Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Future of the Web

Q&A with Ricardo Baeza-Yates, Director and Roelof Van Zwol, Senior Researcher, Yahoo! Research Barcelona

Ricardo is a Thought Leader in the
LAB on MEDIA and Human Experience
An immersed experience of a Do-Tank
May 29 & 30, 2007
Location: Girona near Barcelona, Spain

Club of Amsterdam: Ricardo and Roelof - the Internet is constantly changing and offering new possibilities like Web 2.0. Social networks will benefit from these new features. Can you give us an idea how human interaction will improve?

Social networks will allows for direct communication with users with similar backgrounds, or interests, or with experts in a certain area.For example, inside Yahoo! we use a social network tool that is the perfect example, where given a few keywords, the experts in any topic like "social media" can instantly be found. It uses not only the self-descriptive tags provided by a user, but also the tags that other people used to tag fellow colleagues. We are using it on a regular basis, and it is especially useful for checking one's background, or for finding the person with the right expertise within the Yahoo! company, within seconds. Thus at a professional level it already improves the efficiency. When it comes to social networks on the Web, it also allows for the formation of large online communities that share common interests, and allow a user to share, and acquire knowledge. One recent development in the area of social networks, called second life, allows users and companies to start a new and perhaps more exciting life on the Internet.

Club of Amsterdam: Knowledge is essential for further development and innovation. Collaborative media will give us a world of new opportunities. Can you describe a future scenario?

The second life example already gives you a hint of where the "Future of the Web" will go. Last year, Yahoo! Research has organized a workshop under this title in Barcelona focused in Web Search, when the lab was opened. One future scenario will be that you are commuting to work, and would like to know which route to take, in order to avoid traffic jams, or that it might be better to work form home, due to expected traffic in the evening. You ask this question, and instantaneously receive audiovisual information from either validated sources, like traffic cameras, or from other commuters that have found themselves stuck in a traffic jam.

Club of Amsterdam: What are new developments in social media?

We already see that the dialog between users and media allows for new forms of interaction between users and their computers. Flickr, the Yahoo! photo sharing site, allows users to upload, and tag their photos online for sharing with their friends or to directly show them to a large community. When another user is exploring the Flickr photo database, he or she can provide additional tags, a photo rating, or give comments on the image. This allows for the retrieval of high quality and interesting photos at a scale that was not envisioned possible before. Currently, the Flickr site contains hundreds of millions of photos that are hand tagged by users, while the current state of the art in content-based image retrieval (CBIR) is not yet ready to handle this scale. This does not mean that existing research in this area has become obsolete. On the contrary, the combination ofCBIR with social media should allow for even better sharing and retrieval services in the future.

New forms of media are appearing on a daily basis, and it is next to impossible to track all the new developments in this area. It is however sure that the online presence of users will increase and that the role of media in this perspective is significant. It will allow for direct interactive communication through rich media channels in a fast changing world.

Thank you Ricardo and Roelof!


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