Home The Shape of Things to Come, According to… You

The Shape of Things to Come, According to… You

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Whether you refer to the Internet’s next stage of evolution as the next Web, UWeb, or Web 3.0 (and more than 800 posts that we can count on ReadWriteWeb alone have been categorized as “Web 3.0”), wondering what’s coming next can be fun and instructive. At Aplus.net, we leave the musings to the experts. But perhaps our best contribution to this discussion is to highlight what our customers are asking for — and adopting. These are the avid Web 2.0 users: the hobbyists with blogs, the non-profits with online communities, the small- and medium-sized businesses with active, growing e-commerce sites.

In many regards, this is really where the next Web begins: with those people and organizations’ wants and needs, dreams and aspirations. Think of it as “trickle-up” technology. If Web 2.0 is about interface, social media, and interactivity, then the next Web is beginning to appear right before our eyes as real-time, intelligent (data, search, exchange), and ubiquitous (desktop and offline, anytime access).

In its broadest terms, the demand — and delivery — of the next Web looks like this: more personalization, more variety, decentralization in software and storage, continued convergence of devices and platforms, more smarts, and less noise in data. In fact, we’d venture to say that just like Twitter and Hulu (both complete unknowns just a few years ago), our hosting and server customers (and those elsewhere) are embracing these applications so quickly and so widely that they are becoming mainstream.

At one time or another on ReadWriteWeb and elsewhere, all of this has been written about, hotly debated, and disputed, becoming the stuff of white papers, blogs, and conferences. So we asked our customers, What exactly do you want, and why? Think big or small; no idea is a bad idea; and so on. While their responses cover a wide canvas, most fall into one of five areas. Here’s a sampling:

“I want real-time information”

Whether related to real-time blogging and vlogging or real-time crowdsourcing, the ability to share documents, deliver timely recommendations, and produce highly targeted, location-specific advertising is unprecedented. In addition, GPS-enhanced advertising and GPS-enhanced comparison shopping promise to change the face of e-commerce. Our bloggers, site owners, and online store owners are eager to take advantage of this growing capability, thanks to thriving developer communities such as Facebook, Twitter, Google Code, and KickApps, as well as advanced open-source projects like Joomla, Drupal, and WordPress.

“I want a seamless experience”

Convergence of TV and the Internet has been underway for quite some time, as has been the explosion of content that is moving from living room to mobile device and automobile. This continued merging of traditional television delivery and the Internet is accelerating also thanks to innovations like the Adobe Flash Platform for the Digital Home, bringing Web videos and other media content into TVs, set-top boxes, and Blu-ray disc players. More “seamlessness” is emerging among social networking and media-sharing applications. Facebook just announced its implementation of an emerging open standard called Activity Streams, which allows developers to access the flow of postings and other content across mobile, desktops, and other websites.

“I want more mobility”

Clearly, the mobile platform is revolutionizing the way we communicate and conduct business via the Web. The dramatic uptick in smartphone usage (counted among the more than billion handsets in 2008) is also driving us closer to the concept of “one Web,” insofar as information is being presented and accessed in exactly the same way across all mobile devices. As a result, we’re seeing more and more sites being revamped using CSS and JavaScript, with some owners creating separate mobile style sheets and even separate mobile sites, all to deliver an optimized experience to mobile users. There are some great examples of design emerging out there on the mobile Internet.

“I want more customized content”

Vertical search and massive amounts of user-generated content (thanks to Flickr, Wikipedia, Ning, and others) have brought us this far. But greater personalization — and a more customized experience — will take us to the next level by providing users with Web pages containing exactly the information they seek and with Web services tailored to their individual interests and needs. Our customers are increasingly focused on the potential of hyper-targeting and hyper-selecting so that advertisers can deliver relevant information to the right audiences. MySpace HyperTargeting is out ahead on this one, using the information contained in social network profiles to reach interested consumers, match ads to people, and build brands.

“I want better search”

Without question, the biggest buzz surrounding the next Web lies in enhancing search engine capabilities: faster, more focused, more intelligent search results. And that means realization of the semantic Web. Signs of this are already appearing: visual search engines, search sites that learn the meanings of words based on popular interaction, and search sites that put an emphasis on natural language understanding; all of these limiting results to a small group of selected sites. Truevert is one example (specializing in green search); Cazoodle is another (apartment, event, and shopping search). How to prepare for this next generation of Web search? Our bloggers and developers are looking to offline APIs like Gears from Google and BrowserPlus from Yahoo!, which enable Web applications to move seamlessly between online and offline environments.

Much like the ideas expressed in the book “The Wisdom of Crowds,” collective thinking, decision-making, and innovating will continue to drive the amazing developments underway — something we see every day and often in the most unexpected places. Looking for the next breakthrough? Check with your own customers. They know.

So what’s missing from our list, big or small? What’s being adopted, improved upon, and virtually mainstreamed as part of the Web? Please comment!

This post brought to you by Aplus.net.

About ReadWrite’s Editorial Process

The ReadWrite Editorial policy involves closely monitoring the tech industry for major developments, new product launches, AI breakthroughs, video game releases and other newsworthy events. Editors assign relevant stories to staff writers or freelance contributors with expertise in each particular topic area. Before publication, articles go through a rigorous round of editing for accuracy, clarity, and to ensure adherence to ReadWrite's style guidelines.

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