Thursday, November 30, 2006

Is Web 3.0 Really About Technology?

I was a bit surprised by John Markoff's Nov. 11 piece on Web 3.0, or the "semantic Web" based on artificial intelligence (AI).

Surprised because Markoff, and those quoted in the article, are still talking about the Web in terms of technology, rather than human behavior. That is, is the Web really still about technology? To me that's like us talking about television, radio, or print in terms of black and white vs. color, frequency and watts, and types of printing presses. So I ask, is Web 3.0 really only about technology?

Since Markoff writes the technology column I guess I shouldn't be that surprised, but from what I am seeing take shape online, the emerging "Web 3.0" is something much more fundamental than the tools and platform running on the back end.

If Web 1.0 was millions of linked online brochures ("web sites"), Web 2.0 a more sophisticated version of applications mashed together ("mashups"), then I guess it makes sense that Web 3.0 could be about AI. But to me, I think what's more interesting is to define the innovation that is occurring online in terms of how this change is impacting human behavior. So in a Web 1.0 world, ordinary people got access to a networked world that was interactive, visual, and affordable. With Web 2.0, the impact of scale, collaboration, participation continues to impact pricing, information access, the job market, relationships, social interaction, our news media and so forth. So how will Web 3.0 change human behavior? How will people be impacted by the next wave of innovation and progress?

It seems to me that a Web 3.0 world, is about people/companies/organizations leveraging all of the great tools and infrastructure created from Web 1.0/2.0 and using it to develop things/products/services that actually make a difference in their lives and those in their community (where ever that community exists - online or off).

I believe Web 3.0 is about "nichification" and specialization. It is about harnessing all of this great innovation to develop things that people are actually interested in or that they actually need. Of course, this has been going on for many years already, but now it will go on in virtually every industry and for every idea imaginable. It's not about a cool new calendar application that features AJAX. It will be about a calendar that has meaning to my life and changes my behavior. What does that look like? I don't know...

Because people not only have the tools, capability and infrastructure to take control, they will do so in ways relevant to their lives, and not just because a computer told them so. But because nichification and specialization are now possible in a Web 3.0 world. While the technology may be getting better, what is really changing is how people are leveraging these new tools for change and progress. The question to me is not about the types of technologies running behind the Web, or how they are working, but rather what they are doing to help real people. And that is an exciting thing to be a part of...

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