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Semantic Web as the "killer app", Part 3

So the future of the web is a semantic, social landscape of topic and task relevance, content specificity and aggregated data & information. But how does all of this change affect the way we interact with the web? What happens to the web browser?

In the first installment, I discussed how the search engines will need to adapt to a world of increased ‘de facto’ relevance, and how our data will eventually become deeply personalized.

In second installment, I discussed how a method of managing our personal profiles would significantly increase the relevance of the data & information we surround ourselves with, and how Social Media and Social Networks would effectively act as services, augmenting our web world.

In a recent patent filing, Apple Inc., hints of a future Safari navigational interface emerged:

“A new Apple patent filing promises to scrap the time-honored navigation buttons of web browsers with a new page history that sorts itself based on more natural, easily remembered criteria.

Submitted in early January, the newly published patent application notes that almost all web browsers can only keep track of previously visited websites in chronological order. This might be useful in cases where the site visitor has browsed only a few layers deep, Apple says, but the interface quickly falls apart in more complex situations.”

This isn’t an entirely new concept. During the 90’s, Kai Krause worked with Adobe to develop a non-linear history tool for Adobe’s flagship image editing software Photoshop.

Which to the best of my knowledge became the Snapshot option in the History palette of Photoshop. A much watered-down version of what Kai et al had in mind.

“Instead, the proposed system would automatically sort pages by certain easily identifiable criteria. A user searching for car buying advice could see previously visited automotive sites organized together, for example. A browser could also organize sites by their popularity with the user, the frequency of visits, or even the nature of the visit, such as an e-commerce sale or instances where a download was launched.”

If we make the simple leap of accepting that our now mobile and portable personal profiles are editable entities, accessible from a web browser, then the web browser becomes something of a nexus to many, many things.

Previously, I discussed Social Networks acting as services, which would become visible to us through their relevance to our tastes and needs.

If these Social Networks, as well as other web applications, were all able to describe themselves and their purposes, how might they integrate with the web browser and our web browsing?

The web? It’s history, man…

Maybe in the same way that search engines will become found engines, the browser history will become, well .. history!

If the stuff we need is coming to us, rather us seeking it, and we make use of those things, those web pages and web services would remain part of our workflow, or our broader mesh of activities.

Of course, there’s always going to be that moment when some random but interesting web page sent by a friend will go missing. But even then, if you know who sent you the web page, the browser of the future will know such things.

So much of my time is spent in a web browser that Firefox, Safari, Opera and Internet Explorer are software essentials and not an after-thought, or recreational.

After looking at the illustrations in the patent filing by Apple, there are clear similarities between how Safari might look and how Omni Groups OmniWeb looks right now.

I don’t see this as Apple encroaching of the efforts of the Omni Group. After all, the draw user interface element is a common feature, as are thumbnail images.

And if you’re a Mac user, I urge you to at least try OmniWeb. There are some sensational features in there that you won’t find in any web browser on any platform.

Having friends around to browse

In the same way that Social Networks and web services would form around us, our friends would, too. I’m thinking about how things appear in the user profiles of Digg and StumbleUpon, in that you’d see the impressions of their digital travels; websites they’ve visited, comments made, things shared, their friends, their planned events and work schedules et cetera.

Yes, some of this can be done now. But it’s often specific to a Social Network, which means you would need to signed up, too. I’m talking about one window that shows the activities for your friends, regardless of what, where or when they’re doing those things.

Because of you being friends, your friends profiles would allow you see their activities, so you would know at a glance what their availability is like. You would also be able to subscribe to their Workstreams and Lifestreams respectively, allowing you to see a summary of their activities from wherever is convenient for you.

It’s not difficult to see how the web becomes a Social Network in its own right, one where we all participate, in a global dialogue, shared by tens of millions…

Go to part 1, part 2

Recommended reading

By Wayne Smallman

Wayne is the man behind the Blah, Blah! Technology website, and the creator of the Under Cloud, a digital research assistant for journalists and academics.

2 replies on “Semantic Web as the "killer app", Part 3”

While it would be nice to keep track of everyone’s activity, do I want everyone keeping track of mine? It’s a bit of a double-edged sword.

Also wondering if the browser will remain central or if some other piece of software will become the social focus. Might browsers take on so many roles that they reach a point where they split apart into separate pieces?

“While it would be nice to keep track of everyone’s activity, do I want everyone keeping track of mine? It’s a bit of a double-edged sword.”

What you share is subject to the rules I outlined in part 2. So you only share what you want to share.

Having such a fine-grained approach to personal information means a great deal more flexibility, enough to satisfy the privacy conscious.

But this is all theory, of course.

“Also wondering if the browser will remain central or if some other piece of software will become the social focus. Might browsers take on so many roles that they reach a point where they split apart into separate pieces?”

We could argue that the opposite is a better idea, and that Microsoft were ahead of the game when trying to knit Internet Explorer into Windows.

A topic for discussion in its own right, I imagine…

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