Web 2.0 Ends With Data Monopolies

Bear with me while I connect the dots from a few of the things rattling around the web today. 

The guy with the most data wins.

That’s from my Partner Tim in his interview at the Where conference that was posted today. It’s a fantastic interview that covers a wide range of topics, well beyond the theme of Where. But Tim returns to this theme of data often. Making the point over and over.

Ominously, particularly in the wake of JBat’s announcement that the Web 2.0 conference will begin an indefinite hiatus, Tim recounts his timeline for the how Web 2.0 would evolve. He posited that it would begin with applications that harnessed collective intelligence and would end with the establishment of data monopolies. 

It’s with that phrase “data monopolies” rattling around in my head that I read this BusinessWeek interview with Larry Page. 

We would love to have better access to data that’s out there. We find it frustrating that we don’t.

Frustrating enough that the company is attempting to reconstruct those off limit data sets they simply can’t get their hands on. Yes, there’s whole new worlds of data forming they simply aren’t allowed to organize. They’re forming behind password protected sites. They’re forming within inaccesible apps. All just outside the reach of their army of bots, crawlers, algorithms and, just as importantly, their advertisers. 

In the past, services like Google had to wait for us to get to our desks at work before we could start feeding them our data. Then we all got laptops and were able to feed the machines our online behavior at home as well. Now we have phones that we feed on the go and throughout the day. But to maintain an edge, to truly have the most data, there needs to be a device that removes that slow and cumbersome manual input altogether. It should simply sense, learn and “enhance” the world around us. 

Today, we got a glimpse of what a device like that might look like. The data set it aims to organize isn’t confined to a screen or a keyboard or any other kind of manual input. No, this data set is something entirely new and if captured, will undoubtably define a winner. From the NYT:

The glasses will have a low-resolution built-in camera that will be able to monitor the world in real time and overlay information about locations, surrounding buildings and friends who might be nearby.

The glasses will send data to the cloud and then use things like Google Latitude to share location, Google Goggles to search images and figure out what is being looked at, and Google Maps to show other things nearby.

Everyone I spoke with who was familiar with the project repeatedly said that Google was not thinking about potential business models with the new glasses. 

So you’re able to track every website someone sees, every conversation they have, every Ukulele book they purchase and you’re not thinking about business models, eh? 

I’m still in the cynical phase of processing the days developments but I think they’re notable.

And in 10 years, potentially seminal. 

In January a friend asked what I thought the big trends to watch were going to be this year. My answer was that this is the year things get weird. I don’t know if we’ll label the next phase of development Web 3.0 or something else. But, with the stakes being data monopoly or also ran on the table, it will only get weirder from here.