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Web 3.0 & the Semantic Web

Posted on Thursday, Jun 28th 2007

My definition of Web 3.0 is one of the most popular entry points into this blog. In it, I proposed the vision of a web which becomes increasingly verticalized by “Context”, and the relevant Content, Community and Commerce elements are successfully mashed up “in Context”. I also proposed 2 other elements: Vertical / Contextual Search, and Personalization. Thus, I concluded, Web 3.0 = (4C + P + VS).

I got both extremes of reactions to this formula. But I also got some good questions and observations, which, after several months of discussions, warrant a follow-on synthesis post.

One question is about Tim Berner’s Lee’s Semantic Web definition and how it correlates with my vision. Tim Berners-Lee originally expressed the vision of the semantic web as follows: “I have a dream for the Web [in which computers] become capable of analyzing all the data on the Web – the content, links, and transactions between people and computers. A ‘Semantic Web’, which should make this possible, has yet to emerge, but when it does, the day-to-day mechanisms of trade, bureaucracy and our daily lives will be handled by machines talking to machines. The ‘intelligent agents’ people have touted for ages will finally materialize.” [Wikipedia]

Well, yes, my vision is similar. Except, while Tim is an academic, and thinks in terms of new technology, I am an entrepreneur, and I think in terms of execution and viable, sustainable business models, not just technology.

So, let me now provide the bridge between Tim’s thoughts and mine.

You see, I grew up in India, with a household full of servants. However politically incorrect it may be to say so, I thoroughly enjoyed the lifestyle of being able to delegate tedious tasks to these servants. Thus, in the future that I envision, I would very much like to see Intelligent Agent “Servants” taking care of lots of my repetitive tasks.

Now, I happen to have worked on AI algorithms a fair bit, over the years, and can assure you, that for Agent technology to work, you would need to constrain the domain of its activity. Intelligent Agents would never be successful in providing value if let loose in an unconstrained environment. Thus, it needs “Context”.

A “Travel Agent” is not the same as a “Personal Shopper Agent” or a “Personal Financial Advisor Agent” or a “Real Estate Agent”. All those agents are entirely possible, if you design them in the context of the vocabulary (Semantics) of the vertical domain. Unconstrained, and without context, they fail. Thus, the Semantic Web can only be implemented in a Contextual Domain.

And within each Contextual Domain, you would find a sustainable business model that includes Advertising and eCommerce revenues, indicating that the future of the Web, Web 3.0 as we are trying to call it, is a Verticalized, Contextualized, Personalized Web.

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Hi Sramana,
Good article and I’m finding the series on Web3.0 very interesting… you’re now on my gReader. 🙂

Can you (if you haven’t already) talk more about the Verticalization of Web 3.0? How is it distinct from going Horizontal in a market? vertical enough?

Tyler M Thursday, June 28, 2007 at 4:32 PM PT

Hi Tyler,

You have some digging around to do on my site, buddy 🙂

I have covered most of the sites you talk about … do a search and have a look.


Sramana Mitra Thursday, June 28, 2007 at 4:36 PM PT

[…] Web 3.0 and the Semantic Web […]

Sramana Mitra on Strategy » Blog Archive » Web 3.0 = (4C + P + VS) Thursday, June 28, 2007 at 5:06 PM PT

Kosmix does this context based searching, but applies it to automatic content generation. What is your take on them?

I’m not sure about how they would monetize this techology effectively. I can think of knowledge databases at consulting and law firms, but can’t seem to think further than that.

Desi Thursday, June 28, 2007 at 5:45 PM PT

I haven’t looked at Kosmix yet …

Sramana Mitra Thursday, June 28, 2007 at 6:34 PM PT

Does semantic web require deployment of standard ontologies and tags on webpages? Will there be enough tools that website designers dont mind doing this sort of stuff?

Rakesh Saturday, June 30, 2007 at 4:36 AM PT

Semantic web is only one of the technologies that will power next generation web. And biggest obstacle to adoption of semantic web is web itself. Semantic web technologies need to provide easy migration path.

Other things that will have greater impact are
1) web as platform and services
2) Web/internet connected to devices and appliances.

For more read…

Ashish Gupta Tuesday, July 17, 2007 at 6:15 PM PT

Hi Ramana

Pretty interesting stuff. as a founder of one of early dotcoms in india – where we coined the word portical – “where community meets commerce in context”, we are happy to be vindicated atleast 7 yrs later. We are trying to comebaaaaaaaaaaaaaack albeit in a different form @ .would love your comments and thoughts on the same

ram Wednesday, August 8, 2007 at 4:18 AM PT

[…] Sramana Mitra, Web 3.0 & the Semantic Web (quoted on DERI […]

Nodalities by Danny Ayers: This Week’s Semantic Web « Identity Unknown Monday, October 1, 2007 at 3:09 PM PT

Your tale about servants sounds very funny/strange to my ears. The metaphor of technology as a way to reintroduce slavery is perfectly insane, specifically when dealing with artifical intelligence related issues.

Another point is that I dont think it is very urgent to correlate Tim Berners Lee vision of the Semantic
Web with yours… Sorry to offend your modesty.

wiki1000 Monday, October 1, 2007 at 3:42 PM PT

Welcome to reality, my friend. You may not like the word “servants”, but let’s ask, for the sake of argument, what are secretaries?

You pay people to do drudge work that you don’t like to do yourself, and you are offended by the fact that I call a spade a spade?

Throughout the world, this is the equation of leverage. People who are capable of doing higher end work, leave the lower end, repetitive services to people who are either less educated or less qualified, and are willing to perform them for money.

I have no need for modesty, just truth.


ps. Slaves did not get paid to do what they were required to do. Accepting payment means people are part of a market economy, and that is a good thing. Btw, in multiple Indian languages, the word for “job” is “Naukri” (in Hindi) or “Chakri” (in Bengali). These two words are derived from words like “Naukar” (Hindi) and “Chakar” (Bengali), both of which mean servant. In fact, if India, people make the distinction between “business” and “service”, the latter meaning … guess what? Having a job.

Sramana Mitra Monday, October 1, 2007 at 3:49 PM PT

[…] Sramana Mitra, Web 3.0 & the Semantic Web (quoted on DERI […]

machi’s blog » Blog Archive » This Week’s Semantic Web Tuesday, October 2, 2007 at 12:56 AM PT

In my environment, secretaries are respected persons, autonomous, skilled, acheiving very useful tasks. They are not servants.

The effective vision you want to correlate with yours is not related to act of serving but to the general problem of trusted information.

Sorry about that but human metaphors of technology are doomed in general: I will never fuck my RDF file!

About services, jobs and servants. Aristocratic ways of life traditionally disregard the act of working, which is assimilated to serving. Note also that they also disregard business, assimilated to robbery.
Personally, I dont like disregard in general.

wiki1000 Tuesday, October 2, 2007 at 1:30 AM PT


This is a way out of context discussion, but I will respond to you anyway.

You have no idea what you are talking about, making broad generalizations like you do above.

Who said servants are incompetent? Our servants are/were quite competent, and they were also well-respected people for their skills. And secretaries can be totally incompetent. I have had one or two of those, and duly fired them.

Who said only aristocracy has servants? Even the lower middle class in India has servants. Even here in California, the middle class has cleaning ladies.

What you don’t understand is that for over 1 Billion people, these kinds of jobs are the passport out of starvation. One of the families that worked at our house built a house of their own, educated 4 children, two of their boys have really good jobs now, etc. Without the infrastructure of the job and the housing that we provided them, these people would have sunk. This is true in general and I see the same phenomenon in California. Our cleaning lady here is a Latin American woman with 4 children, and the kids are going to school, something the parents did not have the chance to do.

And you REALLY have no clue about how aristocracy operates. Your broad generalizations are a demonstration of lack of any experience beyond hearsay, so I suggest you stop this discussion right here. I am not going to publish any more from you on this subject.


Sramana Mitra Tuesday, October 2, 2007 at 11:13 AM PT

[…] se ha dicho sobre qué definirá la Web 3.0 y sobran las definiciones. ¿Qué tal si la Web 3.0 viene definida por networks sociales […]

Networks Sociales Portátiles - Hacia la Web 3.0 Tuesday, November 6, 2007 at 10:00 AM PT

The vision of a ‘Semantic Web’ continues to draw considerable attention, both from academia and industry. The semantic web is the next generation web containing information derived from data through a semantic theory so that it can be processed directly and indirectly by machines. Structure provided to Web page content by the ‘Semantic Web’ will allow knowledge gained from the Web to be used purposefully.

Vikas Saksena Friday, November 23, 2007 at 8:53 PM PT

Hi Sramana (and everybody else)

We need to properly discuss these things to be able to define the next web. I have started to use a Google Group for our discussions:

We need people from various backgrounds, with various ideas and maybe we can define the next version of the web in a standardised way.

Please join the group, we are also looking for people to help organise Web 3 meetings around the world. Any thoughts?

Daniel Lewis Sunday, December 2, 2007 at 3:54 PM PT


I would prefer that discussion to happen on my site, right here, so that I can facilitate it.

Thanks, Sramana

Sramana Mitra Monday, December 3, 2007 at 5:30 PM PT

Hi, a nice article by you Sramana but would like to add few more insights…

Web 3.0 is sometimes called Semantic Web, a term coined by Tim Berners Lee, the man who first invented www.

Web 2.0 came to describe almost any site, service, or technology that promoted sharing and collaboration right down to the Net’s grassroots as in blogs and wikis, tags and RSS feeds, and Flickr, My Space and You Tube. Web 3.0 will have 4 main features like a Semantic Web where a machine or robot can read a website or check our daily schedules; 3D Web-a virtual walk through unfamilier places without leaving one’s own seat; Media-centric searches understanding natural-lauguage queries or photos, and the Pervasive Web that’s everywhere-on your PC, on your cellphone, on your cloths, jewelry, your kitchen, bathroom and office. Microsoft and Google are moving to 3D.,, are offering simple prototypes. Web 3.0 is here for sure. But it has to be experienced.

Viral Vandre Tuesday, January 8, 2008 at 5:06 AM PT

Dear Sramana,
I am dealing with web technologies first for academic reason now for profession and business.

Please could you explain extactly what functionalities you meant to be implemented by web 3.0 “Travel Agent” or “Personal Shopper Agent” or “Personal Financial Advisor Agent”, assuming you are speaking with a developer?

Yahia Saturday, February 16, 2008 at 9:34 AM PT


My company, ThoughtLava, is bridging the gap between the academic pursuit of the Semantic Web and the ability to make some of your scenarios possible today. We call it Semanticatorâ„¢. It is a patent pending business method that enables our licensees to create profiles/personas based on pre-session, detectable attributes (there are 21 attribute types available today). Then, we display more meaningful content to each visitor upon arrival – creating amazing first impressions that lead to longer sessions and increased conversion. This is the beginning of Semantic Marketing.

John-Scott Dixon Saturday, February 16, 2008 at 11:44 PM PT


Very interesting thoughts about Web 3.0 and the semantic web. I’ve been thinking a lot about how marketing might evolve with the adoption of semantic web technology. Recently wrote a post on “marketing in the semantic web” — if you have a chance to take a look, I’d be very interested in your reaction and feedback:

Scott Brinker Monday, March 3, 2008 at 3:10 PM PT

Thanks for the informative article, Sramana.
The vision of Semantic web is great as it would revolutionize the way we perceive web today; it will make the web a more accurately searchable information source. But unlike web 2.0, it lacks any immediate benefits to its implementors. That is one of the reasons behind it not going beyond few academic projects and discussions.

ptc Sunday, March 23, 2008 at 11:43 PM PT

That’s an insightful and informed presentation of the semantic web from a fresh perspective. You are really approaching this subject from an almost unexplored direction, and I am finding the combination of your entries along with Andrew McCafee’s (not exactly same views, that’s what makes the combination even more interesting and educating) as great reads.

Sayan Sunday, September 7, 2008 at 12:13 AM PT

[…] Readings: *Web 3.0 & the Semantic Web *Deal Radar 2008: Powerset * Deal Radar 2008: Kosmix+Adify – Potential Google […]

Paid Content : Deal Radar 2008: Mahalo Monday, September 22, 2008 at 11:20 AM PT

The concept of “Context” would be most important for the mobile phone.

you would get “web3.0 = mobile 2.0 ” if you knew more mobile phone.

teeker Sunday, September 28, 2008 at 8:13 PM PT

Do you think is bing fulfills web 3.0 criteria? Because I am not sure it does…

Shailendra Tuesday, July 21, 2009 at 4:45 AM PT

Not at all, Shailendra.

Sramana Mitra Tuesday, July 21, 2009 at 8:02 AM PT