Web 3.0: user-generated networks?

January 17, 2008
Web 3.0: user-generated networks?

European researchers took the concepts of Web 2.0, like user-generated content and social networking, into the real world. They hope to create user-generated physical networks so internets could be set up, by anyone, anytime. It’s radical and, surprisingly, fairly realistic. Welcome to Web 3.0.

The internet, Web 1.0, is so incredibly powerful that even now, almost 20 years later, we have only begun to explore its potential. Web 2.0, with its YouTube, Facebook, Flickr and blogs galore is even younger and shows even more potential.

Now, thanks to the work of the WIP project, we may be on the brink of a new internet, a new world wide web. One where users can spontaneously create their own networks, in minutes, and with any kind of data device – mobile or fixed, handheld or deskbound. It means completely reinventing the internet, retooling its underlying technology, creating new operating principles and defining wholly new communications protocols so that it all works with any technology.

“When the internet first emerged, it assumed devices would be fixed in place and linked by wires,” remarks Marcelo Dias de Amorim, a researcher with the WIP project. “But that’s no longer true. A large number of devices are mobile and equipped with wireless communication capabilities.”

Many of the fundamental assumptions of the original internet have been superseded and many other pillars of the web are simply ad hoc (even bootstrap) solutions to discrete problems. It all appears rather accidental.

WIP wants to change all that, reinventing the internet and its underlying methods in what they cheerfully describe as disruptive technology. It is revolutionary, radical, but is it realistic?

DIY networking

“We’re not looking to replace the internet with the flick of a switch,” warns Dias de Amorim. “What we’re proposing is a robust, flexible, optimised and above all user-friendly set of technologies and standards that will mean any user, anywhere, can identify and network with any nearby devices. Without any technical expertise whatsoever.”

An example helps illustrate the concept. You live in an apartment building. You find neighbour’s wifi connections and invite them to join a new ‘building network’ with a few clicks. Now you can share and communicate with everyone.

You all have internet connections via an ISP, ranging from 1, 2 and 5 megabits/second (Mbits/s). You decide to pool your money and rent a fibre-optic line that handles voice, data and TV for the whole building. Suddenly you all have 10Mbit/s connections.

Another scenario. You go to a gig with some friends, set up an ad hoc network, and you can all communicate via text, voice or image for the rest of the day, all for free.

It’s a radical concept that must overcome some major design flaws of the current internet. One simple example: an IP address governs the routing of information and the identity of the recipient. “That works fine in wired networks, but what happens if the user moves. Their address has changed, not the identity,” reveals Dias de Amorim.

“But if separate values are used for identity and routing, then this isn’t a problem, even if the user is walking through a park. We’ve successfully separated the two functions.”

That is just one of dozens of challenges the WIP project has responded to during its research. It is a radical rethink of the current state of the art, but can it replace the internet?

“That’s not what we’re saying,” says Dias de Amorim. “It does address the basis of networking, but it can happily plug into the internet itself… That said, if everybody, or even the majority, is using WIP to create internets, then WIP is the internet!”

The project is not quite there yet, but it has made enormous progress. The project split the multitude of technical challenges into three grand strands: user applications and interface, routing protocols, and physical technology innovations. They fit hand in glove to allow users to set up the network, allow the protocols to communicate with any device, and allow the devices to keep up with requirements. It is plug-and-play networking for grown-up applications.

Remarkably, WIP is already in testing phase, using laboratories especially set up for the task, with many of the components of the system. Over the next year, it will finalise some elements and integrate them all together. Finally, it hopes to seed the technology in promising communities to kick-start its adoption.

And then we may see the beginnings of Web 3.0.

Source: ICT Results

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5 / 5 (1) Jan 18, 2008
And where is this going to put copyright law?! Will it either fade away as "unenforceable" or will they create a police state to regulate the networks and the content of such?! When I can connect to other people at will and share my files with them without regulators and middlemen in between, exactly what chance is there to stopping piracy?!

I'm excited regardless. "Mesh networks" are by far yet another important facet of the future.
5 / 5 (1) Jan 18, 2008
I think that copyright law itself will become unimportant. Copyright law currently does next to nothing to protect the creator of the content. All it does it protect the *company* that distributes the content.

Now of course that is very important. Or rather, it was important in the past. You had to stop one company from stealing the legally purchased materials of another company.

But now we don't NEED those companies anymore. Artists can create a song as good as those produced by Sony with free, opensource software on their computers. Sony spends millions on marketing and distribution, whereas an independent artist can just plop their song on a few social networking sites and put a "please donate if you like this music and want me to create similar material" button beside it. (this is of course still in its infancy. Systems need to be set up to facilitate this idea, cause right now it is pretty hit and miss)

We are headed into a time when the large distribution companies will disappear (focusing on other aspects of their business instead of distribution), and individuals will take over. We have the tools and we have the technology. Large corps are simply no longer necessary. And neither will copyright law be necessary.

(Note: copyright law is NOT the same as trademark laws, or patent laws, both of which I believe will continue on for the foreseeable future.)

Keep in mind that you can't copyright an idea, even today. You can only copyright a specific expression of an idea. That's why authors like Terry Goodkind, William Shakespeare, and Christopher Paolini can get away with blatant copying of ideas. Cause that isn't, wasn't, and never will be illegal (thank goodness! We'd have missed out on some real masterpieces if it was).
not rated yet Jan 18, 2008
"We are headed into a time when the large distribution companies will disappear"

I don't think they're going to be too happy to hear that. ;) Good post. I agree, but I doubt they're going to go without a fight.

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