Why if you miss Siri you'll miss the future of the Web

Siri is the most useful thing I’ve seen so far this year.

But after playing with it, getting an interview with its CEO (video here on building43) it’s even more important for you to pay attention to.

It is the best example of what the web will be.

Let’s go back.

Web 1994 was the “get me a domain and a page” era.
Web 2000 was the “make my page(s) interactive and put people on it” era.
Web 2010 is the “get rid of pages and glue APIs and people together” era.

Siri is the best example. First, it’s not a website. It’s an application you put on your phone (today iPhone, soon others like Android and Blackberry). Second, it isn’t a search engine, those are so 1998. It’s a system that assists you in your life.

Why is it so different?

Because on the back end they’ve stitched together a sizeable group of APIs from services like Opentable to Flightstats. With more coming soon.

Before it was common only for a couple of APIs to be joined together, here they have dozens. The system figures out which ones need to be used based on what you’re asking for.

That’s the other thing. You ask it to do stuff like “find me a pizza place near me” or “tell me the weather in Chicago this weekend.” With your voice or by typing commands.

Why is this really new and important? Don’t get confused by the awesome voice recognition engine that figures out your speech and what you want with pretty good accuracy. No, that’s not the really cool thing, although Microsoft and other companies have been working on natural language search for many years now and have been failing to come up with anything as useful as Siri.

No, the real secret sauce and huge impact on the future of the web is in the back end of this thing. A few months back the engineers at Siri gave me a secret look at how they stitch the APIs into the system. They’ve built a GUI that helps them hook up the APIs from, say, a new source like Foursquare, into the language recognition engine.

I just asked Siri “who checked into the Half Moon Bay Ritz?”

Now you and I know that we could look at Foursquare to find that answer, but Siri didn’t know the answer and brought me results from Bing. Very unsatisfying.

But the team now could hook up Foursquare’s APIs and make this question answerable.

Siri has developed a new programming language and GUI for the API web. This is huge, although it’s too bad that it’s so early and so hidden. We can’t help Siri’s developers out (if we could, maybe we could add Foursquare’s APIs tonight) and we can’t think of ways to make systems like Foursquare that would have APIs better designed to talk with a system like Siri’s.

I hope everyone takes a look at the video, it really shows the magic of this system, which is getting a lot of great reviews around the web. Most of the bloggers I’ve seen are slobbering over it, deservedly so.

This is the future of the web. How can we get there faster?

Comments

  1. A “do engine” is the future of the “web”? Think you're overstating. Very nifty app/service but replacing pages and the future of the web as a whole – doubt it.

  2. A “do engine” is the future of the “web”? Think you're overstating. Very nifty app/service but replacing pages and the future of the web as a whole – doubt it.

  3. A “do engine” is the future of the “web”? Think you're overstating. Very nifty app/service but replacing pages and the future of the web as a whole – doubt it.

  4. I don't think I'm overstating it at all. It might not be Siri itself, but the idea of hooking up APIs in real time to bring better experiences to you. My supertweet idea is another version of this, too, and I know several companies working on that as we speak.

    1. Hooking up APIs may become a big thing in the future just like Twitter became a big thing. But just as Twitter isn’t the web, neither is this.

  5. I haven't had the time to watch the video yet, but while reading the article I kept thinking: Wasn't that what mashing was all about? How about Yahoo Pipes?

    “Stitching APIs” is nothing new, it's just taken a new form as more developers learn about the principles of REST and publish their APIs. It's all in the technology — once we had plain old HTML and we used to page-scrape it to collect data out of the code intended for human eyes (even before that we had screen scraping — I did my share of bringing the old IBM OS/400 screens to the Web), then came along the RSS and Web services, first with SOAP/WSDL and later with JSON.

    In other words, calling what Siri does is nothing new, although it does sound like a great product, and I'm looking forward to checking it out as soon as it becomes available in my AppStore. In my opinion the most interesting thing about it that they've chosen to use a native app instead of a server-side, browser-based one. I understand that the native app is needed for better integration with phone-specific features (even though many are now accessible by the browser), but I'd like to know where is the real magic taking place, in the browser or on a server? If it was done on the server then the native app is in my opinion superfluous, but if it's in the app than I'm inclined to agree with you that Siri represents the future of the Web, but for different reasons.

    The trick is not in the “API stitching” but rather in the intermingling of client and server, and in integration of the native apps (the “OS”) with the cloud to the point where the boundaries disappear.

  6. I watched the video the other day when you posted it and downloaded the app right away.

    I played with it for a couple of hours, showed to to a few friends, and everyone is amazed with this application.

    Worked awesome the other night when I was checking flights statuses when picking up a friend at the airport. was able to see that the flight was delayed and see a visual representation of where the plane is on a map.

    What would have been cooler is if the app had the ability to say into it “Keep me posted on flight # XXXX and let me know id there are any delays”

    Right now the app only sends email reminders, and that is great but would be very cool if push notifications to my phone were available.

    Lastly, love the idea you mentioned integrating Foursquare. Gowalla would be a nice add as well.

    Siri is definitely one of my favorite apps of all times! Not to mention, feels like Start Trek has finally arrived, only we do not have to say “Computer” before we ask something or Siri!

    Doc

  7. If this works easily, it could be amazing. Thanks for the video. I can't use it yet since I am still using a phone with no apps, no wifi, nothing! Who else is the same as me?

    I think Siri will raise huge concerns for privacy. What information is shared with which APIs? After the using the service for awhile, it might know too much about you. How is that information stored? What if it gets hacked? etc etc. Interesting nonetheless.

    Another thing that strikes me is the opportunity for Siri to move into Yelps category.. reviews. It would need some kind of reviews, or how else could it judge restaurants, etc.

    p.s.First post on your blog :)

  8. It is iCentric with no apparent plans for WinMo so it is of no use for MILLIONS of potential users. Count me as one of the suckers to have been following this app for a long time only to get an email about the iPhone now and Blackberry and Android later. Gee thanks, I guess the future of the web is only on chosen platforms?

    1. Or else it’s easy for them to develop for millions of iPhone users, who use a phone with awesome UI/UX and built in voice recognition, etc etc etc.

      When Google and RIM etc catch up to the iPhone, this app will lend itself to them too?

  9. I am with Scobie on this one. This is an amazing platform and can only better as more services are tied in on the back end, add that to imagination of thousands of other devs for the Iphone and then Android, together with the desktop devs this product will truely be a large part of the future web experience. We will of course always need and have sites but I can see this product also pinching part of the google search domination as it naturally evolves.

  10. Great article Robert, and a very interesting discussion in the comments! Your piece prompted me to write a response elaborating a bit more about the dynamic delegation aspects of our platform on the Siri blog: http://bit.ly/9ltzkL.

    Thanks, Adam


    Adam Cheyer
    Co-Founder & VP Eng
    Siri, Inc.

  11. Awesome UI is subjective and I've had voice recognition for years on Windows Mobile and I use it to voice dial and control my phone with bluetooth on a daily basis. The hardware requirements are not the issue. There is nothing on the iPhone to “catch up” with.

  12. We're excited about Siri's vision that we share, and looking forward to see the technology to emerge. User generated content becomes the king again, and this time in an easier and more helpful fashion.

  13. I'm liking Siri and the interface, but the data sources are horribly out of date. Especially the stuff from BooRah. Check out Woodminster in Oakland, Andronicos is listed as a place to go and it hasn't been there for at least 7 years. For Cesare's, Del Navio are both listed (mapped in slightly different places (with a freeway between ;-)) along with Joy Luck. They are ALL the same place at different points in time.

    I realize that these are not Siri problems per se, but there are many similar problems and they have me close to ditching Siri.

  14. This is not innovation. Anyone can translate text to speech and put it in multiple search engines. A waste of time. We are making baby steps while others are making giant leaps. IMO, there has been little TRUE innovation in the past 10 years.

  15. Whilst I'm not sure this app is necessarily the future in itself, I totally agree with Robert that the concept of knitting APIs together is the way forward, utilising all the incredibly rich information collated and categorised by the myriad applications around the web, social included. I've just written a short piece on how this approach could form part of the Semantic Web: http://www.great-seo.co.uk/future-web-connected

  16. About time. They've been taking fucking forever to get this damn Semantic Web stuff deployed properly. It's torture to listen to all this talk of new technology, yet having to wait half a decade before someone finally gets something that resembles a proper, general use of it.

  17. About time. They've been taking fucking forever to get this damn Semantic Web stuff deployed properly. It's torture to listen to all this talk of about semantic technologies while having to wait half a decade before someone finally gets something that resembles a proper, general use of it.