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April 2, 2006 12:01 PM   Subscribe

The Future of the Web
A fascinating, breathless hour-long talk (+Q&A) recently given by Sir Tim (mp3 & mp4, no transcript available). For the lazy, this recent interview covers much the same ground. [more inside]
posted by MetaMonkey (16 comments total)

 
Brief notes:
  • Everything should have a URI, including you and your fridge
  • Everything is/can be represented by a graph
  • The semantic web is/will be a "fractal tangle"
  • If you want to remember more than that, either pause frequently or take real notes
posted by MetaMonkey at 12:02 PM on April 2, 2006


but how will it improve the distribution of porn? If it doesn't, I don't see how the technology will get off the ground.
posted by jepler at 12:32 PM on April 2, 2006


Tim Berners-Lee is an idiot and the W3C hasn't done anything useful since XML 1.0, and even that was an anomaly.
posted by cillit bang at 12:41 PM on April 2, 2006


jepler, you have it the wrong way around. Technological advancement doesn't drive improvements in the distribution of porn. Improvements in the distrubtuion of porn drives technological advancement.
posted by redbeard at 12:56 PM on April 2, 2006


Tim Berners-Lee is an idiot and the W3C hasn't done anything useful since XML 1.0, and even that was an anomaly.

Care to expand on that? I have an idea what you're talking about, but it's only fairly recently I've gotten interested in the practicalities of the history/structure of the web, and all this semantic business.
posted by MetaMonkey at 1:16 PM on April 2, 2006


I should clarify. Tim Berners-Lee is an idiot as far as the web is concerned. He and the rest of the W3C spend their whole time on about RDF and OWL and such (which is well and good) but they don't seem to care about stuff people actually use (like HTML). Real progress on the web is being driven by organisations like WHATWG and (sigh) browser vendor innovations. TBL and the W3C are not authorities on the modern web.

A good example of what's wrong with the W3C is XML 1.1. It makes a few non-technichal improvements but is completely unusable because it's incompatible with 1.0. Here's a good overview. They basically churn out web standards that are designed to be mounted on the wall in a glass case rather than actually used by anyone.

Another thing that bugs me is that (as I recall) they only allow representatives from their big corporate sponsors to participate in working groups (cf The IETF which allows anyone with an email address).
posted by cillit bang at 2:17 PM on April 2, 2006


the future of the web...
posted by delmoi at 3:18 PM on April 2, 2006


Real progress on the web is being driven by organisations like WHATWG and (sigh) browser vendor innovations.

How many websites do you know of that are using any of the WHATWG's specs? And, IMHO, the use of vendor extensions has been markedly declining in recent years as the web standards movement has grown (I never run into ActiveX anymore, but that may just be me). The use of Flash may be growing, but that's not really a browser vendor extension.

the W3C hasn't done anything useful since XML 1.0

CSS 2 was a major improvement, and my quick Googling indicates that it was was made a reccomendation in May of 1998, three months after XML 1.0. XSLT is also rad cool... all of the major browsers support it, but its primarily used server-side. The DOM and SVG are two other off-the-cuff examples of specs that have proved valuable in the real world.

That said, I'd agree with you that these are the exceptions, and there's a bunch of junk they've published that has no hope of getting widely used. But the blame for this lies mostly with Microsoft and their decision to slam the brakes on improvements to IE around 2001. Its now unlikely that any major websites will be willing to break compatibility with IE6 for the next five years, at a minimum. In that environment, yeah, new specs are useless... but its not the W3C's fault.
posted by gsteff at 3:24 PM on April 2, 2006


Tim Berners-Lee is an idiot and the W3C hasn't done anything useful since XML 1.0, and even that was an anomaly.

Well, if that were their sole acomplishment, then acomplished a hell of a lot.

XSLT is also pretty nice.
posted by delmoi at 3:26 PM on April 2, 2006


I think that the W3C's current obsession with The Semantic Web won't really bear fruit for a couple of decades yet. Even then, it may be totally unrecognizable as such. We'll need a much larger proliferation of network-addressable devices than we already have before the additional layer of design complexity added by TSW becomes worthwhile.

From TFA:

To make this information useful semantically requires a sequence of events:

1. Do a model of what's in the database - which would give you an ontology you could work out on the back of an envelope. Write it in RDF Schema or OWL (the Web Ontology Language).

2. Find out who else has already got equivalent terms in an ontology. For those things use their terms instead.


Nobody will ever, ever do (2) until you:

a) . . . make it a useful thing to do (e.g. "now I can interoperate with all these tools because I conform to a particular ontology!"), AND . . .

b) . . . make it an easy thing to do (e.g. a single, centralized directory of ontologies that are indexed and downloadable, and that can dynamically inform the developer when the ontologies are updated), AND . . .

c) . . . allow people to participate in the process of creating ontologies without everything devolving into a horrible glacial standards process (e.g. a Wikipedia of ontologies).

I think Sir Tim is a very smart man who has gone from a 5-year vision to a 30-year vision without making that quite explicit in his interviews.
posted by xthlc at 3:53 PM on April 2, 2006


Tim Berners-Lee is an idiot

You do realize he basically invented the World Wide Web as we know it today, don't you? Or would you rather have stuck with using gopher and archie?

(ahh, the days of finding warez via archie...)
posted by mrbill at 4:11 PM on April 2, 2006


You do realize he basically invented the World Wide Web as we know it today, don't you?

No he didn't. He was part of a team that made a networked documentation system that accidentally transformed the act of publishing information.

He did not mean for the web to happen like it did, and when it did he didn't really know how to guide it any further, which is really what the above criticisms are.

And it really is a shame that he doesn't care about HTML, because HTML being as shitty as it is is really his fault in many ways.
posted by illovich at 4:18 PM on April 2, 2006


Mrbill: Yes I do. a) No he didn't. b) That doesn't make him relevant today.

And, IMHO, the use of vendor extensions has been markedly declining in recent years as the web standards movement has grown

Most "standards compliant" sites make use of DHTML and possibly AJAX. DHTML was invented by Microsoft. AJAX relies on xmlHttpRequest, which is a Microsoft extension. Neither of these have anything to do with the W3C.
posted by cillit bang at 4:26 PM on April 2, 2006


Berners-Lee is not a tech leader anymore. How should we trust him to set the direction for the future. Larry & Sergey are no name when they founded google.
posted by matthewchen at 4:58 PM on April 2, 2006


He's not telling anyone that you have to do things his way. He's just working on a thing he thinks is useful. I find him quite intelligent — not earthshaking, but good to listen to. The web works because it's a web, he's right on that much, and the concept of a semantic web sounds floofy and out-there right now because we have no tools to use such a thing and it sounds like a ridiculous amount of effort. But we have a million ways to share information now, the areas we need to grow in are ways to deal with the myriad of data. The whole interactive 'web 2.0' thing is very strongly centred around combining and sharing things from various sources, and the easier it is to do that, the better.

I am enjoying this talk. It's nice to hear about people thinking a bit further forward than 'yay ajax!'
posted by blacklite at 5:43 PM on April 2, 2006


Breathless is right. How could you catch your breath when talking about the future of the web? While you were inhaling, 1500 sites with 100,000 pages came on line.
posted by telstar at 2:48 AM on April 3, 2006


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