Web 3.0?

Richard Wallis of Talis recently asked some questions on his blog.

  1. Do you think Web 3.0 will be the label of the next technology wave?
  2. Will the next wave be based on Semantic Web technologies?
  3. Does it matter what we call it?

I have a bit of an affinity with Talis, since they also employ Ian Davis. Back in July 2005, wrote a wonderful essay on Web 2.0, which contains a quote I use a lot. I have come to rely on it to get technically-oriented (or technically-baffled) people out of the assumption that Web 2.0 is a standard, or a set of technologies. It’s not. In Ian’s words…

Web 2.0 is an attitude not a technology. It’s about enabling and encouraging participation through open applications and services. By open I mean technically open with appropriate APIs but also, more importantly, socially open, with rights granted to use the content in new and exciting context

Do you think Web 3.0 will be the label of the next technology wave?

I’ve wondered the same thing. In fact, I’ve half-jokingly used it as an assumption. Something like “if we understand Web 2.0, what will Web 3.0 be?”. Outside of that usage – the logical next wave of the web – I tend to avoid using it as a term. I don’t think it helps, and I can’t see it ever sticking. If that next wave does turn out to be based on something specific, like Semantic Web technologies, then the very fact that people already use ‘Semantic Web’ to mean that bundle of stuff should suggest that ‘Web 3.0’ would be an ugly and unnecessary alternative.

In November 2006, Nova Spivack said

“while we probably don’t need another label I would at least say that “Web 3.0” is less intimidating than the term “Semantic Web” to many. On the other hand, I can see a potential confusion arising from terms like Web X.0 as well.”

I think he’s right that we don’t need another label, and wrong that “Web 3.0” is less intimidating than ‘Semantic Web’. It’s less meaningful, which means people will still want to use “Semantic” to describe it.

But anyway, that brings us on to the second question:

Will the next wave be based on Semantic Web technologies?

Maybe. It’s one possibility, and they may at least play a part. Of course, the Wikipedia page on Web 3.0 contains a good roundup of some of the other potential directions, which include a move towards the web as a database, AI, open identity, even 3D Internet.

That last one has long been a passion of mine. I’m not just talking about the real-time participatory nature of virtual worlds, but the interoperable universe of virtual worlds, the standards and conventions which tie them together and the interconnection between virtual worlds and the 2D web. Inspired by people like Mark Wallace and ‘3.D’ (a hybrid of 3.0 and 3D), I’ve begun talking about Enterprise 3.D. I don’t know (or care) if it sticks, and I don’t even spend long explaining it. If people like it, they might use it. Otherwise I’ll have to find a better way of explaining myself.

Does it matter what we call it?

Well no. Not really. The one thing that I can’t possibly agree with is Nova’s proposal that

“Web x.0 terminology be used to index the decades of the Web since 1990. Thus we are now in the tail end of Web 2.0 and are starting to lay the groundwork for Web 3.0, which fully arrives in 2010”

I don’t think that’s at all useful. There is no advantage to being able to say that ‘Web 4.0’ officially begins at the start of 2020 and Web 5.0 in 2030, ad nauseam.

I think these things tend to be spotted, rather than invented. Placing arbitrary dates on it doesn’t help, and ‘Web 3.0’ will probably never becomes common usage in the way Web 2.0 has. I’m continuing to keep my eyes open.

3 Comments

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  1. Interesting post. It reminds me of some theory I read once on the naming of historical ages “The Industrial Revolution”, “The age of enlightenment”, etc. Seems like it’s a lot more complicated than you might think, and of course, it’s only in retrospect that you can pull out the concepts that truly did lead to paradigm shifts, the ones that were evolutionary blind alleys and sort out the boundaries between them.

    I do worry as well that our language will change faster and faster, now that the neologistas are networked.

    I liked Stephen Fry’s observation recently that the abbreviation for ‘world wide web’ has three times as many syllables as the unabbreviated phrase. It’s funny to hear people pronounce an abbreviation that may have been one of the first created for its ease of typing, rather than speaking.

    Anyway, I don’t care whether we define ‘the semantic web’ as the next ‘wave’, or whether we even ever find ourselves needing a pithy way of saying ‘web services with semantics’, all I care about is that the data we have scattered across the services on the web (just look at your honour roll of feeds) becomes more interoperable and gets easier for software agents to read and understand (subject to the usual provisos – I believe that the ultimate control of personal data should be in the persons hands).

    As long as semantic technologies increase, I don’t much care whether they increase like a tsunami wave in open water (tremendous power, but little to notice), or a tsunami wave hitting the coast.

    Comment by kyb — December 11, 2007 #

  2. The naming with a version number is, of course, irrelevant. The most important thing is that something new has to emerge in order to address a problem of the complexity and how we interact with the machine : computer web etc.

    In my view the most important that humans mostly comunicate on semantic level – ie exchange knowledge and not in program code – procedural. A new form of expression for this needs to be found and systems will follow from this. Semantic web arises from the recognition that we need to move to this level. I believe that the current forms of expression are completely not adequate to express the depth of knowledge that is required – so the real thing is some way of. But it must come and we can call it “age of enlightement” for the web.

    Comment by pawel lubczonok — December 12, 2007 #

  3. Here’s to calling it “The Age of Enlightenment” :-)

    Comment by kyb — December 12, 2007 #

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