What will the internet of the future look like?
How will Web 3.0, or above be different from what we have now?
(This is going to take some explaining!)
At the moment we navigate through the available online information by means of search engines, leading us to various different self contained and defined websites, where we peruse the pages of each site... perhaps this is augmented with toolbar buttons, RSS feeds, and other such add-ons, but essentially it remains a page by page experience... even the recent tile style presentation is just an elaboration on this model. Once on the page, we scan, and read through the information we each find of interest within that page, in much the same way as the traditional format of reading a book, or newspaper... and this straight transference is understandable as being the format we are most familiar with due to the legacy of success which these prior formats have had.
But rather than maintain this hangover from a traditional model of information consumption; In most part, a reflection of the limitations of fixed physical information storage (on paper); Isn't it time we questioned the continuing validity of the model now that computers are capable of so much more... capable of delivering a web browsing experience more appropriate to the way the human mind, and it's sensory input faculties actually work?
The Eye of The Beholder
Thinking about how the human mind actually processes data and information will reveal that whether it comes in through the eye, or ear, or touch, the input data is gathered through a process of filtration and focus on only a small area of the relevant data within a larger field of sensory information at any given time... that which we concentrate on becomes the all consuming focus of the mind, to the exclusion and diminishment of all else within the field of data which is not that object of focus... And so, the eye may focus on a particular object in the field of view, and everything else around it becomes peripheral data, fuzzy and “out of focus”, which we, at that time, become almost entirely unaware of. It is only when something moves, or changes within this peripheral field of view, or catches the eye as relevant to the current focus, that brings it to the mind's attention, and allows the object to break into our present focus, and may cause us to shift that focus entirely to the new object of interest.
Where we're Going, There Are No WebSites!
And it is this model of the functionality which we find in the eye (and other senses), and the processing unit of this input sensory data... the mind, with a central focus point, or area, and a visible, but diminished periphery of information, to which we can switch our attention and that focus, that I think ought to be the model of how our web browsers work... mirroring the mind and eye, and so complimenting their function, creating an efficiency of processing capability, through the prioritisation of data, and minimising the distractions that over-focused peripheral data can bring.
This is achieved by blowing apart the websites we know and use at the moment, like an exploded diagram, and only those articles and content from each, as individual web elements, which are relevant to the immediate browsing experience presented, along with other such content from other sites along the same thematic lines (the sublimated search engine element providing this cohesion of data)... and the presented content has maximised relevance to the user, with all else which is not of relevance, and of no apparent interest to the user being subsumed into the periphery of the browser. By clicking on an article about a particular news article, on a sporting topic, for instance, presents all the most relevant video, articles and other information content on that item of interest, with all else fading out of focus (such as business news, the stock markets, politics, social etc. and present only less and less due to the more tenuous connections these topics may have on the subject at hand) either in relative size, definition, colour tone or brightness, disappearing altogether, or all of the above in accordance to their relative relevance to the requirements of the user, and this data relativity of each element to other elements in this context... A kind of Data Perspective is created where the the most important and relevant data stands large, clear, bright, and defined before our eyes in the foreground of data presentation, and the other, progressively diminishing relevant data appearing to stand further off, duller, and more indistinct, in relation to this higher priority information and content.
The Optical Web Browser
To think of this, and how it would be presented on the screen, it is best to imagine a large lens, or magnifying glass placed on the page of a book; Or in this case, the vast, unending map of the internet itself; And seeing the articles enlarged beneath the focussing lens relative to the other articles and content on the page. And as you move the lens about the page, the content coming under the focus of that lens changing, bringing into larger view, the content to which it is moved, and allowing the content from which it is moved to sublimate, and slip out of the viewing lens into relative periphery. Except here, it is the page, or great map of the internet data which moves around under the lens of our web browser, and not the other way around, according to direction we would wish to go.
Also, the information on the map arranges itself according to relevance as the lens shifts focus, accepting some of the content to which it is shifted, and excluding others, to pass a selective stream of that information and content under the viewing lens of the browser, as if, as in the case of our “magnifying glass on the page of a book analogy”, only the words which would have relevance to the words on which we were previously focused were permitted to pass under the scrutiny of the glass lens, to the exclusion of others of no relevance... or, the degree to which the words are permitted, from those to which we shift our focus, determines the degree to which they are presented in their definition, clarity, brightness, and size, relative to the other content to which we shift our focus which has a greater relevance (still with me?).
In returning to our book, or map analogy, it would be as if the map (internet) were a tapestry
made of many threads, which passes under the viewing lens, but only those threads in which we are interested were pulled through the focus of that lens, creating our own personalised tapestry out of that larger tapestry.
And so, in presenting this on the screen, you would have to imagine a large central positioned window, or occulus, concentric to the borders of the screen, which is the browser, and which is analogous to the magnifying glass, and through our chosen directional and subject selection controls, the internet scrolls and shifts under it, the most central area being the most highly defined, brightest, and largest content, and the relatively less relevant information and content decreasing in these respects the further toward the perimeter of the screen we get... still permitting them to be viewed (allowing for the serendipitous happening upon new topics or content which we may not have been actively seeking, but would be happy to have chanced upon), but only to the extent to which they are relevant to the present objects in our view.
For a tablet, or other such touch device, this would seem ideal, as then, a simple swipe or movement across the screen to the new areas of interest would bring them into view in the manner described, or they could be used to view the internet just as you might use a clear, perspex or glass bottomed tray to view the sub-marine landscapes and the life to be found there, beneath the waves in the sea, or in a rock pool.
Equipping such a browser to shift between different content modes would be easy to do, and enable it to go from purely, or mainly text articles, or video and sound filtered through the lens in this manner at the tap of a button on the screen... and as we are following the optical model of construction for efficiency of power usage, time spent looking for things, and information and data management, a squeeze or pinch on the tablet or phone window can allow us to perceive data depth, or embedded, meta-data, like the relevant wikipedia articles or dictionary entries behind the articles and content we are focussing on, like a kind of “microscope” mode, and a “telescope” mode as we zoom out to appreciate the bigger picture, or to scan the far, or middle distance of the internet for new objects of interest, on which we might wish to fix our attention.
And so, the notion of a web browser, search engine, and supporting online encyclopedic data as separate entities is done away with, and they merge, amalgamate their functionality, each of these subsumed into the others... without the messy presentation of widgets, apps, feeds, threads, sites and icons.
This would not simply be the Web 3.0, but the Web, in three dimensions...
...The Internet: 3D.