[LINK] Moving beyond Web 2.0

Bernard Robertson-Dunn brd at iimetro.com.au
Thu Oct 15 10:23:04 AEDT 2009

<sceptic alert>
It's always so much easier to sit in an ivory tower and contemplate what 
might happen after the current prediction than worry about the current 

Web Squared??? Puh-lease.

Opinion: Moving beyond Web 2.0
By Chrstopher Barnatt
Oct 15, 2009 6:43 AM

Start calling it Web Squared.

It is nearly five years since internet guru Tim O’Reilly came up with 
the term Web 2.0 to signal a second coming of the web after the dot com 

Since that time, the core ideas of Web 2.0 ­– of the internet as a 
computing platform and of value being created by linking people and/or 
applications online ­ – have also entered the mainstream. No chief 
information officer (CIO) can ignore Web 2.0 developments.

But it is only natural to question what will come next. And according to 
O’Reilly, Web 2.0’s successor will be web to the power of two, or “Web 

Web Squared is the theme of the next Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco on 
20-22 October. The idea is that Web Squared is emerging as our 
dependence on the internet grows and as web-based thinking is applied 
beyond computing. The “squared” part is supposed to reflect the way web 
activity will grow exponentially as Web 2.0 applications are 
increasingly fed data not just by human beings typing on keyboards, but 
also by cameras and other types of sensor.

Cameras and online sensors will create a mass of largely unstructured 
data that at first may appear difficult to process and of limited value. 
However, as more audiovisual data is tagged with GPS co-ordinates, and 
as vision and speech recognition improve, so the potential will exist to 
create value by inter-linking data from an emerging “internet of things” 
in the same way that Facebook and Twitter allow people to create value 
by establishing social connections online.

The internet of Web Squared will be a network that knows where users 
are, recognises what they are looking at, and interprets what they say 
within the context of their location.

Entering augmented reality

Augmented reality will be one of the first applications to make use of 
Web Squared developments. Holding up a mobile device and seeing 
additional information overlaid on its real-time camera feed is likely 
to be mainstream within a few years. This will require sophisticated 
database management to tie together in real time textual and numeric 
data with image banks and GPS co-ordinates. This kind of processing will 
allow applications in the cloud to recognise what they see in a video 
feed and overlay relevant additional information.

For example, imagine a customer being able to obtain information on 
every product they can point their phone at by GPS tracking where their 
handset is, and/or applying vision recognition to what is on the screen. 
Or entering a boardroom and seeing background information on everybody 
present floating virtually over their heads. Or speaking the words 
“nearest Chinese restaurant” into a phone and having a route overlaid on 
the screen. The Layar browser and Yelp on the iPhone have already shown 
us the potential of augmented reality.

CIOs therefore need to start thinking about how their companies will 
contribute to the new kinds of data mash-up if they are to be visible in 
augmented reality. Not least one challenge will be that in augmented 
reality, only absolute real time will be good enough.

Extending Web 2.0 philosophies

There is, however, more to Web Squared than new types of application 
that will process the immense data shadows soon to be cast by the 
emerging internet of things. More broadly, Web Squared is also about 
recognising that Web 2.0 has been as concerned with embracing new 
philosophies as new technologies. And in championing Web Squared, 
O’Reilly is signalling that the Web 2.0 ideologies of openness, 
transparency and rapid, collaborative value creation may have 
significant value well beyond the internet.

Almost certainly, many people will have to work together dynamically and 
at high speed if we are to respond adequately to the next decade’s key 
challenges of oil, water and global food shortages and climate change. A 
big idea of Web Squared is that this may be achieved by applying the 
philosophies of Web 2.0 to mainstream politics and business thinking.

The CIO opportunity?

There could also be good news for the enlightened CIO. Today, the IT 
function in many companies is at a crossroads in the face of cloud 
computing developments that threaten to give users the kind of 
flexibility once briefly promised by personal computing and then cruelly 
snatched away. The CIOs who are embracing the cloud and not trying to 
build barricades around their data centres are the ones who understand 
the philosophies as well as the technologies of Web 2.0, and who will 
also very much grasp Web Squared. This therefore means that they and 
their staff already possess those conceptual and management skills 
likely to be in increasing demand.

Smart IT professionals may now be able to teach the rest of the company 
a thing or two about more than just IT. However, the Web Squared 
movement is likely to be another nail in the coffin of those CIOs and IT 
staff who have, over the past five years, resisted helping users to take 
full advantage of the technologies and philosophies of Web 2.0.

So is Web Squared a development to which CIOs will have to respond 
immediately? Well, aside from prepping themselves to brief their chief 
executive on what it is about when it appears in the the major dailies 
in late October, absolutely not. However, Web Squared is an IT-centric 
idea that is likely to get a great deal of popular attention over the 
next year or so.

Web Squared is likely to take off partly because O’Reilly has a powerful 
media machine and a habit of getting things right. The Web Squared term 
is also likely to prove popular because there is a growing sense that 
over the past year, Web 2.0 has been evolving into something more 
powerful and is now in need of a new name. Finally, as the fallout of 
the credit crunch slowly begins to dissipate, there is also a broader 
appetite for any new way of thinking that embraces openness and 

With the internet now reaching 40 years of age, to suggest as O’Reilly 
does that the “world” and the “worldwide web” are now no more separable 
than “business” and “e-business” ­ – and that the real legacy of Web 2.0 
is already its philosophy – ­ is likely to be an idea than many will 
find attractive.

CIOs and others in IT may therefore expect those around them to 
increasingly want to know about the philosophy behind current 
cutting-edge IT developments. They may even want to start speaking our 
language. And that at least could be a refreshing change.

Christopher Barnatt is associate professor of computing and future 
studies at Nottingham University Business School, and the author of 

</sceptic alert>


Bernard Robertson-Dunn
Canberra Australia
brd at iimetro.com.au

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