On its 20th birthday, the creator of the World Wide Web explains why its future is in shifting from ‘linked documents’ to ‘linked data’

Today is apparently the 20th birthday of the World Wide Web! So, why not celebrate this great day by taking a little time to stretch your thinking about the Web just a bit.

Go on, make yourself a cup of tea, relax… and watch the great TED video above, in which Tim Berners-Lee explains how he invented the World Wide Web – and sheds some light on how he believes his brainchild will evolve in the future.

In this short talk, Berners-Lee explains how the World Wide Web all began because he wanted to refine the way we use information and work together – and, apparently, because his boss humoured him and agreed that he could spend time on it on the side as a “play project”. All bosses with bright staff – take note!.

It goes without saying that this particular play project ended-up revolutionising our lives through the way the Web links documents together online.

But this is just the beginning. The future, Berners-Lee explains, will comprise evolving from the current ‘linked documents’ approach to a ‘linked data’ approach. This is the next revolution. Releasing, repurposing, and re-using the infinite wealth of data we collate – from medical research databases to data on relationships held on social networking sites – by linking it up in previously unconsidered ways to support previously unachievable applications.

This revolution has already started, with the ever increasing number of of APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) being launched – from Facebook to Kiva – which enable the data traditionally held within websites to be accessed, combined with data from other sources, and re-purposed in an infinite number of new ways (such as Google Maps mash-ups).

It might take a second, stronger, cup of tea – perhaps with sugar – for you to start to consider what this means for your own Web activity. Could you release the information you currently only share through ‘documents’ on your website for others to use and share on your behalf? What implications will this mean for your future web architecture and implementations? And what benefits might this bring, given the challenges of marketing within today’s highly savvy and highly connected networked society?


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