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The Re-Invented Web
What Canadian home builders can expect

Technologists busily re-inventing the Web say builders can look forward to an Internet where it's much easier to collaborate, to innovate and to manipulate data and software on a wide variety of Net-friendly devices.
Driving this change - a trend loosely referred to as Web 2.0 - will be the rapid and widespread adoption of social networks by businesses, which employees will seize to collaborate internally, and customers and clients will use to play an active part in forging company direction on goods and services.
Entry level social networks, in the form of company blogs that invite and publish comment from visitors, are already a significant force on the Web. Scores of Canadian blogs have cropped up where builders can talk real estate online, including DailyStats.ca, Fred Carver Real Estate Marketing, and A Sure Bet (see Web links below). As well, some Canadian builders, such as Sitka Log Homes in 100 Mile House, British Columbia, have created their own blogs.
More full-blown social networks - miniature corporate replicas of MySpace and Facebook - are expected to become increasingly common. Indeed, technology market research firm Forrester predicts that business investment in social networks designed for customer and client input alone will reach nearly a billion dollars annually by 2013, as corporations capitalize on a trend first recognized by companies such as MySpace and Facebook.
Initially, builders will be able to source software for building these social networks from small and nimble boutique providers such as Neighborhood America and Leverage Software, which offer tool suites that bundle together the most popular facets of social networking, such as profile creation, blogs, discussion forums and content uploading and sharing, according to Forrester.
However, expect the biggest guns in the software industry, including SAP, IBM and Microsoft, to have fully incorporated Web 2.0 tools into their product lines by 2013, says G. OLIVER YOUNG, author of the April 2008 Forrester report, Global Enterprise Web 2.0 Market Forecast:  2007 to 2013.
Meanwhile, equally influential in the re-invented Web will be a new approach to computing where most - if not all - of a builder's software applications will reside on the universally accessible Web, rather than locked away on mainframes or on individual PCs, a concept known as "cloud computing".
Emblematic of this trend is Microsoft's new Live Mesh software, which is designed to link together all of a company's Internet devices, including desktops, laptops, Mac computers, cameras, mobile phones, media centers and digital picture frames, for instant collaboration. Essentially, the software will enable a builder to synchronize all data and applications across all devices as much as possible, enabling all of those devices to "become aware of each other" as long as each is linked to the Internet via a wire or WiFi, according to AMIT MITAL, Microsoft's general manager for Live Mesh.
Of course, in its ideal form, cloud computing will not be driven by just one major company such as Microsoft, or favour the linking of devices that run on one type of software, according to TIM O'REILLY, chief executive officer of O'Reilly Media, a computer book publishing firm that also hosts conferences on Web 2.0. Instead, the purest implementation of cloud computing will enable any computerized device a builder uses to simultaneously interconnect with every other computerized device in a company's technology arsenal, O'Reilly says.
Finally, another cornerstone of the re-invented Web will be the increasing proliferation of computerized sensors programmed to continually update the Web with time-sensitive data, according to O'Reilly. Essentially, these sensors will eliminate the drudgery of inputting such data by hand. O'Reilly points to vehicle traffic analysis systems like Dash Navigation  and Microsoft's still-in-development ClearFlow as pioneers of this trend. Both software solutions rely on GPS devices embedded in a large number vehicles to automatically relay data to Web-based software, which is used to analyze traffic patterns and suggest alternative to routes for drivers.
Fortunately, those who believe that everything that is new is not necessarily better can take solace in the prediction that the revolutionary tool that made the Web possible - the Web browser - will most likely be around for a long time to come, despite the fact that competitors like the iPhone are beginning to crop up. Though the Web browser is considered "so nineties" by some, the tool is such a ubiquitously entrenched part of the Web experience for users across the globe that it makes no sense to re-invent the wheel. "There's really no incentive," says MARK ANDREESSEN, founder of Netscape, the browser that played a pivotal role in the emergence of the Web.

Joe Dysart is an Internet speaker and business consultant based in Manhattan. He can be reached by phone at 646-233-4089, by e-mail, or at www.joedysart.com.


Web links:
Fred Carver Real Estate Marketing
A Sure Bet
Sitka Log Homes Blog
Neighborhood America
Leverage Software
Global Enterprise Web 2.0 Market Forecast: 2007 to 2013
Live Mesh software
Web 2.0 conference (O'Reilly Media)

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