The World Wide Web offered a way to use computers to bring people together but the ".com" era turned it into a cash machine and it became a way to do advertising and push information out to people. Web 2.0 took that back with user-generated content and social communities that gave birth to YouTube, Facebook and ScientificBlogging.com.
Could the foundation of Web 3.0 be something as minor as user-generated networks?
WIP is a project in Europe funded by the EC and in partnership with companies like Siemens. It is basically an all-wireless mobile internet architecture using cross-layer design, transparent mobility and, most importantly to the creators, self-organization.
“When the internet first emerged, it assumed devices would be fixed in place and linked by wires,” remarks Marcelo Dias de Amorim, a researcher with the WIP project. “But that’s no longer true. A large number of devices are mobile and equipped with wireless communication capabilities.”
A number of the architecture aspects in the WWW were created to solve discreet problems that arose as time went on and popularity grew. WIP wants to reinventing the internet and its underlying methods with new technology.
But will people want it?
“We’re not looking to replace the internet with the flick of a switch,” warns Dias de Amorim. “What we’re proposing is a robust, flexible, optimised and above all user-friendly set of technologies and standards that will mean any user, anywhere, can identify and network with any nearby devices. Without any technical expertise whatsoever.”
Here is the scenario they envision: imagine you live in an apartment building where your neighbors all have wireless connections. You invite them to join a new ‘building network’ with a few clicks. You all have internet connections ranging from 1, 2 and 5 megabits/second (Mbits/s). You decide to pool your money and rent a high-speed connection that handles voice, data and TV for the whole building. Suddenly you all have 10Mbit/s connections.
If you lived out in the country 25 years ago, you have seen this before with cable television. Because cable television was not subsidized by the government, like telephones were, if people in low-density areas wanted it, they had to pay to have it installed. The cost was substantial and all of the neighbors pitched in.
Except invariably one neighbor would not want it so all of the other neighbors had to pay more.
Plus, most people in apartment buildings don't want that level of connectivity with their neighbors, much less figuring out a way to pool costs. The same goes for going to events and setting up ad-hoc networks. Who goes to live events just so they can text with people not at the event? People do it now - it's called the phone company.
Can this really replace the internet we have now?
“That’s not what we’re saying,” says Dias de Amorim. “It does address the basis of networking, but it can happily plug into the internet itself… That said, if everybody, or even the majority, is using WIP to create internets, then WIP is the internet!”
This kind of plug-and-play networking for grown-up applications is not quite there yet. They still need user applications and interface, routing protocols, and physical technology innovations.
They're currently testing in laboratories and over the next year will finalize some elements and integrate them all together.
Is user generated networking really a step forward? We'll see. From the description it sounds more like a portable BBS.