I'm a big fan of the so-called mashable Web, because it implies that this unmanageable ocean of information can be turned into a personalised set of relevant applications. That's nerd-talk for 'data you can use.'
We all know how to scour the web for what we want. We've all learned to reason in Boolean operators, even if we have no idea who Boole was. The Web is useful, even essential, and so we have adapted our life-style and work-style to suit the Web as it is.
But soon we will be able to adapt the Web to suit our way of working. We will mash up the Web into the real-time information units we want, whether you call them personalised channels, or composite applications, or feeds, or 'little helper robots that fetch stuff' .
The crux of this idea is that by combining general data (from the Web) with specific data (internal corporate databases, or personal information), you create a new dataset that is truly relevant. 1+1=3.
As I've covered before, lots of quirky mashups already exist; they're listed here. But serious mashups that are (a) useful to business and (b) programmable by business users, have been far and few between. At this week's Web 2.0 Expo a number of new mashup technologies are being announced that will bring the mashable Web right onto the desktop.
Kapow Technologies (disclosure: Kennet company) announces two new products at Web 2.0: an on-demand version of its Enterprise Mashup Server, and an Excel connector that allows anyone who works with spreadsheets to pull real-time data from the Web into Excel. This means business analysts can integrate live data from the Web (eg, competitors' prices, stock quotes, interest rates, airline fares, DHL tracking codes, etc) into their models without any programming. The unstructured Web meets the structured Excel spreadsheet. It's a very powerful idea, and the opening shot in what will be the next content revolution on the Web.
The last two years saw a tsunami of user-generated content and new social networking links wash through the Web, fundamentally changing its character and usefulness to individuals. In my view, over the next few years we will race to merge unstructured Web content with structured corporate databases to create information flows that are truly relevant to business, real-time and actionable.