Tag Archives: Web 3.0

Web 2.0: Don’t shoot the messenger

All human life can be found on the web. Content found online will range from liberating to offensive. Some will be copper-bottomed truth, some will be rumour, and there will be a fair amount of LOLcats in between.

Social media sites and search engines accelerate and facilitate the sharing of content. Crucially, this content is not created by the host but by the user: ladies and gents, the much heralded Web 2.0.

So it’s problematic when governments and individuals ask intermediaries — internet service providers (ISPs) and content providers — to remove certain content they are hosting. In India, Twitter said this week it is “co-operating” with the government after the prime minister’s office complained to the website about six accounts that parody PM Manmohan Singh. The ministry of telecommunications has since requested ISPs block the accounts.

Coincidentally on Wednesday the US called on India to respect internet freedom, responding to arecent clampdown on social media websites India blames for adding to tensions between Muslim and northeastern communities in Assam. Under government pressure, Facebook pledged to remove content, block pages or even disable accounts of users who upload content that incites violence or perpetuate hate speech.

These cases highlight the Indian approach of taking “sensitive” content up directly with internet intermediaries while also blocking sites directly via their ISP. Failure to comply could land companies with fines or possible jail time as part of 2011 guidelines under which Internet companies are expected to remove content that regulators deem “grossly harmful” “harassing” or “ethnically objectionable” within 36 hours.

This week it happened to be India caught in the fray, but this is a global situation. The case of Thai webmaster Chiranuch Premchaiporn originally facing 20 years in prison on 10 counts of lèse majesté shows how making intermediaries liable takes us into shoot the messenger territory. In May Premchaiporn was convicted by the Bangkok Criminal court and sentenced to a fine and a suspended eight month prison term for failing to act quickly enough to remove user comments that were defamatory of the Thai monarchy.

Ex-Formula 1 boss Max Mosley’s claim that the “really dangerous thing are the search engines” misunderstands entirely the function of search engines. They are not publishers. But Mosley, who sued the now-defunct News of the World in 2008 for breach of privacy — told the Leveson Inquiry into press standards last November he was pursuing litigation action in 22 countries and suing Google in France and Germany. He added he was considering bringing proceedings against the search engine in California in an attempt to remove certain search results.

If a platform is hosting illegal content or the content is not complying with the platform’s specific terms of reference, it is to be expected that intermediaries would work with government authorities to remove it. Companies such as Google and Twitter have gone to lengths to be transparent about takedown requests. In January, Twitter adopted a new policy of censoring tweets that could violate local laws (the first government to publicly endorse this was, coincidentally, Thailand, not exactly a stranger to censorship). While there was some backlash, it seems that the microblogging site was simply making the best out of a bad situation.

Besides missing the point by not identifying the content’s source, clamping down on intermediaries leads to their erring on the side of caution to limit their liability. Ergo, greater self-censorship: In astudy published last year, the Bangalore Centre for Internet and Society sent “legally-flawed” takedown notices to seven intermediaries. Six of them “over-complied” with the notices.

Then there is the impracticality of all this. Over 72 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. Twitter saw a 182 per cent increase in the number of mobile users from March 2010 to March 2011. In 2010, the average number of tweets people sent per day was 50 million; a year later it was 140 million. Last year, 200 million users were added to Facebook. With these numbers, it is questionable whether these corporations have the manpower — from lawyers to engineers — to regularly sift through all of their content (hat tip to Vladimir Radunovic at DiploFoundation for these stats).

We won’t get to Web 3.0 if intermediaries were to pre-screen content so as not to be held liable for it under sweeping terms. The internet would no longer be a rich and innovative space, and governments and individuals would be achieving little more than shooting the messenger.

source:http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2012/08/internet-intermediary-liability/

Web 3.0: The Mobile Era

The highest flying of internet high-flyers, Facebook and Zynga, were laid low last week in public markets on weaker than expected guidance on their paths forward. What a difference public market scrutiny and forward-looking forecasts can make. Given the size, scope and importance of these two companies to the broader technology ecosystem, it’s worth analyzing what these reports might mean for industry trends.

According to Wall Street analysts, Zynga had a “dreadful” Q2 report. Several negatives converged to deliver an egg, reported the New York Times:

“A critical new game, the Ville, was delayed. Another new game, Mafia Wars II, just was not very good, executives conceded. The heavily hyped Draw Something, acquired in March, proved more fad than enduring classic. Some old standbys also lost some appeal.”

Zynga’s problems, however, could be characterized as broader than just a weak quarter. Financial analyst, Richard Greenfield of BTIG painted Zynga’s issues as more far-reaching, saying, “Right now, everything is going wrong for Zynga. In a rapidly changing Internet landscape that is moving to mobile, it’s very hard to have confidence these issues are temporary.”

Things weren’t much better for Facebook, which was reporting its earnings to the public for the first time. Given the symbiotic partnership between Zynga and Facebook, anyone paying attention knew Zynga’s weak results spelled trouble for Facebook. And as expected, Wall Street found Facebook’s earnings disappointing.

In coverage, three key themes of concern arose out of Facebook’s report. First, user growth is slowing. This is undeniably true: the growth of two key user metrics, Daily Active Users (DAU) and Monthly Active Users (MAU), is slowing. It’s unclear whether this is a useful concern. If the entire Western world is using Facebook, then Facebook probably is not going to showcase much growth in DAU or MAU until it cracks China. The land has been grabbed.

A second growth concern is revenue. Can Facebook convert all its social engagement into monetization? Facebook clearly has more to prove, but it’s a strong start. With a topline of $1.2B for Q2, Facebook beat analyst estimates on revenue. Its 32% Q2 revenue growth was equal to its year-over-year growth in DAUs. This revenue growth map to its DAU growth is where concern centers. On the one hand, having revenue growth equal to DAU growth shows that on a per-user basis, Facebook is monetizing effectively. At the same time, if DAU growth continues to slow, as it inevitably will, the question will be how Facebook can continue to grow it’s topline faster than DAU growth. The answer is not yet clear. Expect much hand-wringing here around the answer to this question.

These concerns around growth and revenue point to the third and most significant concern around Facebook (and Zynga): MOBILE. While we’ve known that mobile is the fastest growing technology wave the world has ever seen, it’s been a challenge to frame truly how important, impactful, and disruptive the mobile wave is. Last week’s reports from Zynga and Facebook make crystal clear the implications of mobile—two leading innovators and upstarts that basically created and drove the social computing wave are facing questions about their future earning streams on the basis of their execution on mobile.

So the broader story of what’s happening in technology is this: Mobile is what’s happening.  Here’s one shorthand framework for the technology waves over the last roughly 20 years.  Web 1.0 was about web connectivity, the giants of that epoch catalyzed by Netscape were companies like AOL, Yahoo, and Google. Web 2.0 was social, with Facebook, LinkedIn, Zynga, Twitter, and newcomer Quora as the foundational creators of the web’s ‘social layer.’  The power and impact of the social layer is difficult to overstate—existing industries and corporate giants (to say nothing of several repressive governmental regimes) have faced huge disruption on the basis of these companies.

Now we’re entering Web 3.0, which is mobile, and we are in the thick of it.  The Mobile Web 3.0 has elements that build upon prior eras, but it also has several distinct and different elements from what’s come before.  Some of these distinct elements of the Mobile Web 3.0 era include:

  • real-time
  • ubiquitous (always connected, always with you)
  • location aware
  • sensors
  • tailored, smaller screen
  • high quality camera and audio

These elements have two key implications for today’s leaders and tomorrow’s disrupters.

Let’s Get Small: Designing for Mobile First.

The tailored, smaller screens of the Mobile Web offer new entrants the opportunity to deliver value and experience that differentiates from the existing leaders. Most leading tech companies today, with the exception of Instagram, were created with a PC web-first approach. Designing and building for the PC-centric web services packed increasing amounts of information onto ever growing screen sizes. Take a look at Facebook on your computer’s browser—it’s like a Bloomberg terminal full of fun—birthdates, events, status updates, advertisements, chatting. It’s a cornucopia of information laid out all around the screen.

For any company whose heritage is designing for the PC web, mobile is a big challenge in getting small. Compress a PC-web experience down onto a smartphone screen doesn’t work all that well. You may get the users—Facebook certainly has—but it is easy to overwhelm a user with an experience that packs in too much information into too small a screen size.

The challenge of mobile offers new entrants focused on a mobile-first strategy an opportunity to craft and tailor a user experience that is easier to use and enjoy on mobile. Instagram is the poster child example with its mobile-only, photo-centric social service. Rather than pack more information onto a mobile screen, for Instagram a picture was worth a thousand words (and a billion dollars). Instagram’s mobile-first, photo-sharing service created an alternative social network, and has since grown to over 80M users and its billion dollar acquisition by Facebook. Other mobile-first social services are following—Foursquare, Path, Foodspotting, Banjo, Pulse, and others—and each has an opportunity, through an approach that focuses on getting small to build a new audience and brand that stand out from the PC-web-based incumbents.

Getting Real: Mobile Will Drive MoreReal-World Commerce

Whether they’re a newer mobile-centric startup like a Path or an existing giant like Facebook, the key will be monetizing n a mobile world. Monetizing in mobile will likely evolve in new directions relative to what we’ve seen in the PC-web. Specifically: monetizing in Mobile is about getting even more real and concrete in the value delivered to customers.

Here’s why. In Web 1.0, Google achieved supernova momentum when it introduced its Cost-Per-Click ad model. With a dominatingly high quality search engine for users, Google gained share on search, and in effect knew what people were interested in. This was a break-through for advertisers in terms of measurability. Advertisers could escape the Mad Men world of spending on TV, print, OOH, and banner ads with their fuzzy efficacy and measurability. With Google, advertisers now could place ads in front of people searching on relevant terms. A huge step in terms of measurability, Google’s model had the added benefit of only charging when a user clicked on a specific ad. All combined to deliver a vastly more measurable and as such valuable approach to spending ad dollars.

Web 2.0 ushered in the social wave. Facebook now is showing ads of stuff we might like based on the interests we’ve indicated or based on referrals from friends. This embraces and extends much of the Google model, but provides potentially even more. Facebook knows what we like day to day (Graf Ice Skates, Breaking Bad, Crossfit for me), and what our friends like. Add to this the tremendously detailed demographic data that its users have willingly provided, and the opportunities for advertisers are pretty profound. While Facebook will continue to optimize its appraoch to ads, there should be little question that its current core business of ads is going to continue to grow.

With Mobile Web 3.0, the user experience opens the door for another level of innovation in advertising and promotion. Now technology services have the ability to leverage not just the social graph data from Facebook, but even more real-time / real-world information. Your current location, weather, traffic, local merchants other friends nearby, how often you’ve been to this specific store or location are available (or will be soon). And this in turn provides a whole new level of commerce opportunities for potential advertisers. Mobile brings advertisers and users closer to being able to close a transaction. It’s real-world commerce. Which leads to the question: Why pay for a click when you can get an actual customer? That’s the promise of mobile for advertisers, brands and merchants. The opportunity is huge: both in pure dollar size opportunity and for disruption. The internet advertising models of selling clicks to advertisers will need to evolve.

A few companies to watch in this new world are Waze, ShopKick and Foodspotting, to name just a few. Waze, the social mapping and GPS service, provides free turn-by-turn directions with real-time traffic information and routing to over 20m users. With users depending on Waze to help them find the fastest and least congested routes, Waze now shows offers for the cheapest gas prices along the way. Real value for users translates to real commerce for merchants.

ShopKick is a mobile app that gamifies retail shopping. Users who open ShopKick gain rewards for different tasks or quests they complete on ShopKick. What ShopKick is starting to show retailers is that ShopKick tend to spend more money when they’re in store, because of the interaction and engagement the ShopKick app can drive while the user is at the point of purchase. Again, real value for users leads to real commerce for merchants.

Open Foodspotting, a visual guide to what’s interesting to eat near you, and the app will locate where you are and show you pictures of the best food at restaurants nearby. Over 2m dishes have been submitted to Foodspotting at over half a million restaurants in the US alone. Users can express that they love certain restaurants and dishes. As it has grown its community, Foodspotting can now approach restaurants with promotional offerings for people who are nearby right now, who are fans of their type of food. Real value for users, real commerce for merchants.

So Mobile Web 3.0 is super exciting. But a word of caution: delivering value and driving monetization in the Mobile Web 3.0 era is hard. The answer will not be for web-first properties to scrunch their ad platforms onto mobile. Monetization via mobile advertising will require offerings that do more to close the loop of commerce. Advertisers increasingly will ask of mobile: why buy a click when what I want is a paying customer or user? The services with the best offers here will be big winners in this Mobile Web 3.0.

source:http://techcrunch.com/2012/08/11/analysis-web-3-0-the-mobile-era/

Meta Tags and Web 3.0

In 2008, Google spidered its trillionth web page. That sounds impressive, but as LISNews, the Librarian And Information Science News, recently pointed out that figure represents but a tiny fraction of the information on the web. How so, you ask? Well, think of all those ecommerce databases, library catalogs, transport system fares and timetables… There are billions of pages that are only ever revealed to individual users when they access them with particular information requests. These pages are effectively invisible to search engine spiders and as such as known as the invisible web.

There have been search engines created that are capable of trawling catalogs by simulating user searches, but these only scrape the surface. Google itself recognizes the problem and has repeatedly announced efforts to reveal the invisible. But, as yet, there is no search engine that can answer a question, such as, “what’s the best and most inexpensive way to get me from an hotel near Mornington Crescent tube station in London to Los Angeles International Airport with a stop off in New York City?

Of course, such questions could have myriad answers and maybe there never will be a way to uncover enough of the invisible web without the intervention of expert human intermediaries, such as travel agents well versed in the London Underground and American Airlines flight paths and timetables.

However, you may have heard the notion of web 3.0 being bandied about during the last year or more. Web 1.0, was of course, the static flat web of hyperlinks and no interaction. Web 2.0 (ignoring the glossy mirrored logos and missing vowels [flickr etc]) is what we currently have. It’s the interactive web of comments on blogs, social bookmarking sites like del.icio.us, social networking sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook, microblogging (Plurk, Twitter, and the late Pownce), and all kinds of tools that converted the static flatland of html into the scrubbed dynamic web we all know and love(?) today.

Web 3.0 takes all this a step further adding machine-readable meaning to the packets of information. It is thus known to the technically minded as the semantic web. Once it is manifest the semantic web will take us to within a gnat’s whisker of that utopia in which you have the exact change for a trip from Mornington Crescent to LAX via JFK.

Before we get there though, there is the not-so-simple matter of enabling meaning within information sources. This concept brings us full circle to the early days of web design when every tool stressed the importance of meta tags. Meta tags were meant to provide the fledgling search engines way back in the 1990s with the means to extract significance and context – meaning in other words – from web pages.

Almost as soon as the first spiders read those meta tags, which may have included keywords, a description, and the name of the page author, and more, the so-called black hats of the search engine optimization (SEO) world began to game the system. They would stuff keywords into their sites’ meta tags that may or not have been related to the actual content of the site. The aim was to fool the search engines into ranking the site highly for particular keywords and so gain more traffic through this spammy technique than the site was naturally due.

Then, once the search engines recognized what was happening they deprecated the relevance of meta tags in the algorithms they used to generate the search engine results pages (SERPs). As such, meta tags have fallen out of favor. They still have relevance in a few of the simpler and less well-known search engines and they are often used to display key text in the SERPs. This means that it is not only black hats who have abandoned meta tags to some degree, but generalist webmasters often ignore their latent potency and simply do not include them in the pages they publish.

This could be a major blow to the emergence of the semantic web, the advent of web 3.0. Websites need their meta data, they need to be able to explain themselves to machines in an understandable way. Badawia Albassuny at the Department of Library and Information Science, King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, certainly recognizes this. She has recently surveyed the automatic metadata generation applications on the web, with a view to raising awareness of the possibilities.

If you use WordPress and other blogging tools and content management systems (CMS) you may have plugins installed that automatically add meta tags. If you use the Zemanta system and have customized your settings you may also have noticed that it has a built in system for adding semantics to links you include in your posts. I discussed Zemanta in a little more detail in a post entitled Free Blog Content recently.

source: http://www.sciencetext.com/meta-tags.html

W3C: HTML5 Spec Due in 2014

The World Wide Web Consortium has reset its timeline for the delivery of HTML5 to see a final version of the specification in 2014.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has established a more defined timeline for the HTML5 specification, shooting for May 2011 as the last call date and a final full spec by 2014.

The W3C extended the charter of the HTML Working Group with clear milestones for HTML5, the cornerstone of W3C’s Open Web Platform for application development. Coming in May 2014, the "Last Call" phase of the HTML5 spec proffers an invitation to communities inside and outside the W3C to confirm the technical soundness of the specification. The group will then shift focus to gathering implementation experience. The W3C is developing a comprehensive test suite to achieve broad interoperability for the full specification by 2014, the target date for Recommendation, the W3C said in a press release.

The 2014 time frame is significant because the W3C has had different targets for the HTML5 spec, including not seeing the final specification until 2022.

"Even as innovation continues, advancing HTML5 to Recommendation provides the entire Web ecosystem with a stable, tested, interoperable standard," Jeff Jaffe, W3C CEO, said in a statement. "The decision to schedule the HTML5 Last Call for May 2011 was an important step in setting industry expectations. Today we take the next step, announcing 2014 as the target for Recommendation."

Although W3C officials have warned developers not to adopt the HTML5 capabilities prematurely, the standards body also is encouraging developers to implement HTML5 where appropriate. For example, the Apple iPad supports HTML5 and Apple even recently redesigned its homepage using HTML5 technologies. Microsoft also is betting heavily on HTML5 in its Internet Explorer 9 (IE9) browser technology

By setting a date for HTML5 standardization, the W3C will ensure broad interoperability of the emerging Web technologies over a variety of platforms—from mobile browsers to Web on TV, W3C officials said.

The W3C said there are more than 50 organizations participating in the HTML Working Group, all committed to royalty-free licensing under the W3C Patent Policy. There are more than 400 individuals from all over the world in the group, including designers, content authors, accessibility experts, and representatives from browser vendors, authoring tool vendors, telecoms, equipment manufacturers and other IT companies.

Meanwhile, as the audience for the Web platform continues to grow, so does the need for interoperability among the many technologies of W3C’s Open Web Platform, including HTML5, CSS, SVG, WOFF, various APIs and more. Nearly all of these technologies are already in use, at varying degrees of maturity and implementation.

Additionally, because HTML5 anchors the Open Web Platform, the W3C has started work on a test suite to ensure high levels of interoperability. The W3C invites test suite contributions from the community, which will enable software implementers to fulfill the W3C’s implementation criteria and make it easier to create content and applications. The testing effort will play an important role in the timely completion of the standard.

As part of developing IE9, which is in a "release candidate" phase, Microsoft submitted thousands of tests to the W3C and other standards groups. In a Feb. 10 blog post, Dean Hachamovitch, corporate vice president for Internet Explorer at Microsoft, said:

"Implementing Web standards is just the start of our commitment to an interoperable Web and Same Markup. Comprehensive test suites developed through the standards bodies are crucial to making sure that browser vendors implement these standards consistently. With this Release Candidate we’ve added over a thousand new test cases for JavaScript and updated over fifty test cases based on community feedback. During IE9 development we have now submitted just under 4000 test cases in total for standards like HTML5. We have submitted these tests to the appropriate standards bodies for feedback and eventual inclusion in their official test suites. You can try them out for yourself at the IE Test Center."

Also, according to the W3C, stable standards play an important role in the broad deployment of technology. As reference points, they make it easier for large numbers of independent implementers to achieve interoperability across diverse platforms, devices and industries. This is particularly important in the rich ecosystem of HTML producers and consumers, which includes authoring tools, browsers, e-mail clients, security applications, content management systems, tools to analyze or convert content, assistive technologies, and unanticipated applications. Stable standards with community support give developers and implementers confidence that what they build today will continue to work in the future, the W3C said.

Meanwhile, as part of the mission of the W3C HTML Working Group to continue the evolution of HTML, W3C Director Tim Berners-Lee also encourages the group to begin discussion of requirements for future versions of HTML.

Source: http://www.eweek.com/c/a/Application-Development/W3C-HTML5-Spec-Due-in-2014-108529/

Social Networking and Web 3.0 – Part 1

 

‘If Facebook was a country, it will be fourth largest in the world’. Such is the volume and usage of social networking sites among organizations. While some companies use Linkedin to find prospective employees,
others use Twitter or other social network to capture new customers. The potentials of social networks have become clear to companies, and thus is the adoption of multiple social networks by organizations for purposes ranging from collaboration to promotion of their brands. Here, we take a look at some of the upcoming trends and technologies in social networking, and how is Web 3.0 going to change the landscape.

While it’s hard to predict what the future of Web would look like, one thing is apparent. Today you don’t need a PC or a laptop to browse Web. Browsers have reached almost everywhere -right from mobile devices to gaming consoles (Wii and PS3) to even television. Even in places where there is no browser (as yet) such as Xbox360, Twitter and Facebook have already made their way to. New firmware of PS3 also as Facebook. Social networking vendors are making sure that you can access them from where you are, without needing a computing device.

Everything mobile
One of the key reasons why microblogging got so popular so quickly has been that, the vendors in the space have targeted mobile users since beginning. They realized that, for a person to fully utilize the power of social networking, he should be able to update his microblogs from anywhere and at anytime. Even today majority of Twitter usage comes from mobile devices.With social networks leveraging mobile devices more and more, location based social networking is also gaining momentum. In a research done last year by ABI Research, location based social networking is expected to be a $3.3 billion market by 2013.

Twitter would be launching geo-tweets very soon, which will allow users to embed their location with their tweets. Similarly a company called PhotoWALL displays real-time media streams (or WALLs) by presenting live
media precisely when it happens. It allows mobile users to send live photos along with various geo-tags and VoiceTags to an attractive searchable website for public, network or private viewing. It also enables simultaneous live uploading of mobile media to Facebook, Flickr and Twitter. Location based social networking also opens a whole new range of possibilities such as location based advertising, finding like-minded people who are near to you, recommending places to friends, finding reviews what people around you have to say about a particular place or product, etc.

Social TV
Television is mostly enjoyed to its fullest, when it’s watched with friends and family. And one can’t always be around friends or like minded people to fully enjoy a show or game. But now things are starting to change, TV is not only going interactive but is also getting social. There are quite a few models starting to come in this area. Orange has tied up with Twitter to improve Twitter experience for its mobile, Internet and TV users. As part of the deal, Twitter will be integrated into Orange’s IPTV platform and Twitter feeds will run alongside programs to create an interactive environment. Another approach that is coming up is in the form of Social TV widgets or just TV widgets. Verizon’s FiOS TV already provides Facebook and Twitter widgets to its subscribers. Also earlier this year, Yahoo! tied with Samsung, Sony, LG and Vizio to provide TV widgets for their televisions sets, popularly known as Yahoo connected TV. Similarly there are companies who are offering software that bring social networking to set top boxes.

A slightly different example is Clikthrough (www.clikthrough.com), which makes watching videos online even more interactive. Videos hosted on the website have ‘hotspots’; if someone clicks on the hotspots, they can view information like comments made by others about that video, products used in the video, people present in the video, etc. You can even add the product in your wishlist.

Source: http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/2535433/social_

networking_and_web_30.html?cat=15

VIDEO Using Web 3.0 Technology to Share Stories that can Change the World

 

by Caty Borum Chattoo, The Huffington Post

Ten years ago, global leaders came together to create one of the most revolutionary pacts for well, saving the world, essentially — in modern times.

In September 2000, the United Nations created and signed the Millennium Declaration, a very public announcement of the notion that — at the threshold of the new century — the leaders of prosperous nations and developing nations alike, according to the statement, "have a collective responsibility to uphold the principles of human dignity, equality and equity at the global level. As leaders we have a duty therefore to all the world’s people, especially the most vulnerable and, in particular, the children of the world, to whom the future belongs."

As superstar global activist Bono writes in The New York Times ,"it wasn’t a promise of rich nations to poor ones; it was a pact, a partnership, in which each side would meet obligations to its own citizens and to one another."

"Obligations to its own citizens and to one another" — obligations of the highest moral (and economic) imperative — to end global poverty and work to systematically dismantle the institutional forces that fuel its perpetual cycle. And, for us — the citizens of the world — an obligation to keep our elected leaders accountable to their unique responsibilities for meeting these goals.

Back in 2000, global leaders made the commitment with the firm idea that it would be imminently, urgently possible to reach (by 2015) the stated Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) established by the agreement. In the month of the declaration’s ten-year birthday, the world — the post-9/11, Iraq War, global recession, economic-turmoil world — is a different place.

But incredibly, progress is being made, according to the United Nations’ new report — progress that includes "big gains in cutting the rate of extreme poverty, getting children into primary schools, addressing AIDS, malaria and child health, and a good chance to reach the target for access to clean drinking water." The work of thousands of NGOs, individuals, world leaders, is paying off, despite the unforeseen challenges of the decade.

With this momentum chugging along, and yet with so much progress yet to be made, what can the rest of us do to help advance this mission? Once we take the five minutes or so to get past the jargon-y language of "MDGs," how can we understand the real stories about impacting lives in countries we may never inhabit or even visit? And will our understanding help us to incrementally add to this ripple of social change?

As a true believer in the power of media images and storytelling to create social change, I have some partial answers to share — in the form of a new Web project from the innovative U.S.-based independent broadcaster, Link TV. Link TV and its group of socially-minded programmers, executives and creative smarties, are harnessing the best of the next phase of the Web — the semantic Web — to create a global-aid portal that combines "the video-sharing power of YouTube with the open information of Wikipedia and the mission of your favorite advocacy Web… Using the latest search and engagement tools, we are harnessing the power of storytelling to change the world," according to Link TV’s president.

The new site, ViewChange.org, showcases incredible stories from around the globe that illustrate – in real, living, breathing, concrete ways – the stories of Millennium Development Goals being met on a daily, incremental basis. The portal, which was created by Link with support from the Gates Foundation, is not set to launch with its fullest technological power until November 2010 (you can check out the public beta site now, though), but Link has already started gathering short films that showcase tangible examples of the Millennium Declaration at work.

The early launch pad for the ViewChange project, the ViewChange Film Contest, showcases incredible stories from around the world — thoughtful stories, joyful stories, stories that build awareness and inspire action. (Check out this week’s announcement about the film contest finalists from TedXChange, an event that commemorates the 10th anniversary of the Millennium Development Goals.) These are stories that illustrate real people making change toward the Millennium Development Goals on a daily basis — people working on the change and people impacted by the change. They include stories like the Feminine Training Center, which is transforming the lives of women and girls in Haiti; a new loan system in Kenya that’s allowing farmers to be self-sustaining and economically independent; the fight for maternal health in Sierra Leone, and on and on.

But here’s where the magic really happens: When the ViewChange portal is up and running in a few months, with its maximum backend power and search functionality, users will be able to search for "access to clean drinking water," for example, and pull up the most directly-relevant white papers, action campaigns with ways to get involved, background resources — and of course, real stories in videos — to explain the issue and what’s being done about it. It’s a dazzling example of how digital media engineers are creatively leveraging the next phase of Web-based media toward the mission of social change, with real stories at the centerpiece. It’s a vital public awareness tool, and it can become an incredibly powerful agent for change on Capitol Hill and other places where leaders come together to decide on domestic and global agendas.

By sharing and supporting these stories, not only with our friends and family members, but with our elected officials and leaders, we can help — to use a terribly-overused-but-beloved phrase — "be the change we want to see in the world." Of course there is more to be done and more to learn on scales much larger than this one, but this is one way we can be part of answering the call to care for our global neighbors. We have five more years to make good on the specific Millennium Declaration promise, but we have a lifetime to care for our fellow citizens of the world. Watch, connect, spread the information, and speak up.

Web 3.0 Brings a New Wave of Startup Opportunities

 

by Marty Zwilling, The Huffington Post

What if your Google search for "Paris Hilton" listed your top result as the Hilton Hotel in Paris, because it knew your interests were not in the other direction? This is the current dream of Tim Berners-Lee, the man who invented the (first) World Wide Web.

He calls his dream "Web 3.0" or the "Semantic Web," meaning it understands user context. He and many other experts believe that the Web 3.0 browser will act more like a personal assistant than a search engine. As you search the Web, the browser records your interests in your local storage. The more you use the Web, the more your browser learns about you, and the more relevant will be your results.

Current advertising and public relations startups are already thinking along these lines in fields all the way from clothes shopping, art galleries, online advertising, to managing press releases. In some ways, these aren’t that different from the old Amazon.com "recommendation engine," which suggests new products based on your surfing and buying habits, but they go much further.

Someday you will be able to ask your browser open questions like "Where should I take my wife for a good movie and dinner?" Your browser would consult its intelligence of what you and she like and dislike, take into account your current location, and then suggest the right movies and restaurants. If you are the first to deliver this, your startup can be the next Google success!

But some are skeptical about whether the Semantic Web — or at least, Berners-Lee’s view of it — will actually take hold. They reference other technologies also trying to reinvent the online world as we know it, from 3D virtual worlds to intelligent avatars. Web 3.0 could mean many things, and most of the possibilities have not yet been invented.

The Semantic Web isn’t really even a new idea. This notion of a Web where machines can better read, understand, and process all the data floating through cyberspace first surfaced in 2001, when a story appeared in Scientific American. This article describes a brave new world where software "agents" lead the way in performing Web-based tasks that elude most humans.

A current example is the GetGlue from AdaptiveBlue. If you visit a movie blog, and read about a particular film, it immediately links to sites where you can buy or rent that film. Another example is WolframAlpha, an amazing computational engine that went live recently, which creates intelligent results, graphs, and reports from any natural language question.

But we are a long way from agents that can do full natural language processing and think on their own (artificial intelligence). A recent startup, Alitora Systems, provides software to enterprises based on a natural language processing (NLP) engine.

It builds knowledge statements from unstructured media files — that’s a particular challenge for the life sciences where high-value knowledge about many things, such as the relationship between genetics and disease, lies hidden within journal articles, research papers, clinical trial data, FDA websites, and even graphical data.

But extracting information from even less structured data such as Twitter feeds is a very different and sometimes more difficult knowledge extraction problem. The objective is the same; assimilating unstructured data, giving it some robust analysis, and offering the extracted knowledge across a collaborative network.

Just think of the fertile ground all this opens for startups! If you’re looking for that "million dollar idea" to build a plan around, here is your chance. But don’t wait too long, because the din for Web 3.0 is getting louder and louder. Catch the wave soon or it will pass you by!