by December 5, 2009 0 comments



‘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. It was launched in India last month with MSN
India and is available  http://msn.photowall.com. 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.

Web 3.0
Web 3.0 is always an interesting area. We talked about web 3.0 or the
semantic web quite a few times earlier.  Semantic web refers to the study of
meaning and web-study of interlinked documents accessed via the Internet. Web
pages are generally written in HTML,which describes the structure of information
i.e the syntax but not the semantics. But if the computers can understand the
meaning behind the information then this can help us in a better way with
information that we are looking for.  There are quite a few Web 3.0 applications
we have been exposed to already including the likes of Twine, Google Squared, Mozilla Ubiquity,
etc. Also many regard Google Wave as the start of Web 3.0 wave. Last month, W3C
declared OWL 2 as a official standard as part of its Semantic Web toolkit. This
standard will help users to capture information of any domain and then use
semantic tools to search, manage and drive more data from it.

HTML 5 and CSS 3
Some say that XHTML is dead or not used at all and HTML 5 is taking over the
market.  Again, there are speculations that  HTML 5 won’t completely be
supported until 2022. Does this mean that HTML 5 won’t be widely adopted in near
future. For a web designer, who wants to play with HTML 5 and CSS 3, take full
advantages and explore new features which would be beneficial; so they must know
the new ‘modules’ or the elements. Though CSS 3 and HTML 5 is still not
implemented fully, one way to implement them is to use a Modernizr. The current
browsers don’t support these new standards. Modernizr is a small, easy to use
and simple JavaScript Library that helps in taking the advantages of these new
technologies. Features like rgba(),border-radius, CSS transitions can be tested
for a particular browser using its own  feature detection technique.

Google, as they always keep on googling with the new technologies, has
recently launched Google Wave which uses HTML 5, in which they aim to control
the environment.

Safari also supports new elements of HTML 5 and API’s, and is also a Webkit
browser that supports HTML 5. The Palm Pre, iPhone 3Gs and the new Google
Android phone all have browsers that are based on the Webkit rendering engine
that fully make use of HTML 5.

CSS3 (Cascading Style Sheet 3) is one of the new member in the style sheet
family. CSS is basically used to describe the presentation semantics of a
document that may be written in HTML, XHTML, XML documents including SVG and XUL.
The development of CSS3 is split  into different ‘modules’. The old
specification was simply too large and complex to be updated as one. So it has
been broken down into smaller pieces — with new ones also added. Some of these
modules include; Box Model,  Lists Module and Hyperlink Presentation.  One of
the advantages CSS3 offers is its ability to handle multiple background images
per element. Another advantage is the use of separate stylesheet area which
provides an easier and comfortable HTML markup. The concept of differentiation
and isolation in CSS 3 helps users to have presentation separated from structure
so that for every heading in the HTML markup won’t get repeated and thus making
it a easy, simple presentation with a low level maintenance.

Shwetank Dixit,
Wev Evangelist, Opera Software

What new features/functionalities can be expected in
Web browsers, in future?
Browsers, of course, have a huge role to play in the future of web
applications. Browser is the most critical piece of software people use
everyday, and in the future, this would likely be even more so for even more
people.  Opera Unite allows your web browser to also function as a web
server. Which means you could host and run applications on it locally and
serve it to your friends.

Besides, there are various web standards and
technologies that browsers are going to support, or already are supporting,
which will give developers a chance to make really cool stuff, HTML5 for
instance. HTML5 also includes support for the "<canvas>" tag, which is a way
to make programmable and interactive graphics in a web page using just
JavaScript. Browser makers are also experimenting with Canvas3D and WebGL,
in order to bring 3D graphics on web pages. HTML5 also has offline storage,
which will make web applications run normally even when you are not
connected to the Internet for a while. You also have standards like the W3C
Geolocation API, which will let web apps to accurately find user’s location
(with explicit permission from the user).

This could be very interesting for location based
services in web apps. AJAX was an important component of web 2.0 apps, at
the heart of which lies a JavaScript function known was XMLHttpRequest. The
W3C is defining the next version, called XMLHttpRequest2, which may lead to
the next gen of AJAX based implementations on web applications.

How is web 3.0 likely to impact businesses?
It will most likely offer greater engagement with the user and the
chance to know the user better. Web applications might be made to be
constantly available to the user, no matter where the user is or what device
he is using. Businesses will see lots of convergence. Imagine you make an
application which the user accesses through this desktop at home, then on
his way to work on the bus, he accesses it through his mobile, and then at
work he opens up his laptop and your application is there with him. All his
data is synced across these devices through the cloud. The ability of the
user’s application available to him no matter what device he is using is a
powerful concept. Opera actually has something like this already, which is
called ‘Opera Link’ which lets users synchronize their bookmarks, history,
speed dial and notes between the desktop computer and mobile phone.

There is a technology being developed called ‘Activity
Streams’, which allows the publishing of data regarding what users are doing
in a particular application. This is already being adopted in Facebook,
Opera unite, etc. Imagine making a cross device application that is there
with the user at all times (whether he is using his mobile, or desktop, or
even TV), which (with the user’s permission) gets to know exactly where in
the world the user is (with geolocation), and what is he doing with your
application right now (with activity streams), in real time. This is
certainly something businesses would be interested in, and could build upon.

There has been a trend towards focussing on ‘semantic
web’ technologies, especially the concept of ‘linked data’. The idea being
that not just pages,  the actual data will also have an HTTP URI and those
could be linked to other similar pieces of data. In other words, creating a
web of not only linked pages, but also of linked data, in a structured
format describing meaning and relationships between those pieces of data.
There are already efforts underway to make use of this, and may be others
will catch on. For businesses it could help a lot. Yahoo for instance is
providing a vocabulary of relationships called ‘good relations’ which if
used by any e-Commerce site, will make sure that yahoo displays price and
offering details for items which are there in their e-Commerce site on
yahoo’s search results directly.

How do you see the role of artificial intelligence
in evolving Web 3.0?
It will not become intelligent on its own. It’s up to the application
developers to use the tools and standards at hand, and the users of the apps
to contribute in their own way to make it so. Also, AI in the traditional
sense that you see in fields such robotics etc. might not be there for a
while, but you will still see apps being more ‘intelligent’. I think the key
word here is ‘evolve’. Evolution takes time and builds on previous
advancements. Many of the new innovative apps might be using some Web 2.0
stuff, may be in a different way. For example, Wikipedia, one of the most
famous Web 2.0 apps, used user generated content to power it. People have
made ‘DBPedia’ in which they have made the effort to take this user
generated content from Wikipedia, and make a new repository of information
from it in a structured format, allowing users to make much more advanced
queries from it.  Also, because of structured linked semantic data, it might
be possible for machines and programs for process this more effectively
resulting in, for example, more advanced search queries with more relevant
search results.

Once again, it’s all up to what developers come up with
once they have all these standards, technologies and tools at their
disposal. I’m very excited about the future of the web.

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