What is Web 3.0?

Truthfully, there really never was a Web 1.0, at least not in the conventional sense.  The term was coined by Tim O’Reilly during a brainstorming session just after the Dot Com bubble burst in 2001.  The web was not crashing, it was beginning to evolve in new ways with new methods of disseminating and distributing information…

While few people can agree on the actual definition of Web 2.0 and what it means to today’s web environment, it’s possible to simplify the definitions enough to describe the evolution that the web has gone through as a medium to serve up information.

Web 1.0, the original Internet, could best be described as little more than a series of interlinked web pages.  There was little to no interactivity between a web page and it’s visitors, there was little you could do at the time besides read the information (let’s call it the ‘read only’ web.) The only way to communicate with visitors was to post information on a web page.  The only way for visitors to communicate with you was via a form or email address.

Web 2.0 has been described in several ways.  Some would refer to it as a concept of fluid design and vector graphics.  Others would describe it as a new method of communicating with visitors, and yet others would say it was the moment at which users were able to interact with a web page instead of simply reading it.

To simplify it, Web 2.0 embraced the concept of the web as a platform to provide services, not just information.  Flickr, YouTube, MySpace and even Google Maps are all examples of platforms that, rather than providing information, provide a platform for others to disseminate and share their information.  Users could interact with each other, and even customize the user experience to create a particular mood.  Soon after these platforms became popular, developers began creating mashups – essentially multiple platforms combined to create a singular service.  Flickr photos on Google maps is one example, or geo-locators on YouTube videos.

So, what is Web 3.0?

Truthfully, it hasn’t really happened yet, though the concepts which will drive the era of Web 3.0 can be seen in their infancy today.

While companies such as Google, Yahoo and MSN have made great leaps in aggregating information about a singular topic – much information is still difficult to locate.  That’s because search engines still rely on items such as external links and special tags in the source of a web page to identify it’s subject.

Some platforms have tried using a method of tagging webpages to organize content based on how a group of individuals describes it (folksonomy) vs the hierarchical organization structure of a directory (taxonomy).  Yahoo has integrated results from the popular tagging site del.icio.us into it’s search results with limited success.

How we organize information in the future will be critical in the next step of web evolution.  Using advanced descriptive frameworks such as RDF (Resource Description Framework) will help us better define the content of a web page while systems such as SPARQL give us a query language to sort and retrieve that information.  Some verticals, such as medical and government databases and libraries, have been using advanced tagging systems for many years to define their content.  While those systems, specifically DC (Dublin Core), are not used in a widespread manner we can definitely expect to see frameworks like it become more prolific in the near future.
Other ideas behind Web 3.0 are the “semantic” web.  Some individuals believe it to be possible for a search engine to read content in the same way a human being does, giving them the ability to understand a web page in context, rather than by just identifying the words on a page.

Possibly the most exciting aspect of Web 3.0 is the buzz around the 3D web where users will interact with a web page as part of a 3D environment, walking through virtual aisles to buy products.  We see the early stages in platforms such as Second Life and Google Earth, and the frenetic pace set by developers around the globe is sure to show us technology we couldn’t have previously thought possible.
Science fiction or reality?  The two seem virtually seamless when in the blink of an eye we leapfrog past yesterday’s technology into a virtual Alice’s Wonderland of new innovation.  Our advice?  Don’t blink or you’ll miss it.