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Social Media Data Wars Will Determine Semantic Web Leader

Social Media or Web 2.0 can be considered the battleground for Web 3.0's Semantic Web. The shift has been happening subtly but is picking up speed as Internet companies and nations vie for control of data. With 600 million users now on Facebook, Google's 1.3 billion visitors per week and China's 1.35 billion citizens, these three entities have the greatest opportunity to dominate the Web of the Future.

For the first time in history, Chinese Internet users have produced more content than professional Web sites in its country. Hu Yanping, of the Data Center of China Internet (DCCI), said the era of Web 2.0 has officially overtaken Web 1.0 as the amount of content generated by personal users on blogs, online forums, social networking sites (SNS) and user-generated 'question & answers' exceeded the amount contributed by professional organizations in news, search engines and e-commerce.

Why is this an important fact? Because we are reaching a 'tipping point' where this massive amount of data and content becomes a valuable commodity. And the companies and/or nations that have the greater access - wins in the battle for the Web's next iteration- Web 3.0!

Eric SchmidtEric SchmidtGoogle has modified its algorithm to accommodate this shift. At a recent Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) meeting in New York City, Google CEO Eric Schmidt noted that Google's incorporation of "collaborative filtering" into its search algorithm was done to incorporate "serendipity" into its search results. Collaborative filtering is a crowdsourcing method whereby the search engine will increasingly rely upon massive feedback from its users, including their search histories, to improve its predictive results.

Michael Arrington in his recent TechCrunch report, titled "Data Protectionism Begins In Earnest" sees the battle between Google and Facebook as somewhat inevitable. By Facebook protecting its 'Open Graph' flanks, in Arrington's estimation it's already raised the first red flag. "If you start it, you can expect the other side to start it to. That's when you get what's called a trade war (where) lots of potential economic gain evaporates," says Arrington.

While Facebook has refused Google and others any access to their social graph, even though they import excessively from ever source available to them on the Web, this move has forced Google and other competitors to protect their data as well.

According to Arrington, Google is doing it presently in a more subtle way than Facebook. "Google's done it in a surgical way to avoid fallout with other non-Facebook companies - but once this ball starts rolling, and it has, it's pretty hard to stop," notes Arrington.

On Google's and Facebook's other flank sits China, one of the world's leaders in its investments in the "Internet of Things" and the Semantic Web. In addition to its access of data from humans, the Chinese see the advantage of tagging all the physical objects on the planet that humans interact with on a daily basis. Basically over the last century, with the Internet becoming so interconnected with physical objects as well as people, the planet has grown a central nervous system. And China wants to control that space.

While Google has tried its hardest to fight China on the censorship front, Schmidt seems to be resigned to the fact that it is a losing battle. While he still see the "Great Firewall of China" as a potential threat to Western liberalism, "Google's goals are best served when the company works to serve the interests of a particular country's citizens, rather than pick fights with that country's government (see my previous post, titled, "Google Is No Secretary Of State When It Comes To Diplomacy In China" for more on this topic).

However. figuring out real-time social content appears to be Google's focus these days in advance of moving to the next stage of Web evolution. "Figuring out how to rank real-time content is (our) greatest challenge," Schmidt said in an interview at a recent Gartner symposium conference in Orlando last year. This however becomes even more complicated as Schmidt acknowledges the growing threat of China's dominance on the Web. At the same conference he predicted that within "five years from now the Internet will be dominated by Chinese-language content."

In the soon-to-be-released graphic novel, "Facebucks & Dumb F*cks," the character of Mark Zuckerberg (aka Z-Man) ponders the dilemma that Google (aka Gobble) has faced over the years, and ultimately hatches a plan for his social network (aka Facebucks) to overtake what he believes is his one last competitor - China!

Page from Facebucks & Dumb F*cks graphic novelPage from Facebucks & Dumb F*cks graphic novel

Without spoiling the ending as to how this plays out in the fictional world, I ask you readers: Who do you think will become the dominant player in the Data Wars for Web dominance? Who do you think will lead the race into the Web's next iteration - the Semantic Web?

For other related posts on "Web 3.0," and "Semantic Technology," check out some of my previous posts: