The Web as a platform

Tim O'Reilly, who co-developed the idea of Web 2.0, a vision for the next generation of software, says the biggest change we'll encounter is a move away from traditional network architectures to having "the Web as a platform."

"The first thing we need to realize is that this isn't just a software revolution," O'Reilly says. "It's a revolution in the way we capture and coordinate data."

O'Reilly says there's a misconception in the industry that today's databases will be sufficient to handle all the user- and machine-generated content -- petabytes per year for some companies. "Google's not managing their data using [traditional databases]. They're developing very new types of tools," he says.

"Other companies must develop competencies in managing, visualizing and extracting information from massive amounts of data to take the Web to the next level," O'Reilly says.

One thing to expect is a whole new crop of applications that will be generated from data. “Applications will now be built on stacks of data services,” O’Reilly says. Map applications are a crude example of what’s to come. They are formed as they draw content from a bunch of different providers, he says.

O’Reilly says the key to succeeding in this data-focused world is to find new ways to harvest the massive amounts of data that will be generated. For instance, he says cell phone companies soon will figure out a way to use the vast amount of data they hold. “They know who we’ve called, but they don’t know how to harvest that information to create a business. There will eventually be people who realize how to mine that data in the same way Google does Web searches,” he says.

One obstacle to O’Reilly’s vision is a fear in the industry about the dangers of openness and data sharing. “You have to figure out what pieces you get to control and own to gain a competitive advantage, and what you can give away,” he says.

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