The Wolfram Alpha engine is set to be launched. Rather than a search engine, it is an 'answer engine' that interprets actual questions and answers them in accordance with their intended meaning.
I have written about the Semantic Web back on June 11, 2007. The Wolfram Alpha, at first, will seem rather underwhelming, and will merely enable high-school and college students (as well as bloggers) to conduct their research more easily. But as refinements accumulate and users go through their own learning curve, we could see a major transformation in Internet usage starting around 2012.
The Wolfram Alpha will be the first mainstream experience of the Semantic Web, much as the launch of the Netscape Navigator browser in late 1994 heralded the arrival of the World Wide Web to the mainstream. The launch of the Wolfram Alpha will be a similar moment in technological progress, and while it will not be as much on an incremental jump in user experience as Netscape Navigator was, consider that when Netscape Navigator was launched, it could only be accessed by desktop PCs, as there were virtually no laptops and mobile phones in 1994. Furthermore, countries like India and China did not even have more than a handful of desktop PCs at the time. But today, in 2009, there are devices of many shapes and sizes, across many countries, than can access the Wolfram Alpha on the first day.
This does not mean that Wolfram Alpha will be the most successful Web 3.0 product. Recall how Netscape failed to win the marathon despite the early dominance, and how Google surpassed earlier search engines like Lycos, AltaVista, and Yahoo. The technology, and the trends underlying it, always supercede any one company or individual.
Thus, we have arrived at the start of the third chapter of the Internet age. Web 1.0 (the information web) ran from 1991 until 2001. 2001-03 was a nuclear winter for the Internet, which ended with Web 2.0 (the collaboration web) that ran from 2003 until 2009, and Web 3.0 (the semantic web) will begin now, in May 2009.