I got asked to provide a presentation to a business audience on ‘Web 3.0’ which was to their minds obviously the clear successor to the current Web 2.0 product. Yes, it really did seem to them that it was just the next release and therefore I should be able to provide a clear definition of the new features and how that would impact business. I had two pretty instant reactions to this; first it’s interesting that a pure business audience should be so interested in the topic and so obviously concerned with what it will do to their business. It does seem that people now clearly understand that the Web 2.0 change has and will continue to drive their businesses.
Second; what on earth would I say on the topic? A couple of years ago Web 3.0 was a hot discussion point, then it seemed to fade out as the whole explosion of Web 2.0 and moving towards web-based services and clouds seemed to provide so much to think about that we didn’t need to think of a new phase. So it’s a tough topic as in the last couple of years there have been builds as to what Web 3.0 really means, but they don’t seem aligned! So this post is about what I found on the topic by collating viewpoints starting with three good, and different, definitions, and starting with a good opening summary of the situation as seen in 2007.

The most popular view that started around this time was based on extending the capabilities around the dominant use of the web at this time for content. Led by none other than the founder and creator of the World Wide Web himself, Tim Berners-Lee many evangelised the concept of a Semantic Web that allowed indexing and machine understanding to move towards human capabilities in grasping the true meanings of terms, and content itself. An important pursuit that is still underway and is relatively clearly defined, including having its own entry on Wikipedia.
Not surprisingly the growth in mobility and wireless devices got in on the act recently and suggested that Web 3.0 was all about location awareness. Perhaps it’s not a total coincidence that a good post on the logic of this conclusion should be found at a site dedicated to tourism and travel! Nevertheless it’s a well written post that positions the argument against how Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 have created a direction and sets of capabilities that are of great value and increasing use by smartphones.
It’s left to Eric Schmidt the CEO of Google to draw the obvious conclusions that Web 3.0 is a marketing term (I would say hype term) and that if it means anything it means a web of small services pieced together to provide what is required. That’s not remarkable given where we are at the end of 2010, but check the post again and you will see that was Eric’s conclusion in 2007! The date when the confusion all started!
The idea of Web 1.0 = content, Web 2.0 = people and Web 3.0 = services has a nice symmetrical feel to it, in fact it feels basically right as such a definition would include the two other major definitions as well. So if we put these things all together what picture do we see? To me it’s the ‘context driven web’ meaning that it brings together all of the above aspects which are unstructured and presents them to the user in the context of their current requirement in a manner that is structured to this context.
In moving to this the interface in how things are perceived, delivered and interfaced to a human, (as opposed to data or content delivered from a computer) is changing and we increasingly see it becoming multimedia with multi-touch tablets etc. I have mentioned before the remarkable capability that Qwiki demonstrated as the winner of the 2010 Tech Crunch award and it is something of a visual proof point to this. Take a look at the video on the home page of QWiki to see what I mean.
What did I conclude that this meant for business to come back to the original reason for researching the topic again? It strengthens the current move towards understanding that the innovation in business is, and increasingly will be, about how you reach and interact with your community of customers, partners and suppliers to orchestrate together situations in which everyone wins in their context of what that means.
A tall order perhaps but when people get together and discuss things isn’t that what they try to do? Make the bits and pieces all fit together into something that they all think is best? But if that’s the world enterprises will be playing in then they have some work to do in their internal capabilities to be able to enable their staff to take part in the continual flow of online opportunities that an expanded web, call it 3.0 if you must, will bring.