Watching the web grow up
I read an article in The Economist recently (my smarter brother makes me read it) about Tim Berners-Lee and his perspective on where the web is today versus what excites him about where the web is headed. Now, his perspective is important because you may remember that Sir Tim created the web in 1991 while at CERN, the particle physics laboratory near Geneva.
I have included a link to the article at the bottom of this post so I won’t try to paraphrase the entire thing. But I will give you enough to whet your appetite if this kind of thing excites you. I will also say that while most of it is not currently very practical to our work today, I do believe that what he is talking about will be very important to us soon enough.
Right now, the concept of Web 2.0 is all the rage. Sir Tim is less excited about it because , “He regards Web 2.0 as just a fancy name for some useful, if still rather basic, web-publishing tools, and was not at all surprised by the emergence of “user-generated content”—since that was what he had intended all along. ‘The web was designed so every user could be a contributor,’ he says. ‘That sort of participation was the whole idea and was there from the start’.”
If Web 1.0 was a great presentation of information and Web 2.0 is where self-publishing catches up to the browsers so that we can now use the web to its full potential to share information by reading and writing equally well. So, what’s next?
Sir Tim highlights 3 main things that really excite him about the future of the web:
- The spread of the web to millions of new users via mobile devices,
- The growing interest in the web’s social and political impact, and
- The Semantic Web (in which information is labelled so that it makes sense to machines as well as people).
All three have at least corollary and maybe even direct application to our business and industry. Obviously the first means that the organizations that we serve – as well as the people who they serve and who support them – will be using mobile devices more and more in the work that they do. This will certainly include accessing and working with donor data.
The second may be the most important to our customers in that as the population on the web (and the tools available to that population) grows so does the opportunity to acquire, develop, and maximize relationships through the web. Not to mention the opportunity for application of the actual work of a nonprofit organization depending on what their mission is.
The third concept that excites Sir Tim is clearly the most ethereal, however, as the writer of the article points out, “doubters would do well to remember the web’s own humble origins. In 1989 Sir Tim submitted a rather impenetrable document to his superiors at CERN, entitled “Information Management: A Proposal”, describing what would later become the web. “Vague but exciting” was the comment his boss, the late Mike Sendall, scribbled in the margin. The semantic web may seem equally vague today, but it could prove just as exciting.”