David Siegel has written a book called “Pull: The Power of the Semantic Web To Transform Your Business” (Dec. 2009).
The main idea is that businesses (suppliers) need to adapt to a new world, where rather than them “push” whatever data they want to us when they want, we (consumers) will be able to get to the information we want and “pull” it whenever we need it (i.e. on demand).
Siegel identifies three types of data online of which less than 1% is currently visible web pages:
- Public Web—what “we normally see when searching and browsing for information online: at least 21 billion pages indexed by search engines.
- Deep Web—includes the “large data repositories that requires their internal searches,” such as Facebook, Craigslist, etc.—“about 6 trillion documents generally not seen by search engines.”
- Private Web—data that “we can only get access to if we qualify: corporate intranets, private networks, subscription based services, and so on—about 3 trillion pages also not seen by search engines.”
In the future, Siegel sees an end of push (i.e. viewing just the Public Web) and instead a new world of pull (i.e. access to the Deep Web).
Moreover, Siegel builds on the “Semantic Web” definition of Sir Tim Berners-Lee who coined the term in the 1990s, as a virtual world where:
- Data is unambiguous (i.e. means exactly the same things to anyone or any system).
- Data is interconnected (i.e. it lives online in a web of databases, rather than in incompatible silos buried and inaccessible).
- Data has an authoritative source (i.e. each piece of information has a unique name, single source, and specified terms of distribution).
While, I enjoyed browsing this book, I wasn’t completely satisfied:
- It’s not a tug of war between push and pull—they are not mutually exclusive. Providers push information out (i.e. make information available), and at the same time, consumers pull information in (access it on-demand).
- It’s not just about data anymore—it’s also about the applications (“apps”). Like data, apps are pushed out by suppliers and are pulled down by consumers. The apps make the data friendly and usable to the consumer. Rather than providing raw data or information overload, apps can help ready the data for end-user consumption.
All semantics aside, getting to information on the web is important—through a combination of push and pull—but ultimately, making the information more helpful to people through countless of innovative applications is the next phase of the how the web is evolving.
I would call this next phase, the “user-centric web.” It relies on a sound semantic web—where data is unambiguous, interconnected, and authoritative—but also takes it to the next level, serving up sound semantic information to the end-user through a myriad of applications that make the information available in ever changing and intelligent ways. This is more user-centric, and ultimately closer to where we want to be.