Monday, May 05, 2008

The Future of the Web

I remember discovering the internet in 1996. Back then I accessed the world wide web via AOL 3.0, connecting at a blazing speed of 14.4 kbps which was enough for me to read my online message, join chat rooms filled with young kids from around the country, and to surf ‘web pages’ that contained useful information about a given subject. Back then, web pages were static, images were low resolution and contained a handful of colors, and there was little or no standard methods driving web development.

Fast forward 10 years. The web today is cooked up in a variety of languages and frameworks and delivered to us using complex platforms that are built on a foundation of accessibility and scalability. Pages are beautifully styled, content is polished, and audiences are targeted and information is abundant. The evolution from the web of 1996 to the web of today was unlike anything we’ve seen before.

That brings us to the future. At this pace, what will the internet be like in 5 years – 2013? Some things will evolve faster than others; old ways will die out or become popular again; some new exciting technology may be introduced that changes all dynamics of the inter net, and if I had an idea of what it was, I would be rich. =)

So what will change?

Everything will be HD by default

I am a self-admitted news junky, so I spend a lot of time going through the hordes of websites providing news from various sources and reading user comments that help shape a stories impact. The single most frustrating thing about more of the news I read, though, is that the photos accompanying the story are low resolution – often 400x200 or some other 1996-era size. I predict news sites, especially mainstream sites like Reuters or CNN, will have galleries of HD pictures with each story. Each of these sites currently has a ‘pictures of the week’ or ‘pictures of the month’ photo galleries, but the images are low res. These sites feature stunning pictures that really have an impact on the story they are telling, but without access to the full quality, the whole story can never be told. So by 2013, most of the pictures we see on the net will be in high definition. The following prediction will make this possible.

Bandwidth – Not a problem

According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, the US is currently ranked 15th in the global broadband market, and that rank is falling. Bad business practices and lack of competition has stifled the growth of US broadband capabilities and we are not seeing the types of speed that countries like South Korea or most European countries. Hopefully the next president will be more open to the idea of net neutrality and take seriously our need for better access to the internet. Better broadband and more bandwidth will allow the publishing of high definition photos and video because more people will have access to them. Right now, bandwidth is the only roadblock standing in the way of the high definition web. (Companies save money by not publishing HD content; I personally find it disgusting that telecoms seem to be turning bandwidth into a commodity).

Web 3.0

The ‘semantic web’ is still a relatively new subject, with researchers scrambling to find a way to implement the technology that will once again change the way the web works. While I believe we will see successes in our progression to the semantic web, I think there will be intermediate steps along the way that promote ideas of the semantic web but lack the fully autonomous ‘agents’ that are at the core of the semantic web. We have to see a migration that is on the scale of Web 2.0 – that is we have to see incentives for business to invest in change. The incentive that is attracting companies now is advertising revenue. Mainstream companies bode well to develop rich content that invites user contribution, attracting an audience that can be advertised to. These mainstream companies play host to ‘average Joe’ users and those who are not web enthusiast who track the changes of the web as part of their thinking and understanding.

That’s why I think we will see a ‘Web 3.0’ before we see the full blown semantic web as envisioned by Tim Berners-Lees of the world. Web 3.0 will first attract users via quality, usable information found by intelligent searches and delivered automatically with the help of rdf-like languages. After successful broad-scale beta-like trials that see users utilizing Web 3.0, the big push will happen and mainstream companies will once again latch on and attract what I call the average Joes. The transition will be measurable, natural and one that will serve as the next platform for the evolving web.

Wrap up

After seeing how fast Web 2.0 and current standards came about, 5 years in the internet world will seem like a lifetime for developing technology. Hybrid applications will become the norm, IPTV will overtake regular TV, and personal web spaces will bind to users in a similar way as cell phones. Content will be, high-def be default, available for sharing and circulation, come majority from users like you and me. It is my hopes that the internet stays free from political manhandling and corporate strongholds. As net neutrality gains traction, it will the responsibility of the ‘you and me’s to ensure the internet’s freedom. The internet is the most democratic form of medium ever to exist, and the same power that is driving the web today (us) will keep it moving tomorrow.


“XHTML™ 1.0 The Extensible HyperText Markup Language (Second Edition)”, W3C,
26 January 2000. 1 May 2008.

Schatz, Amy. “U.S. Broadband Rank: 15th and Dropping”. 2007. Wall Street Journal, 1 May 2008.

Yihong-Ding. A simple picture of Web evolution. ZDNet, 5 November 2007. 1 May 2008. <>

1 comment:

Yihong Ding said...


Occasionally I happen to cross this post and see that you have cited one of my old post in your "homework assignment" (I think). Thank you for being interested in it and I would like to make a tiny comment on this topic.

When Dr. Chen (your professor I think) asked for this topic, I think he was asking about the vision of Web evolution. So what the future Web is is equivalent to ask what the main character of Web evolution is. Both HD and brandwidth will happen and they are important points. But they are not the core.

The main thing about the future Web is that the Web is going to be closer and closer to our real human world. This is the key of Web evolution.

What is World Wide Web? It is a virtual society that reflects the real human world. The progress of Web technologies is to prompt this process and make the virtual world be more and more like the real world. That's all about the future.

Why does Web 2.0 succeed? Why is "Semantic Web in W3C's interpretation" so difficult to come to reality? Web evolution explains everything.

Web 2.0 movement is to help the Web closer to human world. Until now, "Semantic Web in W3C's interpretation" is still focusing on building a Web but having neglects the connection to the real human world. So this "Semantic Web in W3C's interpretation" is not a favorite approach with respect to the objective Web evolution. This is why Web 2.0 succeeds while Semantic Web until now fails.

And this viewpoint is all about the word "Social" as in the name of the course you are taking now.

cheers, and hopefully my comment may help you and probably your class a little bit.