The world is on the verge of a new generation of Web computing.
Over the next several years, technologies such as cloud computing, artificial intelligence, 5G mobile networks, and Internet connected embedded devices (the Internet of Things) will collectively come together to create a fundamentally different computing environment than exists today.
There isn't yet any consensus on what this new environment will be called, but I like to call it Web 4.0.
Web 4.0 will be pervasive, "smart" in targeted ways, and heavily automated.
But before we delve into the details of Web 4.0, it's instructive to take a look at how we got here.
Before the Web
There were many generations of computing prior to the web -- punch card mainframes, terminal-based mainframes, minicomputers, and client-server. Each generation featured proprietary networks, data formats, and protocols that weren't designed to integrate or cooperate.
Web 1.0 - The Static Web
The original web was built in the 1990's using a simple markup language (HTML) and an application protocol (HTTP) that implemented concepts (like hypertext) that were envisioned way back in the 1940's, before there were any electronic computers. Web 1.0 was mostly read-only. Web sites served static web pages that people read but rarely interacted with.
Web 2.0 - The Interactive Web
Web 3.0 - The API Web
The evolution to the API Web started with efforts to create "web services" using standardized protocols and formats like SOAP and WS- that enabled applications to integrate with each other over HTTP. But it was the advent of smart phones that fundamentally changed the web from primarily serving and processing web pages to providing API's for "apps". Later, web browsers evolved to be "smart clients" which could host "single page applications" using component frameworks (like Angular and React) that could consume the web API's in the same way as mobile apps. The API Web ultimately helped usher in the current generation of cloud computing services.
Web 4.0 - The Autonomous Web
We are on the verge of a new type of web -- one that is pervasive, "smart" in targeted ways, and heavily automated.
Humans interacting with browsers and mobile apps will no longer be the primary generator of information on the web. Rather, the primary generator of information on the web will be IoT devices embedded in our environment that will constantly look at, listen to, and sense the world around them. These IoT devices will range from simple network connected sensors to MPU's that employ artificial intelligence right on the device.
Smart in targeted ways
The amount of data that will be generated from these IoT devices will be too voluminous for humans to evaluate themselves. So, artificial intelligence will be employed to evaluate the data and turn it into actionable information that is consumable by humans.
The current web features a fair amount of automation. For example, humans can pre-program actions that web services carry out based on well defined parameters. But in Web 4.0, intelligent edge devices and intelligent cloud services will determine what actions to take and when to take them based on the data being collected. And in many case they will execute those actions themselves.
The next generation of pervasive edge devices, connected to 5G networks, interacting with cloud services, that employ artificial intelligence will create a new web as different from the current web as the current web is from the static web. Although it's difficult to predict all of the specific impacts that Web 4.0 will have on society, it's safe to say that the overall impact will be substantial.
What are some of the societal impacts that you see resulting from Web 4.0?