The web was still in its infancy in 1998, but with 188 million users, its vast potential was already being realized. At that time, its inventor, Tim Berners Lee, articulated his vision in the Semantic Web Road map.  In the Road map, Lee described a glorious semantic space where information was machine readable and instantly retrievable, based on its structure and mark-up.


The New Vision


In some ways Lee’s vision has been actualized. Google employs algorithms that sift through and index the noise for search engines.  And every major player in the tech space is developing artificial intelligence. However, he would not recognize the web of today. Far from being a perfect semantic database of information, it’s drowning in a sea of advertising, making the online experience increasingly poor.


This situation is understandable. Traditional media companies recognized early on that they were unlikely to survive in the online world unless they made money through advertising. At first this advertising appeared in the form of simple banner advertisements but as the years have progressed, we’ve reached a point when it’s almost impossible to identify actual content.


As a result, developers have recognized customer needs and are selling solutions to block online advertising.  While this is a boon for web surfers, this move could potentially decimate the revenue of a huge number of sites and seriously challenge the notion of a “free” internet.


So what’s happening now?


Currently, we’re in a state of change, a disruption as a large as the invention of the web itself, brought about by the web going mobile. This has commoditized and granulated information delivered via apps to such an extent that a large number of users have never even opened a web browser, preferring to experience “the web” through Facebook, Snapchat and WhatsApp. The space where consumers interact with content and services has exploded, moving away from the browser and splitting across multiple platforms, some of which haven’t even been invented yet.


So, Lee’s vision has been fragmented and doesn’t seem relevant anymore. But the opportunities are vast if content companies look to the future rather than copying what’s worked in the past. Instead of categorizing and adding metadata to information we must now shift and focus on categorizing and adding meaning to experiences. Interactions must be contextual and relevant.


Users and The Platform


Users are now the platform, because while the web is essentially anonymous, connected devices and apps are personal and understand them. This eliminates the need for scattershot click-based advertising, allowing for more personalized and targeted marketing, along with a better experience.


Google recognizes the challenge this presents to their revenue stream, and in a bid to support advertisers, they’ve recently released “Google AMP,” accelerated mobile pages providing a platform for content publishers. Along with “Facebook articles” and “Apple news,” it’s an acknowledgment that the traditional web model is vanishing, requiring more innovation to succeed in a new landscape.


Richard Knights

Richard Knights

Creative Technologies Director


Richard Knights is a Creative Technology Director at Wipro Digital. Richard works with high profile clients across multiple industries by providing design thinking expertise as well as helping to define the parameters for technology and digital innovation. He is also responsible for visualising solutions and prototype development. Recently this includes a retail mobile prototype for an in-store iBeacon proposal, a gamification platform and a VR web application for customer interaction.

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