24 December, 2008

RSS. A Web 3.0 Driver

In ten years RSS and its related technologies will be seen as the single most important internet technology since Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau created the World Wide Web at CERN around 17 years ago.

Real Simple Syndication is crucial to the development of the new web because it’s just that, really simple. Anyone with a Wordpress account or a tiny bit of coding knowledge can generate an extensible, standards based database of information that can be transferred to almost any other modern web site.

If Web 3.0 is the Semantic Web, where computer agents read content like human beings do — then RSS will be its eyes (or at least its corrective lenses). Already, entire business models are being created around aggregating meta-data. Netvibes allows you to create your own personal homepage, drawing much of its content from RSS feeds that you select. iGoogle does the exact same thing, and a host of others are jumping on the concept that the easiest way to give users relevant content is to give them the ability to define relevance for themselves.

In this future, RSS will be extended to include a host of data-points it currently does not. Each blog post (or microblogging feed), every picture, every video clip will have searchable, taggable, XML based syndication around it.

But wait, there is more.

People Search

The web as a database means that your online persona is apt to become an entry in it. If you look at technologies like FOAF you will see what I mean. FOAF is a project founded by Libby Miller and Dan Brickley. You can think of it as RSS but for Social Networks. It takes common profile data and puts it into a form that makes it cross-compatible with other social networks. Once Search Engines are properly able to manage meta-data like RSS, FOAF and the half-dozen other protocols out there and present it more intuitively the concept of a truly universal internet is well without our grasp.

Defining Context

Finally, RSS enables users to define their own contexts for information. Imagine a word where creating a mashup between Google maps and your Twitter account was no more difficult than sticking a few widgets together. This type of widgetizing of the web is not too far off, already Yahoo has a mashup creator — Yahoo Pipes that lets you do just this. Web 3.0’s real power will be in the ability to create data and transfer it effectively, even now we are well on our way.