In the ’90s romantic comedy that we borrowed the title from, a chain of dramatic events take place, while the main character (played by Peter Gallagher) is in a post-accident coma.
Comatose sleep is a little too dramatic for this, but just in case you spent the last couple of years on a beautiful island, away from the daily strains of the everyday life in the 21st century, let us list some of the major, latest technical advancements for you. For the less-fortunate rest of us, who did not get to lounge on an island, this is a chance to look back and identify new technologies that have changed the way we live and operate, but were not around just couple of years ago.
Twitter took off during 2007 SXSW festival. This 140-character-limit social messaging service revolutionized the Internet landscape by inventing, and at the same time monopolizing, a completely new phenomena: Micro-Blogging. The invention was so successful that it went far beyond the initial idea and became the most effective way to share ideas on the Web.
Linked data is too technical and behind-the-scenes to receive wide recognition, but since the invention of the World-Wide Web it is probably the biggest change Internet has gone through. Linked data allows presentation of data in machine-readable, “linkable” way and linking data silos into aggregated, enriched content much like World-Wide Web allowed linking web-pages at the dawn of the Internet. Under different names, the idea of Linked Data (sometimes also referred as Semantic Web) has been around for a long while, but only recently have we seen real, practical applications of Linked Data that actually benefit consumers. And we are just touching the tip of an iceberg, so far.
In the last couple years an increasing number of free web-services emerged that provide the kind of machine intelligence that traditionally was only available to an exclusive set of companies and only for very large amounts of money. One of the most prominent examples of such service is the free Open Calais API from Thomson-Reuters. Open Calais allows machine-analysis of a free-text document and identifies named entities in a linked data cloud. In more simple terms: it allows to identify entities like: people, organizations, companies, as well as events (e.g. mergers and acquisitions) and links those entities to other sources of information which can provide more detailed information about them (e.g. Company profile). Another important service that is clearly emerging is Sentiment Analysis. Unfortunately, there’s no equivalent provider that offers free, large-scale service like the one from Thomson-Reuters, but it’s probably just a matter of time.
Another old technology, re-invented and grown into maturity thanks to different social networks, Twitter most importantly, where posting long URLs is a problem. While most people consider short URLs just a matter of convenience it’s much more than that. Accumulating huge databases of cross-linked data and link usage statistics (like the one bit.ly has) allows unprecedented ability to derive value-added statistics and behavioral analysis. If I was going to invest money, this is where I would invest my money, right now.
Modern Web applications process many orders of magnitude larger data than they used to mere 2-4 years ago. Startups emerge and scale to mind-bobbling levels in no time. All of these is possible thanks to cloud computing and cloud computing only. While we are still learning how to use the power of a cloud to the best, one thing is clear: future of computing is in a “cloud” and there’s no going back.
Open Source in Government.
The administration change in White House, launch of http://recovery.gov on Drupal and clear support of open, innovative technologies from the new US government opens unprecedented opportunities for community collaboration and innovation the benefits of which we, probably, can not even fully imagine at this point.
And last, but not least is the iPhone. Originally released on June 29, 2007, this little gadget completely changed the way we think of mobile devices. It took the market by storm, climbing to leading position in a highly-competitive arena and becoming a true technological phenomena, way beyond just a gadget. It also ignited very healthy competition, forcing stagnating mobile manufacturers to bring new devices to the market, devices that are geared more towards real-time mobile applications.
Having listed some of the major achievements of the technology in just past couple of years, we can look forward and speculate on what’s to come. Speculate, because with the speed things change – nobody really knows. However, one trend is quite obvious – Web and technology at large is becoming increasingly real-time. It’s safe to assume that that’s where most of the new innovation will be concentrated – being more mobile and more real-time. It will also make life more hyper and intense, of course, which makes us wish it was us departing to a quiet island for two years and coming back in two years to read somebody else’s While You Were Sleeping blog post.