Darren Waters

Sir Tim, the web and silos

  • Darren Waters
  • 22 Apr 09, 11:44 GMT

"Web 3.0 is Web 2.0 without the silos," Tim Berners-Lee has told the World Wide Web 2009 conference in Madrid.

My colleague Roberto Belo is live tweeting the event on his personal Twitter account here.

So what does Sir Tim mean when he talks about silos? Well, I guess he's referring to a web in which moving your data between sites and web applications is more of a hope than a reality.

From your photographs on Flickr, to your status updates on Facebook and the bespoke maps you've made using Google this kind of data remains, by and large, locked into the service you originally used.

There are solutions, such as Open Social and Facebook Connect, which let you share some data across sites.

But these remain silos - they may well be welcoming people to join with open arms but they remain partial answers because of the very fact Facebook Connect and Open Social do not talk to each other at a data level.

But this isn't just about "content", such as messages and photos, but also the underlying semantic data which underpins our activity online; data that should also be able to move freely around our web journeys.

Why is it not possible to take data from one website and have a completely different website understand what it is and know what to do with it?

For example, if I am using my online banking service and am entering details of a planned single payment in the future, why can't my online calendar read that data and automatically enter details of the transaction into my diary?

Right now this does not happen because the underlying architecture of the data does not yet exist on the web.

This so-called Semantic Web is only now being built and in order for it to succeed it must be open, Sir Tim has stressed.

He is supporting the Linked Data Open Movement, part of which is a set of agreed standards but also agreements around so called Uniform Resource Identifiers.

These URIs are a common standard which allow us to describe the world of things - from people to objects - in a way machines can understand and make use of.

Sir Tim told the conference: "We are at the beginning of a much bigger future. Build a platform for others that follow, do not assume what they will use it for"

Sir Tim also took questions at the conference and has once again expressed his opposition to ISPS using their role as a gateway to the web and the net, as a chance to mine commercial revenue from user activities while online.

"It's key that ISPs provides with clean connection to the web, no snooping, no discrimination; like a water company provides water."

For ISPs such as BT, Virgin and Talk Talk who are thinking of doing exactly that - the message is clear.


  • Comment number 1.

    it is bad enough trusting one organisation with data, would you really trust a number of them to talk to each other safely?

    I'm happier logging into internet banking every month to pay a bill, than i would be trusting a 3rd party calendar application to pay that bill for me.

    I do let twitter update my facebook of course, some things like this do make sense.

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 2.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 3.

    please note - the unsuitable/broken url was a link to my twitter feed.

    People will aways assume the worst when they see such things. I was not trying to encourage people to click on anything more nefarious than my own shameful attempts at self publicity.

  • Comment number 4.

    Somone should tell Sir Tim that UK MEPs are intent on including net discrimination clauses in the EU Universal Services Directive due for voting on May 5th. This will permit ISP to decide what we and cannot access on the web. These AT&T and Uk 'wiki amendments' are now spreading into the Access and authorisation directive as well, as deals are done on the three strikes clauses.

    Rather than worrying about sharing data between sites, we need to first establish an unambigous right to access those sites without needing to check the small print.

  • Comment number 5.

    Initiatives like Facebook Connect and OpenID are making it possibel to use a single identity across the web and also to take your friends with you from site to site, but uptake is slow -- only technology industry sites have fully embraced it. And remember that the concept is nothing new: Microsoft tried the same thing with Passport 10 years ago and got nowhere, in spite of the volume of Hotmail and MSN users.

    The problem is one of trust. People just aren't that comfortable with websites knowing who they are and using their data without explicit consent at every stage, in spite of the conveniences offered.

    What Sir Tim describes could be soon possible to do with the right standards in place, but the tech isn't as big a chanllenge as winning the support of users.


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