I’ve been reading a range of articles about the next generation internet, or the semantic web as it is called by those in the trade.
Semantic is a method of looking for the meaning and relationships between things, and the semantic web effectively moves us away from files and downloads to databases and integration. In practice, this means that rather than going on to the internet to pull things out and push emails and files around, the internet continually monitors you and your tastes and finds things to push at you which match your electronic lifestyle. In other words, it makes everything online much more relevant to you as an individual, and moves us away from having to search because the semantic web will find for you.
Take the way we use Google today. When you go into Google and search, it is very rare that you find what you want straight away. In fact, you often have to crawl through screen after screen, and change searches three or four times to even come close.
The semantic web overcomes these difficulties because you will not have to search. The semantic web knows you and finds for you. It knows you work for a bank or technology firm, and therefore knows that when you say ‘payments’ you mean it in a professional sense, not a generic sense. Therefore it senses the most relevant things to the way you search and your profile of usual interests.
Similarly, today’s Google-based internet does not realise that when you say ‘card payments’ you actually meant ‘trends in credit and debit card technologies and strategies’, and so you end up with 100’s of results of retail stores that accept credit card payments. Tomorrow’s web will know exactly who you are and what you’re looking for because it knows you.
How does it know you?
By linking all the information about your digital fingerprint with the database of the global worldwide web. A global web that interprets the meaning of things and has all of it held as metadata, descriptive information, in its database. The architects of this new web are already referring to this as a ‘Global Brain’. In other words it turns the internet from raw data into knowledge. It takes knowledge management as we think of it internally within our corporations, and throws it out to the over six billion people on this planet to share.
What does this mean for banking?
Well, you can get a sense from this description on the homepage of the W3C Semantic Web’s website:
“I can see my bank statements on the internet, my photographs and I can see my appointments in my calendar. But can I see my photos in my calendar to see what I was doing when I took them? Can I see a bank statement in my calendar?
“Why not? Because we don’t have a web of data. Because data is controlled by applications, and each application keeps it to itself.”
This is what the semantic web will overcome.
The future web will be one where you can create a domain of knowledge around banking, and plug-and-play that domain knowledge into an insurance domain, into an investments domain, into a holiday domain, into a buying cars domain … into any domain you want. Each time you create something, it is shared, networked and integrated into the global human brain of metadata in the semantic web’s database.
Just as we all found the first generation internet scary with fears over illicit materials and cybercrime, we will find the next generation just as scary as the internet becomes a conversational web of systems and applications rather than people.
Just as we are getting to grips with social web of Facebook and Second Life, the social web moves from humans to applications that continually talk with each other.
And when does all of this start?