Just when you think you’ve got a handle on Web 2.0, the cocktail party chatter increments toWeb 3.0. Mediabistro.com, an organization devoted to helping journalists find employment, hosted the first day of its Web 3.0 confab Tuesday at Hyatt Regency Santa Clara. Only an hour in, it was clear that the name was selected more to one-up the O’Reilly conference machine than to summarize the event’s actual theme. The real focus of this gumshoes-meet-geeks gathering was a buzz phrase with distinctly 1999 aroma: the semantic web.
What the heck is the semantic web? Nobody quite knows, maybe because it’s still being born. Opening speaker Scott Provost, who oversees development of Microsoft’s Bing search engine, dodged the question. “Whatever it is,” he said, “it’s already here.” Mark Greaves, information systems guru with Paul Allen’s Vulcan incubator, helpfully offered three or four definitions, each more abstract than the last. (To wit: “A fully distributed web-based system for publishing logical assertions.”)
Stripped of its geeky trappings, a semantic web (or, more precisely, a semantic net) would be an online environment that understood the meaning and context of the content you consumed and produced, and used that understanding to facilitate your life — or that of the nearest advertiser.
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