Across the globe, half a billion people have a Facebook account and that figure is rapidly growing. That’s equivalent to the third largest country in the world after China and India! So what makes the social web different? The social web is about you, the ‘internet of one’. ‘Social is becoming the dominant fabric of the web’ (Peter Styles, Red Bubbles). In Australia 2.3 million people have created a blog and 7.1 million have read one. 84% of all Australian internet users have shared information like a photograph (Nick Holmes a Court, Buzz Numbers).
Of particular interest to us spatial folks is that 43% of Australia’s mobile phone owners have smart phones and over the last twelve months have started to use their phones in smart ways. For example, in 2008, 30% used them to get maps, whereas 55% did in 2009! And 60% of people are intending to buy an iPhone as their next device.
Several presentations presented case-studies on how enterprises utilised social media. Sandy Carter from IBM talked through how IBM use blogs and twitter to listen and capture consumer demand and feedback. IBM also use web games to get their story out to customers and Second Life to host marketing events. Fascinatingly, they had as many people attend virtual events in Second Life as they did real events and achieved the same level of commitment to purchase products and services from both.
The challenge for government and companies like Spatial Vision is to work out how important this is to our business and how we will participate in it. Well, not just participate but contribute. Whereas Government 2.0 is about ‘engaging’ the community through better access to public sector information and listening to their needs, the private sector spatial industry should consider the equivalent - how can we better find and serve customers, both new and existing. Interestingly, half the conference audience were people from government looking for ways to make good on the promise of Government 2.0, and the other half from the private sector. Also, the audience were predominately ‘marketeers’ and significantly, the majority were women. This conference was about implementing communication strategies and not about the technology.
What about Web 3.0? If you look up Web 3.0 in Wikipedia you will get a blurb about the Semantic web (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semantic_Web). Many speakers said the semantic web was important but no one really explained it. I think the more profound statement was the speaker who said, we won’t know what Web 3.0 is, until it arrives! The semantic web may play a crucial role but Web 3.0 will be recognised as significant when we collectively realise that we can do things that we can’t easily do now.
There were some glimpses under the curtains at the future. The best analogy about the web was to consider it in evolutionary terms; we are currently in a primitive stage and barely starting to build intelligence. The snippets of forecasts that were particularly interesting related to the ‘web (or internet) of things’ where the web will potentially be able to identify, track and of course, locate, anything. This takes the concept of RFID tags to the nth degree. Objects could include any physical object which would have its own unique IP address.
We have probably all read about augmented reality, whereby you can point your phone at a building and see information about it or its history, perfect for emergency responders or tourists to get a better understanding of what is in front of them. Frightenly, one company ‘That Astonishing Tribe’ have applied the same approach to recognition of people’s faces. Point your iPhone at someone’s face and the application identifies you and trawls up information about you. Imagine all the possibilities for other people, government agencies, businesses or the internet itself, being able to identify you, your history and consumer preferences etc… (www.youtube.com/watch?v=tb0pMeg1UN0&feature=related)
No one at the conference nailed what Web 3.0 will be. Clearly there will be lots of pretenders saying that they have seen it but we will only know it when it arrives. In the meantime, there are more than enough challenges coming to grips with the social web and all the creative possibilities it enables.