Several weeks ago, readwriteweb.com posted a rehash of the London Mashup event. The theme was “What’s next, Web3.0? – the coming semantic web”. From the gist of the article, it didn’t seem the emphasis was on the semantic. Oh well. They did cover more on Microformats.

Something that astounded me was the notion of Content Labels: metadata that’s certified. Having a third-party authority verify legitimate content is not my idea of a free and open web. My gut instinct is that those with money would be the only ones to participate. My fear is that search engines would over-appreciate this certification. The result: a paid-off manipulation of the web.

But I don’t really want to get into any of the topics discussed at London Mashup as they relate to the evolution of the web. Instead, I have some of my own thoughts.

We’ve all come to admire Web2.0 and it’s content empowerment. Commoners and pros have worked together to grow the web exponentially and enabled and encouraged new users to join in the growth. This stands in stark contrast to the one-sided nature of the original web atmosphere.

With all of this content-driven Web2.0 goodness, however, I think we’ve hit a hurdle that will need to be addressed when discussing the evolution of the web: language. We’re still composing and commenting in the post-fall of the Tower of Babel.

To refresh your memories, the Tower Of Babel was a ziggurat being built to reach the heavens until God came along and knocked it down. Worse, He punished humanity for it’s arrogance by taking our one language and instantly dividing it…causing confusion. The purpose of the punishment was to insure that none of us easily got together again to build such a blasphemous structure. Of course the story is just a fable. We all know how different languages came about. But it does help illustrate my point.

Despite the wonderful ziggurat known as the Internet we are still quite divided in it’s construction. I have no greater connection to my peers in Germany or China than I did pre-Web circa 20th century. 99.9% of the sites I visit are in English and 99.9% of those are based in the US. Sure I visit sites in the UK and sometimes find myself on the occasional European blog. But outside of those exist millions of other sites I do not read due to the language barrier. It’s been more than 10 years since I’ve taken a Spanish class and so even those sites have been excluded from my browsing. Shame on us Americans for being so lazy as to not learn another language.

Rather than a stronger push by academics to get our kids to learn new languages, I would think that the best course of action would be to start programming universal language systems that could translate pages, correctly, on the fly. I know there has been significant progress in this area already (Babelfish from AltaVista, for example) but nothing completely seamless or accurate enough to be fully deployed and used. Regrettably, due to the success of Web2.0 we now have more effort going in to building MySpace, YouTube, and Digg clones than into anything that would provide greater communication and unity. It’s like we’re re-tiling the second floor of the ziggurat over and over rather than building for the heavens.

The dialog of Web3.0 is beginning and already we have some nice looking blueprints. However, as we move forward I am hoping that at some point that which divides us (yet would unite us) the most — language — can become the focal point of our efforts.

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