After Web 2.0: WOW (Wide Open Web) – enough of version numbers for the web!!

In the wake of the 2008 Web 2.0 expo, now 3½ years since the first Web 2.0 conference in 2004, it seems getting time to work out what will succeed Web 2.0. I always thought that Web 2.0 was a useful and meaningful term, and created my Web 2.0 Framework to help unpack and communicate what it is. The term helped people to understand the nature of the shift from Web as communication to Web as participation.

I’ve also long thought that Web 3.0 is a meaningless term. It means whatever people want it to mean. While we have reached a reasonably common understanding of what Web 2.0 is (though I’m sure others will disagree), I don’t think it’s possible that any consensus will emerge on what Web 3.0 is, making its use a destroyer rather than enabler of communication. The one element that people always associate with Web 3.0 is the semantic web, which has been a very long time coming, and will still be a very long time coming. It’s a tremendous, laudable goal which is still going to take far longer than most people seem to think, so it’s not something we should be talking about in the present. Anyway, the semantic web already has a term to describe it, and it is well defined, so why do we need to use a new term to refer it?

I’ve been a long time student of how business and technology terms are born, brought into widespread usage, debased, and die. I don’t believe that Web 3.0 will be a term that be useful or used. Charles Cooper has just tried to define Web 2.5, which is even worse – yes I agree with him that it’s about time to dump Web 2.0, but the answer is NOT Web 2.5! However we absolutely need new terms to describe where the web is going and what it means.

In my recent post on openness in the Internet I used the term Wide Open Web (WOW). On consideration I think this is a fair suggestion to describe the current and next stage of the web. There are undoubtedly many other possibilities, and I think it’s time for the proposals to come out, so the most relevant and useful term comes into usage, rather than terms such as Web 2.5, that are even more meaningless than Web 3.0, and don’t help anyone understand what is going on.

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Living Networks – Chapter 2: Emerging Technologies – Free Download and Commentary

Download Chapter 2 of Living Networks on Emerging Technologies

Every chapter of Living Networks is being released on this blog as a free download, together with commentary and updated perspectives since its original publication in 2002.

For the full Table of Contents and free chapter downloads see the Living Networks website or the Book Launch/ Preface to the Anniversary Edition.

Living Networks – Chapter 2: Emerging Technologies

How Standards and Integration Are Driving Business Strategy

OVERVIEW: Standards are the foundation of communication, and of all networks. Building on the existing foundation of powerful standards and connectivity, there are three sets of emerging technologies that are driving the next stage of the networks: XML and web services; peer-to-peer; and network interfaces. In the connected economy, standards and network strategy are at the heart of all business.

Chapter 2 of Living Networks – Commentary and updated perspectives

It would seem likely that a chapter written in 2002 about emerging technologies would date very quickly. However the emphasis of this chapter was on standards and integration, which have absolutely been at the foundation of technological change over the last five years, and continue to be firmly at the center of what dominates technology today.

The (very) gradual shift to open, accepted standards (see below in the text for explanation)

I selected three sets of emerging technologies to focus on in this chapter: XML and web services, Peer-to-peer networks, and Network interfaces.

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The next phase of the Internet will be about creating value from the WOW (Wide Open Web)

So far the primary theme of the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco seems to be openness and APIs (Application Programming Interfaces), which I defined in our Web 2.0 Framework as “A defined interface to a computer application or database that allows access by other applications.” Web companies new and old are announcing APIs that provide access to the data that resides on their site.

ReadWriteWeb writes about the next frontier after ubiquitous APIs, an interview of Web 2.0 keynoter Max Levchin focuses on the implications of APIs on every application, and Tim O’Reilly in his keynote says that the paradox is that applications built on open, decentralized networks are leading to new concentrations of power.

In the last weeks I’ve been looking across what is available on APIs, and it is quite extraordinary. Driven significantly by the impetus of Google’s leadership, over the last couple of years the industry has taken a massive turn towards openness, making it hard to run online initiatives any other way.

I am finding myself completely staggered by the possibilities. There are so many ways that this vast trove of information can be used in new and innovative applications. ReadWriteWeb’s article provides a list of the ways APIs can be used. Some of the promising areas I see include:

Content aggregation. Despite the existing proliferation of blog and feed aggregators, there are many more opportunities to create highly specialized content aggregators, bringing together the web’s most relevant content in niche domains.

Collaborative filtering. The richness of information about people’s content preferences available from something like FriendFeed (or the individual feeds that go into it) make it possible to correlate taste across media and genres.

Latent social networks: Suggesting friends or connections based not just on profile or musical tastes, but an integrated view of preferences and activities. This could be particularly powerful in dating.

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Keynote at Tandberg Summit: weaving together Enterprise 2.0 and videoconferencing

I recently did the opening keynote on The Future of Business at the Tandberg Summit 2008, which brings together the clients, distributors and partners of the global videoconferencing firm, and stayed for most of the first day. I found it extremely interesting being among a large people who were concerned with implementing video in organizations, as these are almost entirely different people to those concerned with Enterprise 2.0 approaches, though their objectives and issues are very similar. More thoughts on that in a moment. It’s probably worth setting the scene with a review of the conference by CRN Magazine, titled Tandberg Summit 2008: Video killed the radio star. The entire article is worth a read – I’ve excerpted below the section covering my presentation:

A highlight of the conference was a keynote by Ross Dawson, chairman of Future Exploration Network, who provided insight into the dynamics within an organisation and the video communications market. Referring to internal business practices, Dawson stressed the importance of collaboration between employees and identifying personal qualities that may help foster growth.

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Living Networks – Chapter 1: The Networks Come Alive – Free Download and Commentary

Download Chapter 1 of Living Networks: The Networks Come Alive

Every chapter of Living Networks is being released on this blog as a free download, together with commentary and updated perspectives since its original publication in 2002.

For the full Table of Contents and free chapter downloads see the Living Networks website or the Book Launch/ Preface to the Anniversary Edition.

Living Networks – Chapter 1: The Networks Come Alive

What the Changing Flow of Information and Ideas Means for Business

OVERVIEW: Connectivity is shrinking our world, and in the process transforming business. As communication between people becomes more fluid and pervasive, it is creating what looks like a global brain, in which ideas procreate freely and we collaborate to filter an ever-expanding universe of information. But just a small proportion of the planet’s population is connected. It is critical that we extend participation as broadly as we can.

Chapter 1 of Living Networks – Commentary and updated perspectives

As for almost all the book, the underlying messages in Chapter 1 are as relevant today as they were over five years ago. The five key issues outlined at the outset: collaboration with clients and partners; organizational performance; innovation and intellectual property; strategy and positioning; and individual leadership are still today the most relevant issues for business in our extraordinarily networked world.

The opening words of Living Networks were “Macromedia, the company best known for Flash software, is blogging.” In 2002 companies were already using blogs to communicate more effectively with their customers. After the launch of the book, in my speeches I used the story of how this initial foray into blogging evolved, with Macromedia (since bought by Adobe) aggregating now almost 2000 approved blogs, including those of its staff, partners, and customers. This entire community spanning inside and outside the organization is engaged in a conversation on how to use the software tools, bugs, fixes, and useful approaches.

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Launch of Living Networks – Anniversary Edition! Free download of entire book

Living Networks has just been relaunched in an Anniversary Edition, to mark five years since its original publication by Financial Times/ Prentice Hall in November 2002. Other than slightly dated case studies and examples, I believe almost every aspect of the book is current and highly relevant today. Revisiting the foundations of our networked age is enormously relevant today, as the last five years have in fact largely realized what I originally wrote in Living Networks.

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The book is available for purchase on Amazon.com and other major booksellers. In addition every chapter of the book will be available for free download from this blog and the Living Networks book website. Over the next weeks I will serialize the chapters on this blog, with commentary and updates for each chapter with the benefits of over five years of hindsight. So just come back to the blog or Living Networks website regularly or subscribe on your RSS reader. Below is the table of contents and Preface to the Anniversary Edition, which describes in more detail the background to the relaunch.

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Social networks in organizations: balancing risk, reward, and transparency

A rather popular topic these days is the risks to organizations of using social networks. An article in today’s Australian Financial Review examines the issue in detail, with an interview of me (excerpted below) hopefully balancing out the other opinions expressed in the article. Unfortunately the way I was quoted seemed to overemphasize my cautions relative to the benefits I discussed.

I am finding it very tiresome to continuously hear security consultants and vendors with big PR budgets go on endlessly about risks, without ever mentioning business benefits. This drone gets into executives’ heads, and as a result discussion of social networks – and many other potentially valuable business tools – focuses on risk and not benefit.

My Enterprise 2.0 Governance Framework explicitly addresses risks, benefits, and actions. It is critical to acknowledge, understand, and minimize risk, but executives are equally culpable if they ignore business value as if they ignore risk.

In the interview with the journalist I basically said that transparency increases business value, however providing transparency must be done intelligently and strategically. The danger is that executives become frightened of the risks, so unintelligently don’t provide transparency, and thus negatively impact the company’s value. Effective business leaders understand that in a complex world business value requires a highly nuanced approach, rather than the black and white view of organizations that is so frequently peddled. Excerpts from the article are below:

When one of Australia’s leading evangelists for Enterprise 2.0 acknowledges “there are some real dangers in an increasingly transparent world”, it’s worth listening.

Ross Dawson, chairman of the Future Exploration Network, is a great fan of online collaboration and communication, but admits there are limits. While research has revealed “a positive impact on stock prices where there is more transparency”, he warns that companies which transparently reported their customers’ private information, for example, would quickly see the opposite effect on share prices.

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The joys of self-employment: 7 reasons to love being your own boss

This is a significant marking point in my life. I have been self-employed for as long as I was employed, making it 12 years of each. From my first day of employment, I always knew that I would eventually work for myself. I was surprised that it took as long as it did to escape. In fact, when I was working in Tokyo for Thomson Financial in the early 1990s I had firm plans to resign and live in Hong Kong or Macau, working as a freelance journalist covering the region. Then a girlfriend and a series of promotions made me feel there was no rush to leave, and I ended up being transferred to London into a job as Global Director – Capital Markets. This gave me some great senior corporate experience that I would never have got if had gone solo earlier. However it didn’t take too long to reach the point when I was ready to resign and throw myself out into the Big Wide World. The day after I finished at Thomson in April 1996 I boarded a flight to Rio de Janeiro as the first stop on six months travels through the Americas. I had thought that as I traveled I’d think about what sort of business I’d start. I didn’t have time for that on my adventures, only seriously considering what I wanted to do once I arrived back in Sydney after six years overseas.

It was very tough going for a long time, particularly trying to build global work based out of Sydney, but the success of my books really made the difference, and just around now – after many years of hard slog – things are panning out the way I always envisioned. This suggests to me that they have a fair bit further to go yet – time will tell.

When I left work I was completely committed to working for myself and controlling my own destiny. From the beginning I didn’t ever consider taking external capital, because I felt it would make me beholden to someone else. In the near future I will be looking for external capital for a new venture, but it’s not one in which I will be a full-time executive. If I ever sell a company, I’m not going to with the company as part of the sale. When things were difficult for me in the early days, my worst nightmare was that I would have to get a job – that was something that I would do anything to avoid.

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Is one web ratings black box better than another black box? Why should we believe Alexa is better?

Alexa, the Amazon.com subsidiarywhich provides website traffic and rankings information, has just announced it has revamped its rankings system. Since I have the Alexa toolbar installed in my browser, which shows the ranking of whichever website you’re currently looking at, I actually noticed this morning that the rankings were changing. Techcrunch reports that the change has downrated many technology blogs. It has actually increased the ranking for this blog by about one third.

However the announcement gives absolutely no information on how the ranking is calculated or the sources used. There are bold, completely unsubstantiated claims:

– MORE SOURCES: Alexa rankings are now based on more sources of data to give a better indicator of website popularity

– BETTER RANKINGS: The rankings are an even better indication of website popularity due to new and improved algorithms

Alexa has been much criticized for the inaccuracy of its rankings system, which until now has relied entirely on picking up the web browsing activities of those who have installed its toolbar. This is a skewed population, and there are various ways to game the system.

While I don’t necessarily expect Alexa to reveal its exact algorithms, I think people would be far more likely to have confidence in its measures if it gave at least some indication of what the new sources are, or what they look like, or what changes to the algorithm were made. In fact we know less now about how the Alexa rankings are compiled than we did before. Alexa think they’re better. I guess I think they’re better, since I’m ranked higher. But why should anyone else believe they’re better? Tell us please, oh Alexa, just something that supports your claims that Alexa is improved…

Interview: The future of media and entertainment in 2020

Today’s issue of The Australian has a special section on the media industry in 2020, to coincide with the Australian government’s 2020 Summit to be held this weekend. I was interviewed for a feature article titled Watch this space as sector goes on move (together with a nice pic of me in the print edition). The article follows:

AUSTRALIANS will double their spending on media and other entertainment by 2020 as the proportion of people’s income spent on “weightless” products and services increases, according to futurist Ross Dawson.

Mr Dawson predicted the media and entertainment industry would double in size during the next 12 years and have a 60per cent larger share of the global economy than at present.

“One of the things (that) is going to grow rapidly is the way we consume media … when we’re moving around,” Mr Dawson said. “The weight of goods produced in the global economy, while it doubles in size, will stay the same.”

Mr Dawson, chairman of the Future Exploration Network, which takes the pulse of the global industry in an annual study, said the media would offer “infinite choice” for consumers by 2020.

In a wide-ranging interview about the changing media landscape ahead of the Government’s 2020 Summit, he predicted:

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