From Gopher to Google for EventWeb

In the context of how some new things are evolving and emerging in the Web related areas, it is very interesting to revisit how the Web evolved and transformed our lives for ever. Just a little more than a decade ago, on the Internet, we had lots of sites where people used to put documents and then if you knew the location, you could go to the site and download it using ftp or similar service. Gopher became a popular service that time because it allowed people to easily visit sites, explore them, and perform operations to download desired documents. Then came the idea championed by Tim Barners-Lee that resulted in the Web of documents. The idea was elegant and simple and brilliant. One should not consider the documents as an independent document, but should consider it part of a network. The network is created using the referential links from document to the other. The idea of these referential links has been around for long time in the form of footnotes, references, bibliography and similar mechanisms. This idea changed the way we looked at documents. And this whole thing was further revolutionized by simple interface to browse these linked documents using a browser like Mosaic that became Netscape.

Many people consider the Web the most influential innovation since Gutenberg.
Interestingly, the current Web continues the legacy of Gutenberg — it is a web of documents. This web is created by non-linear text by linking through referential approach. It has billions of pages connected in this web. But, the fact remains that each node is a page. On the Web, we think in terms of a web of these pages.

There is a more natural web that is slowly evolving and is likely to emerge as a major Web in the next few years. This web is created by events. Events are the fundamental spatio-temporal abstractions in life that capture activities of people and other living and organic entities. Events are naturally linked with other events through spatial, temporal, causal, similar, and other relationships. These events naturally propagate and result in other event. They also have another important characteristic: in addition to information associated with them, they also have experiential data such as images, video, audio, and other sensory data associated with them. Page oriented documents do try to capture experience related to events, but that is usually so abstract that in most cases it requires too much imagination on the part of experiencer to really experience them.

With ubiquitous presence of sensors, increasing storage, bandwidth, and processing power, it is increasing easier to capture detailed experience of events. These experiences include information associated with them. This is slowly changing how we get information and experiences and share those with others in our own circles as well as with all other people. The Web that is emerging is more multimedia, but more importantly it is the web of events are rather than documents.

Many calendar and map oriented techniques that are emerging are reminiscent of Gopher days of document-web when each document was independent and was perceived by us as a document. By creating a web of these documents trough referential links, the Web has now entered the Google age where we consider them related and use characteristics of the links among them in organizing, accessing, and evaluating information. Going forward, the links among events will be referential, spatial, temporal, causal, and contextual. Today we are in the Gopher age of EventWeb. Many challenges lie ahead to take us into the Google age of EventWeb.

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