Data-rich Internet Needs Context, New Modes of Consumption & Serendipity

Jeff Veen & Doug Bowman (L to R)

Our bandwidth and the speeds at which we access the web will grow fivefold over the next few years thanks to advances in wired and wireless technology. Not only are we connecting faster, but we’re also doing it from more places thanks to mobile broadband. These two things combined are creating a rush of data that will be generated and consumed. At a GigaOM Bunker Series event held today in San Francisco, a group of technologists explored how the next generation of the web will use location, sensors built into devices such as our mobile phones and other context clues to “give the Internet a body.”

In the future, metadata will be available on our mobile phones and it will provide computers with contextual information around data that developers create, according to Marc Davis, partner at Invention Arts and former chief scientist of Yahoo Mobile. By bridging the gap between pieces of information, particularly geolocation data, temporal information (when something is created) and other contextual information that Davis called the “who, what, when and where” clues, we’ll be able to help machines filter through data in ways that are more relevant for us. (Related post: Why Location Awareness Will Make the Web More Useful.)

Left to Right: Dave Winer (Scripting News), Bret Taylor (Facebook), Joe Smarr (Plaxo) & David Recordon (Facebook)

But in order to help people feel comfortable sharing these four Ws about themselves — notably where they are at any given moment — developers will have to address privacy issues, Yahoo’s FireEagle creator Tom Coates said. However, the cautious pace of making use of all of this data (in part because of worries about privacy implications) was derided by investor Dave McClure, who pleaded with the big players like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft to gather his data and make useful applications with it.

Twitter was the star of a large chunk of the event, thanks to well-known designer Doug Bowman, who argued on behalf of his company and talked about creating a truly open, real-time site that offers up its metadata to all developers. So does Twitter, a company with less than 100 employees, feel threatened by developers building new features around its product? No, according to Bowman, who said that the company believes developers’ new ideas on how to enhance the Twitter platform are “phenomenal.”

Bret Taylor, Friendfeed & Facebook

Bret Taylor, Friendfeed & Facebook

One of those developers on hand today was Things Labs CEO Jason Shellen, who said the micromessaging site won’t get around to incorporating every feature developed by Twitter-focused applications. Thing Labs created Brizzly, a Twitter reader that launched in private beta this August, which offers features that Twitter doesn’t, such as a button that mutes the tweets of people you follow so they don’t show up in your update stream.

Elizabeth Churchill (Yahoo), Salim Ismail (Singularity University) & John Hagel (Deloitte Touche)

The final segment of the event focused on the concept of serendipity, where the system is smart enough to provide you with information that you weren’t searching for, but is still useful — perhaps even more useful than what you were searching for in the first place.

John Hagel, a well-known author and co-chairman of Deloitte & Touche USA’s Silicon Valley-based research center, made an interesting observation about serendipity. “Serendipity is becoming more and more important. You have to be able to find things you didn’t even know existed — it becomes more and more critical to your success,” he said. “From my perspective, it’s more about serendipitous encounters with people, though, than information. “