Many of us have 'tagged' photos of our friends on Facebook. But imagine an online world in which tags are automatically added to everything from the news you read, to the name of your favourite restaurant or even your bank statement. This is what some envisage as the next generation of the internet, or Web 3.0.
It's also called the 'semantic web', as these tags will 'talk' to each other. This will make it possible to create a world of information that allows computers to add 'intelligent' links to data, and perhaps even reason with it.
A leading proponent of the Web 3.0 revolution is www.Twine.com, a "central repository where you can keep information about your interests".
You can start a 'Twine' about almost anything, and invite others to contribute. So, if you were an avid bungee jumper, you could start a thread about this, adding links, news items and other documents – all of which would be automatically 'tagged' and linked to other documents, places and people.
This does not, admittedly, sound particularly impressive. But the technology behind it is. The coding Twine uses, called RDF, allows web pages to be indexed much more reliably and specifically; it could eventually make Google search results look like a random jumble of information by comparison.
Using Twine, I was able to add a book review to the site, and it successfully identified people, organisations and general concepts within the text, through which I could explore related interests. However, it was unsuccessful in scanning a web page that I posted on it, although this technology is improving.
What Twine shows is that properly tagged and categorised information is going to become increasingly important on the web. The technology has won the backing of giants such as Yahoo!, which recently announced that its search engine is going to support RDF and other 'microformats'.
Businesses can't be left behind: if they do not embrace Web 3.0, they may find their websites fall in the search rankings. Services offering to 'semantify your site' – such as www.dapper.net – are springing up. For if the internet now has 'a brain', you'll need to use you head in order to take full advantage of it.