not the documents, it is the things they are about which are important’.” And this is where the new definition of the web as a Giant Global Graph (GGG) comes in.
For example, if I want to buy a concert ticket for my favourite artist or band, I would visit their personal web page or an online ticket service.
I could then inform my friends on a social network that I am going to the concert and ask if they want to join me. Or, if the concert is sold out, I could place a post on an online bulletin board to see if anyone has a spare ticket.
Already, there are plenty of web resources that allow me to do this – from e-mail accounts to discussion forums, instant messaging (IM) applications to social network aggregators. However, all these resources require separate registration which means I have to log in several times at different URLs to place my content. Not only is this frustrating in itself – especially for non-web 2.0 addicts like myself – but the real obstacle is the fragmentation that exists between all these applications.
Currently, developers and content editors are working towards finding an open-source API (Application Program Interface) so that the user can experience the web on multiple levels at the same time. One example is the Google-sponsored OpenSocial project – a standard specification for hosting applications and widgets (portable bundles of code that perform simple functions) inside social networks. Already with this new standard, my Facebook status can be delivered simultaneously to my Skype, Twitter and Digg accounts.
Obviously this is something which benefits everyone: developers, content providers and end-users.
Developers will no longer be frustrated with compatibility issues and code portability among different infrastructures and languages. Instead, they will be able to focus on what the application does, rather than how.
Content providers will be able to get a positive return, in terms of corporate image and social awareness, as they will be able to involve their clients when creating and delivering information on the web.
And finally, end-users can broaden and enrich their web experience by sharing their preferences for certain things – thus creating little communities of aficionados. (Cover image credits)
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