John Battelle recently posted a great blog essay in which he distinguished between the “Dependent Web” and the “Independent Web”—the Dependent Web being the part of web that basically has some degree of understanding of who you are and then tailors its responses to you, while the Independent Web is basically the dumb old legacy web that really is not aware of “you” and just operationally treats you like everyone else.
John makes the point that even the Independent Web is being dragged, kicking and screaming, into what I call the new IT “era of adaptation” by virtue of the advertising delivered on these sites being personalized basis inferences of preferences and interests, even if the substantive, non-advertising functions of these sites are still mired in the legacy of the era of dumb old non-personalized systems.
John’s take on this inexorable evolution toward a web that learns from its experiences with us is that, “it’s clear that we’re in the early phases of a major shift in the texture and the experience of the web.” Indeed, we are witnessing the plain old web transforming into various learning layers. And as I indicate in The Learning Layer, just how the web will eventually evolve into the one learning layer to rule them all is the real interesting question, and John goes into a good deal of detail on ways that this could/should occur.
It clearly won’t play out like the original web in which a relatively simple standard was rapidly and extensively leveraged—the evolution of the learning layer will be a function of many different economic interests and objectives, as well as complex technical approaches, almost surely resulting in more of a learning layer mosaic, presenting users with a great variety of different learning textures. Which is likely ultimately a good thing. Of course, as I stress in The Learning Layer, the implementation of company or institution-specific learning layers is much more straightforward and will deliver numerous benefits all the while the long and fascinating process of the “sausage making” of the public web-based learning layer continues.