“Why we need to move from thinking about Web pages to thinking about the information on those pages.”
The above quote and link refer to a recent posting by Joab Jackson in which he discusses an idea recently put forward in a posting by the “father of the web” Sir Berners Lee. Berners Lee writes “The net links computers, the web links documents…now people are making another mental move. There is a realization now, its not the documents, its the things they are about which is important.” He is proposing that we think to the web as not a www (World Wide Web) but as a GGG (Giant Global Graph). As I understand it, he believes that the www model places too much emphasis just on documents themselves, not enough emphasis on specific information or content within documents on the web and is proposing a different model (GGG) as a possible way of addressing these concerns.
In his own posting referenced above, Joab Jackson interprets Berners Lee’s idea as …”in other words, with the Web we think of web sites, but we really need to move toward thinking about specific information we are trying to retrieve from the Web.” Joab also quotes Dr. James Hendler a professor of computer and cognitive science at the Rensslear Polytechnic Institute who who is familiar with Berners Lee’s thinking. According to Dr. Hendler, “as we seek more on the spot information with our mobile devices, we increasingly need a more nuanced way of retrieving that information…For instance if we just need an address, we don’t need an entire Web page, or database, that contains that addressd. We just need the address itself.”
Reading through this material and the Berners Lee post, I was struck by the thought that librarians, who have become highly dependant on the web in their work as information specialists, have long been concerned about these and related issues and are also working to resolve them . As information of all types, both accurate and inaccurate, becomes increasingly accessible, librarians too have been concerned about the need for more nuanced methods of not only finding specific information but determining if that information is both reliable and meets the needs of their patrons. There is a need for real collaboration if the semantic web and other ideas being put forward by Tim Berners Lee and others to ensure that the information needs of society are truly addressed as the web continues to evolve.
Although the idea of changing the web from WWW to GGG is certainly provocative and perhaps beneficial in providing a clearer description of its evolving functions, it is the effective resolution of issues raised by SirTim Berners Lee and others in this discussion that are of paramount importance, regardless of what naming conventions are eventually adopted. Looking ahead, concerns about content within documents on the web will become progressively more urgent.
Those concerns include issues related to accuracy, accessibility, reliabiality, authenticity, and in terms of some legal information, whether the documents containig the information are official or unofficial. These are among the areas where librarians can be especially helpful in moving the web forward.