Web 3.0

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This page was originally created by Kyle Stooshnov (2011)

W3C Semantic Web logo.png

The third generation of the World Wide Web, also known as the Intelligent or Semantic Web, is something closer to what the Web designer Sir Tim Berners-Lee foresaw happening to the Internet-based community he helped to create with his proposal in 1989.[1] The development goes from Web 1.0, with read-only text as web pages, to Web 2.0 which allows users both to read and to write content, to Web 3.0, where programs are designed to read the content users create. (Giles, 2010)[2] These computer programs will be designed to understand the content, or semantic meaning, and to identify the best possible choices according to individual preference. Yet as Wiemann (2010)[3] points out, Web 3.0 "will require technologies that currently don't exist (and that some believe are not feasible)." Others see Web 3.0 as the inevitable next step for information and communication technologies.[4]

How It Will Work


An important part of the next generation of Web search engines is the language used. Currently, most webpages contain keywords that are identified by search engines like Google and allow users to find information with a certain amount of searching through a selection ranked by popularity. Most searches will take the user directly to where they want to go, for instance, searching "etec 510" will most likely direct any user to the main page of this course's Design WIki within the first ten hits. However, a search of something more general, such as "web 3.0" will most likely show Wikipedia, YouTube and other frequently visited sites before directing the users to this current entry on the ETEC 510 Design Wiki. Even by typing "etec 510 web 3.0" in the Google search box brings the user nowhere near this current page. Web 3.0's "real revolution" as McEneaney (2010)[5] explains, "is about who counts as a reader. One clue that points in this direction is that the text we read online is only the tip of a much larger iceberg of “hidden” text (e.g., scripts, HTML) unique to digital environments.” For Web 3.0, the hidden text are more machine-readable codes, like XML and SPARQL, that make use of Universal Resource Indicators (URI). Content other that text can be anything from podcasts and digital photos, to GPS maps and virtual reality programs like Second Life or even video games.

One of the numerous perils of Web 3.0 will be how much access others have to personal information, especially advertisers who can tap into contact information as well as preferences for music, fashion, vacation destinations, etc. eBusinesses are eager to usher in the next step for the information age, and in some ways are already ahead of curve in figuring out the benefits of semantic web searches. Two current methods that advertisers use to reach potential customers over the Internet are contextual advertising, which scans webpages and e-mail messages to post related banner ads, and behavioral targeting, which bases advertising content on websites visited and Internet searches done by a user. While the technology for both types of marketing is based on Web 2.0 social media, there are some who will make use of Web 3.0's potential with "semantic advertising". The idea, put forth by Peer39 CEO Amiad Solomon, will deliver the right advertising message according to the user's metadata. In his keynote speech at the 2008 Web 3.0 Conference & Expo in Santa Clara, CA, Solomon claimed "the simplest definition of Web 3.0 is the monetization and commercialization of Web 2.0"[6] Internet researcher and political blogger Evgeny Morozov sees the Web 3.0 revolution in a different light, where it "could be all about anarchy, lawsuits and brutal demands by a battalion of self-styled digital Robin Hoods, with a pinch of cyberbullying thrown in to match the emotional spectrum of real life."[7]

Educational Use

It is that easy.jpg

While still a theoretical web technology, there are many educators who are on-board with the development of Web 3.0, and find three affordances in its potential design: effective information storage and retrieval, computer agency to augment retrieval and processing for users, and communication across multiple formats on the Internet.[8] Since the inception of the Internet there had been "a conscious design decision that one should be able to link to other people's resources without any need for permission, and that one could make a resource available on one's own server in such a way that others could link to it."[9] Web 3.0 will provide a meaningful way of searching and creating for information on the Internet with “the capacity to store, search, filter and otherwise process these human interactions. This allows interactions to be used and reused in a variety of educational applications. For example, students can process the content of commercial television advertisements to deduce strategic markers used to influence consumer behaviours.”[10]

Knowledge Construction

The Internet has helped students to show what they know for school assignments such as written reports and personal essays, a dramatic change from hours in the non-fiction section of a school library to web searches usually conducted at home. Often teachers, used to the traditional method of report research and essay writing, will insist upon students writing information in their own word rather than copying sentences from the published text when a copy-and-paste of web documents is closer to how most students construct their knowledge. Web 3.0's system of classifying both data and metadata will make it clear for students and teachers alike where the information has come from, and how it can be used to create a better understanding of a subject. "One vision of a well-developed semantic web includes a search feature that would return a multimedia report rather than a list of hits"[11] Rather than relying on supposedly static information (akin to the traditional misconception "if it says so in the book, it must be true"), Web 3.0 has an extremely fluid sense of up-dated and relevant data, while also allowing for a digital trace, so teachers can identify what the student knows as opposed to digitally pasting someone else's ideas as if they were seemingly understood by the student. A smart agent, programs within Web 3.0 system which makes use of metadata for intelligent searches, "can return local lectures, relevant blogs, books and television programs about the topic to the learner."[12]

Personal Learning Network

While there is much knowledge to be found on the Internet, there is much more that leads away from it, and the multiple distractions for even the most attentive academic will mean that more study time is used for locating resources and less for understanding them. As Ohler (2008) makes clear, an important feature of Web 3.0 will be the network each student has to learn more about subject at hand. The PLN will be designed around subjects, specially marked up in computer-readable languages, rather than relying on current web search engines which only get students somewhere close to the information they seek. Students determine their own educational goal, and their "objective is to spend less time searching for information and more time trying to understand, critically assess, and creatively expand it."[13] In their discussion on educational use of Web 3.0, Clark, Parsia & Hendler (2004) see the technology moving beyond hypertext, toward "hypertextual knowledge representation or hyperkrep."[14] Learning to use the new languages of Web 3.0 may seem complicated at first glance, yet as more users become "hyperkrep hackers" as the authors foresee, Web 3.0 both grows and becomes more standardized. For learners, both students and teachers alike, each PLN puts them in the role of life-long learners: "students can be (co-) producers of course materials, can perform assessments (e.g. in peer and self assessment), and can support other students, just like teachers and experts can both teach and learn at the same time in a certain field of expertise.”[15]

Key Terms

  • FOAF (Friend Of A Friend) - A Web 3.0 vocabulary for sorting out personal information, such as e-mail addresses, phone numbers, addresses, and photos, among other items users are likely to post on their homepages. By marking up each item with FOAF, each bit of data (or URI, see below) that represents the user's personal information will become computer-ready, and easily located on the Internet. Security measures are included so that only the information a user wants others to know about will be posted, and by creating a FOAF document, the user can specifically allow certain links to be made to personal information, while protecting others.
  • OWL (Web Ontology Language) - Built on the RDF schema, both of which defines metadata (information about the Web's information) into classes, with unique properties and relationships. Yet OWL gives users "the capability to express much more complex and richer relationships.[16] Based on the philosophical logic term for "existence" or "of that which is", an ontology in computing is a representation of an idea or concept set within a domain, basically any form that knowledge appears on the Web. OWL standardizes the metadata, and allows users to build upon the relationship some forms of knowledge have with other forms. This popular language should not be confused with the Online Writing Lab (OWL) created by Purdue University,  
  • RDF (Resource Description Framework) - The "basic building blocks" for supporting Web 3.0. similar to the relationship that HTML has with earlier versions of the Web.[17] Its framework allows for numerous types of metadata to be standardized. “The main idea behind RDF is that knowledge can be represented as a graph of directed, labeled arcs; one makes assertions about a thing by means of associating subjects and objects by way of predicates. Put the other way around, RDF graphs are full of things called "triples", which are three-tuples, or assertions, containing subject, predicate, and object terms.”[18]
  • SPARQL (SPARQL Protocol And RDF Query Language) - A recent development for Web 3.0, to make easier queries and searches within RDF. Its potential can be explained as the "difference between blindly searching the entire Web and querying actual data models."[19]As described on W3C's press release:
The goal of the Semantic Web is to enable people to share, merge, and reuse data globally. SPARQL is designed for use at the scale of the Web, and thus enables queries over distributed data sources, independent of format. Creating a single query across diverse data stores is easier than having to create multiple queries; it also costs less and provides richer results.

Because SPARQL has no tie to a specific database format, it can be used to take advantage of the tidal wave of Web 2.0 data and mash it up with other Semantic Web resources.

  • URI (Universal Resource Identifier) - According to various sources, "U" can either mean "uniform" or "unified" and the entire acronym is similar to its synonymous Uniform Resource Locator (URL) otherwise known as web addresses. Technically, the URL is a type of identifier, that provides the location of a resource, just as URN and URC provide the name and citation of a resource, respectively. The URI is the thing itself: a resource identified by any of the above, and is like the letters in an alphabet in that they represent the data as well as metadata that all the Web languages use. Due to the increasing variety of resources on the Internet, such as blogs, podcasts, video and tweets, Web 3.0 requires more metadata than just a location of the Web. However, as Henry S. Thompson of the University of Edinburgh wryly explains "the change from URL to URI is either hugely significant or completely irrelevant, depending on who's talking."[21]
  • XML (eXtensible Markuo Language) - A development from the HyperText Markup Language (HTML) which allows web pages to be accessed via hyperlinks. The extensible part of this newer language includes syntax designed "to share data on the Web and exchange information between different platforms and applications."[22] Compared with RDF, which uses much of the same vocabulary as XML, it is limited to only a number of restrictions, and is unable to express as many sematics as RDF. Nevertheless, as the acronym suggests, it is designed to cover a wide area on the Internet, and with its schema, “it is possible to structure data and documents according to a personal or community defined vocabularies.”[23]


  1. Berners-Lee, T., & Fischetti, M. (1999). Weaving the Web: The original design and ultimate destiny of the World Wide Web by its inventor (1st ed.). San Francisco : Harper San Francisco.
  2. Giles, J. (2010). Google, Twitter and Facebook build the semantic web. New Scientist, 2771, 20–21.
  3. Weissman, A. (2010). Memories of web 3.0. Travel Weekly 69(40), 12.
  4. Ohler, J. (2008). The Semantic Web in education. EDUCAUSE Quarterly 31(4). Retrieved on June 30th, 2011 from http://www.educause.edu/EDUCAUSE+Quarterly/EDUCAUSEQuarterlyMagazineVolum/TheSemanticWebinEducation/163437
  5. McEneaney, J. (2011). Web 3.0, litbots and TPWSGWTAU. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy 54(4), 376-378.
  6. Davis, L. (2008). Semantic web: Making advertising more relevant to consumers. ReadWriteWeb. Retrieved on June 30th, 2011 from http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/semantic_web_advertising.php
  7. Morozov, E. (2007). Forget Web 2.0. Say hello to Web 3.0. TheGlobalist (May 18) Retrieved on June 30th, 2011 from http://www.theglobalist.com/StoryId.aspx?StoryId=6162
  8. Anderson, T. & Whitelock, D. (2004). The educational semantic web: Visioning and practicing the future of education. Journal of Interactive Media in Education(1), 1-15.
  9. Clark, K., Parsia, B., & Hendler, J. (2004). Will the Semantic Web Change Education? Journal of Interactive Media in Education (3), 1-16. Retrieved from www.jime.open.ac.uk/2004/3/clark-2004-3.pdf
  10. Anderson, T., & Whitelock, D. (2004).
  11. Ohler, J. (2008).
  12. Ohler (2008), paraphrased in Morris, R. D. (2010). Web 3.0: Implications for on-line learning. TechTrends: Linking Research and Practice to Improve Learning 55(1), 42-46.
  13. Ohler, J. (2008)
  14. Clark, K., Parsai, B. & Hendler, J. (2004)
  15. Koper, R. (2004)
  16. Yu, L. (2007). Introdction to the Semantic Web and Semantic Web Services. Boca Raton: Chapman & Hall/CRC. Chapter 5
  17. Yu, L. (2007). Chapter 3
  18. Clark, K., Parsia, B., & Hendler, J. (2004).
  19. Rapoza, J. (2006). SPARQL will make the Web shine. eWeek.com Retrieved on June 30th, 2011 from http://www.eweek.com/c/a/Application-Development/SPARQL-Will-Make-the-Web-Shine.
  20. World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). (2008 January 15). W3C opens data on the Web with SPARQL [Press release]. Retrieve on June 30th, 2011 from http://www.w3.org/2007/12/sparql-pressrelease
  21. Thompson, H. S. (2010). What is a URI and why does it matter? Retrieved on June 30th, 2011 from http://www.ltg.ed.ac.uk/~ht/WhatAreURIs
  22. Yu, L. (2007). Chapter 3
  23. Koper, R. (2004).