Pondering Over The Future Of The World Wide Web

20 years ago, a seminal document published by Sir Tim Berners-Lee laid the ground foundation for what has arguably been one of the most important modern inventions, the World Wide Web.

As the world celebrated this milestone yesterday, we take a look at what the future holds for the World Wide Web (not the internet, that's for another day) as new challenges and applications emerge that were never even dreamt of a decade ago.

Speaking in Geneva about the creation of the WWW, Berners-Lee said that the future of the web, as we know it, will lie in mobile phones. Not the current ones but the new breed of smartphones that is currently taking the world by storm.

A recent report by Informa Telecoms and Media concluded that nearly 40 percent of mobile phones sold in 2013 will be smartphones, growing by a third each year on average. Unlike the current crop of mobile phones, smartphones will be built from ground up to access the internet.

And as Tim Berners-lee rightly points out, smartphones are the only way that the overwhelming majority of the world will actually see the internet at all. The trend towards cheaper smartphones was highlighted at CeBIT and the Mobile World Congress with models starting from around £44.

The WWW was and still is a solution to a simple problem; disseminating information to a larger audience. The Web allowed for information to be shared very quickly and as the internet itself became popular first with scientists. There are more than 100 billion web pages today, a number that is still growing.

But there are many other challenges that have appeared since 1989. Video and audio are now more prevalent than ever, the number of people actually using the WWW at any moment is growing exponentially driven by lower access costs and cheaper technology. Furthermore, privacy issues like behavioural advertising solution (Phorm for example) were never part of the equation two decades ago.

Paradoxically, access to information is still an issue. Information might be available but cannot be found easily because it is written in a language that the receiver can't understand or the search engines can't find it if that information is locked in the dark web. This hidden web could be 30 times bigger than the surface or visible web, by some estimates.

Some of these issues could be solved by the adoption of the Semantic Web. It has already said that privacy principles will be enshrined into the Semantic Web by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), laying emphasis on who can access what.

This evolution of the World Wide Web will allow data to be understood by the computational resources behind the WWW. As Tim Berners Lee once said, "I have a dream for the Web [in which computers] become capable of analyzing all the data on the Web – the content, links, and transactions between people and computers. A ‘Semantic Web’, which should make this possible, has yet to emerge, but when it does, the day-to-day mechanisms of trade, bureaucracy and our daily lives will be handled by machines talking to machines. The ‘intelligent agents’ people have touted for ages will finally materialize."

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