Bit by bit, component by component, day by day, there is a transformation under way. It is not easily visible for most, the changes are incremental or barely noticeable. But seen over an extended period of time, this transformation is going to be as important as the emergence of the web a decade ago.
The first web made publishing possible. By giving each document published a unique identifier and making available a standardised application in the form of the browser for display, the first web made mass-reading possible. This web is about a few publishing and many reading.
The second web will make mass-publishing and narrowband reading many will publish and each will be read by a few. The building blocks of this web are slowly falling in place. Some call it the two-way web, others think of it as the writeable web. A more appropriate description is the publish-subscribe web, or PubSubWeb.
The early adopters of the PubSubWeb are already out there in the form of bloggers and their readers who get the content via RSS aggregators (also called news readers). But this is just the beginning. By focusing on weblogs and trying to make writing to a blog easier, we are missing the real opportunity. The goal should be to make RSS publishing and reading easier. Blogs are an incidental by-product, not the primary produce.
A few months ago, I would visit a handful of bloggers daily. I had a blogroll on my weblog which made it easier for me to remember the URLs. Of course, I could have bookmarked these blogs also it is just that going to my own blog and clicking on the blogroll made it easier for me to clickthrough from any computer.
Now, I subscribe to the RSS feeds of 70+ blogs via our own Info Aggregator. I get the incremental updates from all of these blogs delivered in my mailbox. I am processing 10x the information in lesser time now. I now only view new blogs in the browser, or click through to blog posts with a abbreviated RSS feed. I have never managed such diversity in terms of information access in so short a time ever in my life.
Information available and needed by us has grown over the past decade thanks to the first web. The number of transactions we are expected to handle in a day has also increased dramatically. Yet, the base set of tools that we have available to interact with this information has barely changed email, IM and the browser continue to work the same way as they did a few years ago. This is why we feel overloaded with information. This is where the PubSubWeb will make a dramatic difference.
Tomorrow: The Information Ecosystem