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Web 3.0: Mozilla's Raskin Says Services Beat Sites

NEW YORK -- Is the Web site passé?

You might think so if you spoke to Aza Raskin.

During a keynote here at the Web 3.0 Conference, Raskin -- head of user experience at Mozilla Labs, as well as a mathematician, physicist and user interface guru -- told the audience that the evolution of the Net favors services and applications rather than the static sites that dominated the first iteration of the Web.

He said that the Web has already moved from read-only sites in Web 1.0 to the interactive Web sites of Web 2.0 -- but that's just the beginning.

"You could do neat things with Web 2.0 -- you could videotape police beating people up and do something about it," Raskin said.

The next stage of evolution, Web 3.0, starts not with a new Web site but with sharing and services that are delivered through applications and mashups.

"Why can't I yet add a map to e-mail," Raskin asked. "And spell check! I have nine versions of it on my PC and only about half of them know my name and I cannot use any of them on the Web!"

Despite the promise of Web 3.0, Raskin said that there will be no applications on the Web until there are proven use cases, and that there will be no use cases until the applications are there. It's a chicken and egg issue that he proposed to solve -- and also demonstrate -- with Mozilla Labs' Ubiquity app.

The app is designed to enable user-generated mashups. In his demonstration, Raskin used Ubiquity to add a map and Yelp restaurant reviews to an e-mail inviting a friend to dinner. He then put the dinner on his calendar.

Ubiquity can work with Web sites as well as Web-based apps. Raskin showed a scenario in which a house-hunter browsing Craigslist could map a selected group of homes for sale.

"Currently, it works only on Craigslist," he admitted. "But it is a demonstration of the principle: to map, to plot, to see data as we want to see it."

As much as Ubiquity demonstrates the potential of Web 3.0, it also demonstrates its limits. "It's now a 0.2 product," said Raskin, meaning that it is in a very early stage of development. For one thing, the interface needs work and the use cases remain limited -- so far.

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