The Web is the most important and revolutionary phenomenon since the invention of the press by Gutenberg in the 15th century. The greatest contribution of the Web is the democratization of the production of information and knowledge, which has been a monopoly of a few agents that controlled what could be published or distributed (such as editors and newspapers). The Web enabled anyone who has access to a Web server to produce content that is immediately accessible through hyperlinks and search engines. This phenomenon became more evident with the availability of new applications (such as YouTube, Facebook, Orkut, and Flickr), which made much easier the production and publication of multimedia content. This has led to a more intense interaction between Web users through online social networks, a social phenomenon that is pretty much unknown.
INWeb was created to study the various phenomena related to the Web. The mission of this institute is to develop models, algorithms and technologies to contribute to the integration of the Web with the society. As a result, we expect more effective and secure distribution of information, more efficient and useful applications, so that the Web can become a vector for social and economic changes in our country. The institute activities include research, education of human resources and knowledge transfer to the society and companies.
Given the exponential growth of the Web, the advent of new services and applications is limited by infrastructural aspects of software and hardware. Thus, studying the various aspects of the Web exceeds the traditional activities of generating content and creating new applications. It demands the development of new technologies that traverse its various layers and requires knowledge about the society that uses its resources. In our research proposal, we start from a unified view of the Web as being formed by three independent layers of complex, dynamic, interdependent networks of relationships through which information flows. The top layer corresponds to the social interactions which work on top of the Web applications, which operate over the Web infrastructure. These three layers of networks comprise a set of interactions among people, information objects, applications, software and hardware components.
Our research proposal plans to improve the state-of-the-art for the three layers of networks. Specifically, we aim to develop solutions for three great challenges defined on the unified view of the Web: (i) Identification, characterization and modeling of interests and patterns of people behavior on the Web and the established networks among them; (ii) Treatment of information that circulates through the Web layers, considering the activities of crawling, extracting and processing information; (iii) Delivery of information in a satisfying way regardless of time and place.
Regarding the education of human resources, we plan to grant an expressive number of academic degrees, including PhD, MSc, and bachelors. We consider the graduation of these professionals and researchers one of the main results of the proposal, as it will open great opportunities for developing the area. The participant institutions include two graduate programs in Computer Science with level 6 (of 7 levels) at Capes (UFMG and UFRGS), a young graduate program with level 4 at Capes (UFAM), and one emergent group connected to an MS program in Mathematical and Computational Modeling (CEFET/MG). Besides, we will have post-doc participants supported by scholarships from government agencies. We also intend to implement residence programs on Web technologies in themes that fit industry demands, where professionals will receive specific training in advanced areas. Regarding dissemination of knowledge, we plan to organize Summer Schools for high school students and other programs, which will also attract new students to Computer Science.
Regarding knowledge transfer to society and industry, the development of state-of-the-art technology in areas related to the Web and Complex Networks is very important to society and to the country. Additionally, the development of national competence in those themes is considered to be strategic by our government because it creates opportunities for avoiding imports and starting exports of Web technology. The Web is a very promising factor for development and strategic placement of the country in a global technological context. As in some of our previous projects, we hope to create start-up companies, as occurred with Miner Technology Group and Akwan Information Technologies (acquired by Google in 2005).
INWeb is based on a multi-institutional research team of excellence with indisputable competence on problems related to the Web. Our group has a rich history of collaborations and joint projects. The creation of the proposed Institute is a natural step towards consolidating and formalizing the already existent collaborations. Based on the quality and quantity of collaborations, the researchers form a coherent unit, absolutely capable of achieving the proposed goals.