I didn’t make it out to the Web 3.0 Conference & Expo earlier this month, but I was there in spirit—Web 3.0 has been on my mind lately a lot. First, Adam Green challenged how SocialSphere (and a hell of a lot of other companies) are positioning themselves for the economic downturn:
We got to talking about the history of Boston’s tech community—Adam has survived more than one downturn over the years—and then the conversation turned to how we are positioning ourselves for the downturn. After sharing how my company positions itself, he questioned, given the current economic slump and growing concerns over the viability of the many startups which have banked on low-revenue “if you build it they will come” business models, whether “web 2.0” is a term anybody will want to associate themselves with a year from now.
Then, on Tuesday, I presented to a class of Emerson students about social media and PR, and got asked to predict what would be hot in the next couple of years. Of course I said “Web 3.0,” which Wikipedia concisely describes as “the evolutionary stage of the Web that follows Web 2.0″—um, yeah, thanks! I like the way the conference organizers described it:
The Web 1.0 concept was simple: web pages linking to web pages. Then came Web 2.0 – a powerful movement from web pages to web applications. Web 2.0 applications have evolved into often slick viewports into proprietary or personal collections of information. This means they still primarily house data in silos inaccessible to and disconnected from the larger world, and most importantly, from each other.
But as we approach 2009, the clear outlines of the new web are forming. Some call this next generation the Semantic Web, but we think that term is confining, and so, instead, we refer to it as simply Web 3.0.
The new web is moving beyond connecting pages to interconnecting data objects, concepts, and things. Ultimately Web 3.0 is really about creating technology that more accurately mirrors how we see and think about the world around us.
So these are the key areas I think will see a lot of development over the next couple of years:
- Trust. Trust is one of two remaining economic scarcities in the Internet Economy—there’s just not much of it out there. Chris Brogan put it nicely: “Though a company like Microsoft spent millions and millions of advertising and marketing dollars trying to improve our perception of the brand, none of us gave a sh!t until Robert Scoble came along and put a human shape around their online and event presence for us.” The trust barrier will be solved by understanding how human “trust agents” (as Chris puts it) work, and by allowing us to layer “trustworthiness” over all of our online interactions (not just in search, but social networking, bookmarking, blogging, etc.)
- Attention. Attention is the other economic scarcity remaining. There are only 24 hours in the day, and we have to sleep for a good chunk of them. The competition for the rest of them is fierce. Applications that are smartest at competing for our attention—or at helping us understand what we should be paying attention to—will have a distinct advantage in the web 3.0 world.
- Agents. Chris Brogan talks of human trust agents, but digital agents will finally come back into the public’s view as well. I’m not talking about the old school “tickler” agent (“Hey, don’t forget you’ve got to pick the girls up from soccer practice tonight”), nor am I talking about Google Alerts (“You asked me to keep an eye out for blog posts mentioning ‘Web 3.0′, so here you go…”). It’s closer to the kind of capability you see in good contextual advertising (my favorite example of which is all the “Bacon Salt” ads I get on Facebook after I signed up as a fan of the bacon page), but it’s both cross-platform and cross functional. As just one small example, you tell it that you want to be kept abreast of upcoming social media events, and it checks Upcoming.org, Facebook, Evite, Meetup, etc. and shares with you the events it finds, allowing you to sign up for them through its own interface.
- RSS. I can’t tell you how wrong-headed so many interpretations of Forrester’s recent report are (Paul gets it right in this link). RSS is not dead. It’s simply buried so deep that most people don’t even know it’s there. But that doesn’t mean they’re not using it. Content syndication will be at the heart of web 3.0. It empowers almost everything I’ve been talking about in this post to some extent. Don’t sell it short. Look for ways to use it and build applications around it.
- Semantic Web. I’m sorry. I hate to use this term. It has such negativity surrounding it. But let’s put all that bias aside for a second, and ask ourselves a question: What if there was a way, for instance, that my blogging software could understand that what I was writing about—in plain English—was an event I was trying to promote, and could translate that information so that it could automatically be shared with Upcoming, Evite, Eventbrite, Facebook, etc.? Tell me that wouldn’t be cool. The AI behind something like that isn’t too far away—hell, the Turing Test is pretty close to being passed.
Am I missing anything?
[ADDED 30 OCT 2008 1:30PM]
YES! I’m missing something:
- OpenID! A conversation between myself, @RodBegbie, @al3x and @sbtodd on Twitter made me realize how important something like this will be to Web 3.0. If you assume that trust and interoperability will be at the heart of Web 3.0—go ahead, try to argue otherwise—then an idea like OpenID becomes critical. It provides a common identity platform for interoperability. YES, to quote Alex Payne, “It’s confusing for users and developers, it doesn’t bake security in, and it doesn’t solve a problem that non-geek users care about.” But it’s just confusing because nobody’s been able to explain it well. Security can presumably be fixed. And Like I said on Twitter, it might not solve a problem most non-geeks care about*, but down the road they might!
* THIS geek certainly cares about it. I am LIVID every time some sites password security mechanism forces me to create YET ANOTHER password that I will ultimately forget. And what about interoperability? To make that happen, you’ve got to give away some security. For instance, for a lot of the cool (not to mention necessary) Twitter apps, I need to share with them my Twitter username and password. Having a security layer on top that ultimately ensured that Twhirl doesn’t have to know my password, or that I didn’t forget the super-strict password that I had to create especially for one service, could ultimately make my life easier.