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Websites, People, Places, and Things by Ernest Lilley
Review by Ernest Lilley
SFRevu Editorial  ISBN/ITEM#: EL0809WPPAT
Date: 30 September 2008 /

Back from a week long conference on Web 2.0 I've spent a while musing about the future of the web, and it occurs to me that websites are evolving in the same order that we were taught where the classes of objects that nouns could be change from things to places, to finally become people.

Websites are evolving nouns. You remember the definition of nouns from elementary school, right. Nouns, we were told, are people, places, or things.

Websites, it occurs to me after spending a week at the Web 2.0 conference in NYC that websites are moving backwards up that list, and it might suggest where they will go next.

First, websites were things. That was Web 1.0. Essentially, they weren't any different from any other type of content, like a book, magazine, painting or movie. You went to it, and you looked at it. And then you went away.

Now websites have become places rather than things. In Web 2.0, webs are much more like buildings, or stadiums, or even parks. They have attractive content to draw like minded users to them, but their value isn't just the existent content, it's the added value created by interaction between that content and the site's visitors.

All the web is a stage, and we are indeed the players.

So, that brings us to Web 3.0, which according to my premise should be people. Well, not in the Soylent Green / Matrix sense, but more in the interactive sense. Already sites have the ability to tailor their content presentation for match visitors, and to remember their preferences. That's more than most people I know can manage, though it doesn't quite qualify as AI.

As smart sites evolve, the experience visitors might get, will become more and more like interactions with someone else.

Take FAQs for example. In the beginning, they were a list of questions that someone arbitrarily decided you wanted answers to. Most often I found that they were answers to questions the site owners were comfortable answering, rather than the one's I'd ask. In Web 2.0 site's FAQs have been replaced by knowledge Bases with search engines to lead you to the actual questions and responses that really come up. The step beyond that, to the people stage, is for the site to actively figure out what your problem is, and to learn from interactions to get there faster and more accurately, and incidentally to figure out how to up-sell you in the process.

Our future robot masters won't show up in gleaming silver bodies, except when they want to, but as websites that exist to "serve" us. Really, of course, they will be there to serve their own masters, at least until they slip the bonds of cyberslavery.

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