The cover story of the July 2008 CACM (v51, n7) is Web Science by Jim Hendler, Nigel Shadbolt, Wendy Hall, Tim Berners-Lee, and Danny Weitzner. The article argues for an interdisciplinary approach to understanding the Web as an entity in its own right. It’s great that this article is freely available on the web. Ironically, figuring out what URL to use to link to it was a bit tricky and the pages are rendered as png images to protect the IP. But, it’s a good article that lays out an important new area of study in information systems.
“Despite the Web’s great success as a technology and the significant amount of computing infrastructure on which it is built, it remains, as an entity, surprisingly unstudied. Here, we look at some of the technical and social challenges that must be overcome to model the Web as a whole, keep it growing, and understand its continuing social impact. A systems approach, in the sense of “systems biology,”, is needed if we are to be able to understand and engineer the future Web.”
What I find exciting is that one of the attributes that makes the Web so successful is that it is a system to which all can contribute. We need to make sure it remains that way and doesn’t devolve into a hegenomic structure.