In countries like India, however, even the Reference Web hasnt been created well. There have been three problems. The first challenge has been that the existing Internet players havent really made the investments to build out this Web focusing instead more on communications-oriented services like email and IM. The second challenge has been the diversity of India itself especially, the languages spoken. English is not good enough for the mass market. Finally, the user base so far has not demanded an India Reference Web primarily because access to the Web has been limited on account of both the low computing penetration, and the limited and expensive communications options. All of this has resulted in a Web that, from the perspective of Indian users, has excellent global information, but very limited local information.
This is not to say that the Indian Web is doomed. There have been a number of success stories jobs and matrimonial sites have thrived, as have online trading and ticketing sites. In the first two cases, the Web serves as an information marketplace connecting people much more efficiently than is possible through print-based classifieds. In the latter two cases, the Web is making commercial transactions much more efficient bypassing traditional intermediaries.
In this context, Search on the Reference Web has obvious limitations since local content is still quite limited. Rediff has tried to provide an alternative to the single web search box with options to search for airfares, jobs, ringtones, classifieds and product prices.
All of this is just the start. What India needs is a grassroots revolution in the way publishing takes place. Users will come once they find the right information available online. The pain points in India are about finding the locally relevant information. Given the time that has passed, I cannot see this process being centrally driven. No single entity can make this happen. Also, building complex websites for consumption on the PC is going to be quite limited in its adoption as we have seen. A large number of Indian websites that exist are not updated as often as they should be. No surprise because the users arent really going out there and looking for them anyways!
Indian content creation will need to be focused differently. Instead of assuming consumption on PCs, the baseline should be that the content is more likely to be consumed on the mobile. Instead of trying to focus on static, reference-based content, the focus should be on whats new, whats happening now, and what is contextually relevant (near) the users. Another way to look at the N3 Web is to think of it as the Incremental Web for space, time and topics. Now is the Incremental Web centred around time. New is the Incremental Web centred around topics. Near is the Incremental Web centred around space.
Tomorrow: The Opportunity