Ever since Tim O’Reilly, et al., coined the term “Web 2.0” to describe the second major wave of web technologies, use cases, and business models, technologists, sociologists, and futurists have all struggled to be the first to plausibly identify and characterize what comes next. I would assert, and I am probably not the first, that the proverbial “Web 3.0” has in fact already quietly emerged, and just like Web 1.0 and 2.0, represents significant opportunities for enterprises that are prepared to aggressively pursue innovative business strategies.
To set the stage for this hypothesis, let’s first take a look at what attributes have emerged to define the current “web”:
- A network designed for a limited audience / purpose that has been exploded in scale and expanded in purpose
- Initial limited functionality (data networking) being expanded to become a broad multi-modal communication medium for individuals and corporation
- Information sharing expanded from simple binary/text to graphical content, photos, audio, video
- Expansion of messaging capabilities from asynchronous to fully synchronous, real-time, streaming
- Single geography expansion to global reach
- Emergence of standards and interface schemas (XML) to facilitate integration of heterogeneous systems
- Text morphed to flat HTML and now becoming robust Rich Internet Applications (RIA)
- Static content home pages evolved to storefronts and now rapidly transforming into eCommerce
- Revenue derived from eCommerce and ad sales
- SPAM, Scams, privacy concerns, and viruses
And while my categorization may not be perfectly complete nor exactly precise I think it conveys the point. So, given all this, what is Web 3.0? Well, I’m suggesting Web 3.0 is in fact effectively a “parallel web” that has emerged, has taken on and mimicked many of the classic web attributes, has seen explosive early growth, and is poised to become a major economic engine and ecosystem in its own right. And just what is this magic, wonderful, parallel web of the future? FACEBOOK.
Let’s run it down (note: stats are all based on my recall of stuff I read on the internet so they must be true. Check your favorite search engine for more actual, accurate, and timely facts and figures):
- Started as an on-campus tool to replace hard copy “freshman facebooks” with a closed online network -> now more than 380+ million users including my mom
- On-campus people networking via the web -> global people networking, games, community sites, commerce, chat, public & private groups, mobile (>65 million users), XBox 360 (2million users in the first week)
- Simple basic UI (still predominantly in place) -> more photos than Flickr, videos, wall art
- Messaging: wall-to-wall, “poke”, IM, live voice
- Geographic expansion -> usage globally close to, if not yet exceeding, use in the US
- Facebook Connect: 80,000+ websites use to exchange data with Facebook and other sites
- Mostly a “flat” experience – site decorations are the “flaming icons” of the web circa 1997. (we’ll see how the UI progresses)
- eCommerce: Enterprises have been able to build “fan pages” and now can build full-fledged storefronts (www.bigcommerce.com)
- Revenue? VC funds, ad dollars, and the game vendors sure seem to be making some measureable cash.
- SPAM (Mafia Wars / Farmville updates), Scams? (http://techcrunch.com/2009/10/31/scamville-the-social-gaming-ecosystem-of-hell/), privacy concerns (Facebook “Beacon” anyone?), viruses = yes
So to wrap it up, Facebook is the web of 1999 with an extra 11 years of technology and social change mixed in – explosive growth, tons of potential for those enterprises willing to make a move, baseline capabilities in place, active re-definition of online behaviors, and nothing but upside. Now if we can collectively help it to avoid becoming the web of 2001!
PS. A topic for further discussion and debate: at what point does Facebook become a legitimate Google threat? The debate is already raging…