A Bird’s-Eye View of the Web
Web Architecture & Technologies
The Semantic Web & Linked Data
Linked Data Publishing
Re-decentralizing the Web
Ted Nelson: computer pioneer
and technology philosopher.
book “Computer Lib”
collection of texts, notes, drawings published in 1974
teaches computer tinkering and programming
flip side: “Dream Machines”
visions on future computer applications
first written mention of
hypertext I mean non-sequential writing—text that
branches and allows choices to the reader,
best read at an interactive screen.
As popularly conceived, this is a series of text chunks
connected by links which offer the reader different pathways.
Literary Machines (1980)
Nelson’s ideas were bigger than the Web,
but not necessarily as realistic.
published in 2014 as “a working deliverable”
…on top of the Web
Douglas Engelbart: visionary inventor,
human–computer interaction pioneer.
invented the computer mouse
early developer of hypertext
strong proponent of computer networking
brought the revolutionary
Mother of All Demos
The world before the Web
was highly heterogeneous.
Exchanging information was hard.
Innovation was hard.
For which machines do we build?
For which operating systems do we build?
Tim Berners-Lee invented
the World Wide Web.
Berners-Lee was working at CERN.
Information Management: A Proposal
facilitating information sharing
live links …
first Web page came online in 1990.
accessible from anywhere in the world
any other page in the world can link to it
The Web strives to be
independence of many factors.
Anyone can use the Web, regardless of:
Developers are free to innovate.
Build for the Web.
Standards provide interoperability.
Unfortunately, this is not the default elsewhere.
App stores are a prominent counterexample.
CERN decided to make the Web
available royalty-free in 1993.
Web technologies are standardized
by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).
Communication evolved together
with the Web.
The Web is democratic.
everyone can read information
everyone can write information
Blogs emerged as a medium to spread thoughts.
The “Web 2.0” ideas made many users
transition from consumers to prosumers.
Education evolved together
with the Web.
The free encyclopedia
Wikipedia started in 2001.
freely accessible knowledge for all
Massive Open Online Courses soon followed.
Business evolved together
with the Web.
Pizza Hut accepted online orders already in 1994.
Amazon and many others exploit the
The Web brings
freedom of expression
to everyone across the world.
Anyone can say anything about anything.
We all have our own spaces,
so we don’t have to agree.
link to opinions of others
to discuss about them.
A generation of social platforms
helped people interact and share.
The Web brings
at a global scale.
Anyone can build anything for any reason.
The technologies are open.
You don’t need anyone’s permission
to join the Web and launch a new idea.
This contrast with app stores.
Permissionless innovation has brought
unprecedented creativity to the world.
The Internet is a communication network
between different machines in the world.
The Web is a layer of interlinked resources
accessible through the Internet.
Which is the Internet
and which is the Web?
a global communication network interconnecting devices
an information space on top of the Internet
Internet is to Web what
the telephone network is to fax.
The Internet contains more
than just the Web.
on the Internet but not on the Web
on the Web but not on the Internet
Most people don’t understand or care about the difference…
but you should!
Quartz / LIRNEasia
Web linking is decentralized, implemented
as one-way links embedded in documents.
inside of HTML documents (not shared)
outside of HTML documents (shareable)
(fonts, colors, …) media
(images, video, …) scripts
The Web was the only hypertext system
simple enough to scale to the world.
Individual links are allowed to break
so the entire Web does not.
The Web’s universality
helped accelerate its growth.
HTTP and HTML were OS-independent.
Yet the server and browser were NeXT-specific.
Support for other systems followed in 1992.
gave the Web a broader audience.
It provides compatibility at an unprecedented scale.
The text-based browser
Lynx is still developed and used. Your phone can access websites created 20 years ago.
The Web evolved together
with technology (and bandwidth).
1991 text (and links) only
proposal for the
2002 video through the Flash player
The Web’s architecture makes it hard
to locate specific content.
Since the Web is decentralized,
we cannot possibly know where everything is.
Crawlers from search engines traverse the Web
and create a centralized index of content.
Feeds let you discover new content
on websites you already know.
RSS feed contains the title and summary
of the last entries on a (part of a) website.
specification co-authored by Aaron Swartz
By regularly polling such a feed,
your computer can tell you if there’s news.
no need to search/monitor the entire Web
Machines have only limited possibilities
on the “human” Web.
Browsers are operated by people.
How can we let machines access information?
How can we let machines perform actions?
Web APIs expose functionality
to an automated client.
Web API is a programmable interface
to a certain Web platform.
We can build client-side applications
in- or outside the browser
that leverage external functionality.
reuse of the Web’s port and protocol stack
starting point for building native versions of an app
The number of Web APIs has
grown tremendously since 2000.
number of Web APIs
indexed in ProgrammableWeb
Web APIs let machines execute scripts,
but not explore and process content.
Machines do not “know” what Web content means.
Indexing webpages doesn’t imply understanding them.
How can clients make sense of a webpage?
Can we somehow explain what is on there?
Can we help them make our lives easier?
Tim Berners-Lee and others proposed
a vision of intelligent Web agents.
By adding annotations to existing pages,
machines can interpret them and do things for us.
A network of knowledge is created
by linking different parts together.
Don’t know something? Follow its link to look it up!
Our personal devices will combine
data and services on our behalf.
The Semantic Web is a layer
on top of the existing Web.
The Semantic Web layer is
into the existing Web.
Linked (Open) Data aims to bootstrap
the Semantic Web vision.
The early Semantic Web suffered
from a chicken-and-egg problem.
Nobody built applications, because there was no data.
Nobody published data, because there were no apps.
Tim Berners-Lee proposed
: Linked Data
principles to follow to publish data semantically.
Let’s get data out—apps will follow.
Billions of Linked Data facts
are currently published on the Web.
Google, Facebook, and others
endorse usage of semantic annotations.
However, the Semantic Web’s
seems still in the making…
Who needs the Semantic Web when
we have a smartphone in our pockets?
Apple’s Siri and Google Now
process highly specific requests
on the Apple and Google servers.
The Semantic Web is like the Web:
decentralized and democratic.
Understanding the Web should
not only belong to the happy few.
Native apps essentially undo
all progress on device-independence.
Before the Web, we needed specific software
to consume any kind of information.
Thanks to the Web, we only need a
to consume the world’s knowledge.
Once more, we need specific apps.
Innovation becomes expensive and exclusive.
Your browser works for
you—an app not necessarily.
Centralization from multiple angles
is threatening the Web.
Technological decentralization can differ from practice:
Only certain devices and software can access the Web.
A few companies make or break websites.
platforms (especially social networks)
You need a specific account to use the Web.
The current massive centralization
hurts diversity, innovation, and choice.
If you can integrate one service…
will it be
Developers depend on
for data and identity.
…or they have to become such a platform themselves.
People lose control of their data
and cannot easily switch to other apps.
Innovation cannot attract locked-in customers.
Ironically, permissionless innovation
even allows platforms that prevent it.
The Facebook founder has no intention of
allowing anyone to build anything on his platform
that does not have his express approval.
Having profited mightily from the Web’s openness,
he has kicked away the ladder that elevated him
to his current eminence.
John Naughton, The Guardian
Vinayak Shankar Rao
Ted Nelson not only says goodbye to his best friend,
but also to an era and a vision.
Note his snarky comments about the Web,
not all of which are accurate.
The Web as I envisaged it,
we have not seen it yet.
The future is still so much bigger
than the past.