Sumit Sharma

What will drive adoption of the various web data overlays

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I’ve talked about metadata and how it will help aggregation of information in a relevant manner…however I’ve never really directly addresses when/how this will happen. This topic of adoption is something that John Hagel has encouraged me to think about…and after putting in some thought here is what I’ve come up with…

Users and Providers will drive adoption

We will begin to see two forces, from opposite ends that will drive adoption of the semantic web. Over time, as users experience this crowding out and their frustrations reach a tipping point because their needs won’t be met, they will begin to demand for more effectively aggregated data inflows that fit their preferences and immediate requirements. To complement this trend, the edge data and application providers will also demand for better more effective aggregation since they will be frustrated at their lack of discoverability as well as not being able to effectively pinpoint who their customers are.

User Adoption

There are a few factors that will drive adoption. First of all, users will continually become more aware and demand what they want to imbibe – relevant information at the right time, at the right place. This will be accelerated by the cyber children or the web generation – those that have grown up in the digital age, and rightly so. Because of their heightened access to information and data, this new generation have a better idea of the world we live in, and with technology and knowledge at their fingertips we’re seeing that they are able to decipher through what they want and don’t want. There is a level of sophistication in this generation’s ability to choose what activities they engage in, both online and in the physical world, and this will further drive this demand for well aggregated information. Eventually, the many disparate sources of information will consolidate into fewer sources – in fact, we’re already seeing this in motion. People are decreasing the numbers of sources of information, as evidenced by the Yahoo!, Google and MSN homepages where they are able to integrate news, facebook and other widgets (or apps) into a single point of reference.

In summary, we’d be seeing a Boomerang effect: starting from the old era of specialization, silo’d awareness and high attention spans, and then evolving towards diverse awareness, breadth of knowledge and coming back towards a state of heightened focus, but at a much wider and varied degree across the spectrum. In other words, instead of the 8-10 major career foci one had 20-30 years ago, that will change to 200-300 career foci points.

Where does the power lie at this current point in time? Google has information on random search queries. Facebook has information on our social graph. LinkedIn has information on our professional graph and like this there are several other highly powerful powerhouses of data which if federated their APIs across each other could enable this to happen.

This will be highly disruptive to the world as we know it today: media, services and products’ industries will all need to re-think their operations and strategies because at their current models, they will to provide increasingly irrelevant information to users.

Provider adoption

A second major force pushing towards the adoption of the semantic web will be driven by the edge providers of information and services, and paramount to them will be the issue of discoverability as well as the ability to effectively target towards the appropriate user base. We’ve already used the Music Genome Project as an example of Providers catching on to using metadata to better describe their products and services.

Discoverability at the Edge

The issue of discoverability for the user’s immediate needs in a relevant manner will be of prime importance. Today, there are certain mainstream apps, such as that generic ESPN sports ticker or that widget that will be very popular and easy to find however just because information is more popular doesn’t mean it is more relevant to you or me. The discoverability and relevance issues won’t relate to mainstream data and applications, but rather with the tail end of applications and data – or what we can refer to as the edge information and services. The proliferation of this obscure set of edge applications and information will increasingly elongate the tail and this data will crowd each other out and make it tougher to discover. Simply look no further than the iPhone app store and under each category there will be 1000s of apps that would take a long time to sift through. This crowding out is detrimental to each and every app that needs to make itself known. Given that there is already a rating system in place to help users spot most relevant apps, it can be argued that this subjective rating mechanism may not be the most relevant way to filter so unless a user is “in the know”, he/she may not get exposed to such interesting apps and data that may have been very relevant to their needs. So in order to accurate correlate user characteristics/activity with the right app, there will need to be a sophisticated algorithm that employs the usage of semantic metadata in doing do.

On the flip side, the ability for a provider to discover motive and intent as data and information grows will be important. There are many constraints, as described in the user meta data profile, that go into defining user characteristics, and without them it is tough to accurately measure motive.


Written by Sumit

November 23, 2009 at 7:14 am

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