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May 25, 2009

What is 'Web 3.0,' and should you care?

Posted: 11:38 AM ET

The tech community, always moving toward the newest thing, has come up with a fresh term for the world to chew on: Web 3.0.

The idea, which vaguely refers to a third era of Internet technology, is nascent enough that many discussions about it seem to center on its definition.

Nova Spivack, Twine's founder, said in an interview last week that Web 3.0 is more chronological and simple than some would make it out to be. It just means we're in the third decade of the Internet, which technically began in March, he said.

"We’re in Web 3.0 now. It happened," he said.

TechCrunch's MG Siegler said in another interview that Web 3.0 isn't worth defining yet because the next phase of the Internet won't come until the economic recession lifts and investors start pushing cash back into tech companies.

We will need a term to define that new era, but it likely won't be "Web 3.0," he said.

A little background may help set the stage for the term. Web 2.0 generally referrs to the period between 2005 and 2008, when the Internet got much more social. MySpace, Facebook and YouTube blossomed, and the Internet became more conversational than before. Web 1.0 - you guessed it - came before Web 2.0. In those days, Web sites were less interactive. Some say Web 1.0 ended with the California dot-com market crash in 2001.

Perhaps more useful than discussing the merits of Web 3.0 as a term would be to list some of the up-and-coming trends in technology online. Here are a few that seem to be getting the buzz lately. Some of these ideas may factor into the next phase of the Internet, whatever we decide to call it:

  1. Real-time: Information is moving faster online now than before. Breaking news events occur on Twitter, the micro-blogging site, not just on news Web sites. Real-time searches allow users to get the latest buzz and to converse. Read more from Siegler at TechCrunch.
  2. Semantics: Researchers are trying to teach computers to understand us better so they will know what we mean when we search for something, not just which keywords we're typing in. CNET's Tom Krazit writes that Google is downplaying the importance of the 'Semantic Web' but is actually moving in that direction.
  3. Open communication: There's a lot of data online. Citizen scientists are compiling it and computer scientists are using it, but some predict open communication and product development will be stamps of the new Web era. More on this from Richard MacManus at ReadWriteWeb.
  4. Mobile and Geography: Some say geography is playing a bigger role in the informaiton we post online. As Will Sullivan points out in a recent post to, the rise of GPS-enabled phones is feeding this trend.

What are you all noticing? Chime in with a comment to this post and I'll do my best to respond.

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Andrew   May 25th, 2009 12:11 pm ET

I think Mobile features will define 3.0; having all your "stuff" at your fingertips will become expected.

This will largely be defined by device- driven usability, and I believe new devices (think Apple multitouch tablet) will create the means to utilize the sheer amount of data that will become accessible that was once far more likely to reside in one place. The biggest caveat is that the methods of mobile accessibility need to be transparent, i.e., a seamless user experience.

Jerry Poel   May 25th, 2009 12:14 pm ET

What I am seeing is not only a revolution but an evolution in the way we will communicate with a computer. Soon the mechanical mouse and keyboard will disappear just like the 6 1/4 inch floppy disc. They will be found only in historical museums. They will be replaced with voice recognition and gesture technology.

Spoken commands, hand gestures and recognition of your presence.

You will tell your computer goodnight and it will awaken in the morning when your presence is detected.

Your will focus on an image and the application will be launched.

Printed material will longer be required. Google has shown the way!

I have witnessed the birth and now the disappearance of the computer. From the IBM 704 in 1957 to pacemakers and other implanted electronics - I have worked with them all. Computers have imploded into the crystal lattice of semi-conductors. They can no longer be seen but their presence is known!!

Ray Fisher   May 25th, 2009 12:39 pm ET

Every new technical advance must be accompanied by advances in security or ultimate failure will occur. As we advance in social networking we expose ourselves to untold dangers ergo security must accompany progress. We should be focusing upon the web as a tool before entertainment and social contacts i.e. secure e-commerce, e-voting, e-medical, telecommuting, etc... Twitter and games are fun for kids but we all must mature and focusing upon a mature environment provides the best ultimate web environment.

mr bilek   May 25th, 2009 12:46 pm ET

Wow. What a pointless article.

3.0 is something, maybe, but not for long; it will become something else. You betcha. As Click and Clack say, "Well, you wasted another hour..."

Sean   May 25th, 2009 12:49 pm ET

I'd say Web 3.0 is about web applications, like Gmail, Google Maps, etc, and combining different open technologies in interesting ways (called a "mashup", which is a buzz word I hate).

Pat from MO   May 25th, 2009 1:00 pm ET

I think Web 3.0 will be centered greatly around mobile devices...devices that will seemlessly connect to networks. Many people have these now, but until service providers make mobile networks affordable...truly affordable to the masses, Web 3.0 will be slow to rise!

Kevin   May 25th, 2009 1:53 pm ET

Nothing but an attempt to define a useless buzz word so people can feel like they are 'with it' because they know what you're talking about. What a waste.

HL   May 25th, 2009 2:09 pm ET

If web 1.0 was all about facilitating easy access to information,
and web 2.0 is all about facilitating easy means of communication,
then it seems to me that web 3.0 will be a distillation of the two.

Like, duh.

Barrett   May 25th, 2009 2:22 pm ET

We have evolved, haven't we? Sure. Only at Web 3.0?
'We' have evolved to Web 'infinity'!
Think about, the 'web' as a dinosaur.
There are many new methods of communication beyond the present knowledge of mere 'Earthlings'!

Kevin   May 25th, 2009 3:32 pm ET

Jerry, really? The "mechanical mouse"? The "6 1/4 inch" disc? Does the mouse you use still have a ball in it? Or is it a laser? Was there ever a 6 1/4" disc? No.

I'm sure those were oversights, but gettings rid of the mouse and keyboard is like saying, "Soon, the car won't have a steering wheel or pedals. You just sit down and think about where you want to go, and there you are!"

While non-traditional means of input can be useful, the mouse/keyboard is required for precise input and movement. Gamers will tell you this. Writers will tell you this. (We've been "on the cusp" of voice recognition software for 20+ years.) Programmers will tell you this.

Web 3.0, as stupid as the term is, is nothing more than more voluntary collaboration and interaction between users. A video is still going to stream, but the quality may be better (Hulu, for example). A game is still going to be played, but the game may allow for more people at once. Programmers are still going to write programs, but instead of tiny apps like Twitter, it'll be multiple things at once like the dashboard in a car.

What it's not going to be is the absence of keyboards and "mechanical" mice. Not in this generation.

Michael Foster   May 25th, 2009 3:45 pm ET

We recently hosted a two hour program in which Seattle based creatives and technicians discussed in depth the trends and ideas that will shape the world wide web (aka Web 3.0), web interaction, the problems with content management, design for the web, and the importance of video. Many of the highlights include...

1) how human begins are always needing real life human connections that technology will only enhance but never replace 2) imagine the ability to view the facebook pages of everyone within a 50 feet radius of your laptop/phone, and whether or not they are open to a real conversation 3) how smart branding will be critical to a traditional publication's survival 4) the economic downturn may also be the result of a silent bubble, or an economic shift that technology is ushering in for "middle class businesses." You can watch the discussion in its entirety at

Paul   May 25th, 2009 3:57 pm ET

web 3.0 is a nonsense word. we can describe web 2.0 in one line: 'user generated content'. Now try to describe web 3.0 in so little words. Nobody can. Web 3.0 is only a marketing word.

Bob   May 25th, 2009 4:17 pm ET

What you name Web3.0 is merely Web2.0 getting mature. Tweets go fast but not real time, query answers are better focused, but semantics is not yet out of the woods, geo-localization is improving but's not quite new, and data availability and access is growing, but at a slow pace.
Stop overfeeding us with new terms even before people swallow the previous one. Let's wait for the Internet of things to become real before using Web3.0.

jdsuttercnn   May 25th, 2009 4:32 pm ET

Good point, Paul. Sometimes an idea's merit does come down to whether or not it can be explained simply. Maybe there are too many things going on now for there for the Web to have hit a clear transition.

Thanks for the discussion everyone. - John /

IJ   May 25th, 2009 5:11 pm ET

The Web is not entering its third decade. The Internet–a transport layer which can exist without the Web (and did for about 15-20 years)–is actually entering its fourth decade while the Web–an application layer which has a hard time existing without the Internet–is well into its second.

However, I digress.

"Web 3.0" is yet another meaningless buzzword. As has been said, it needs to be better defined before it can have any meaning. Other than that, right now, it's a meaningless term.

That said, even "Web 2.0" still has not been defined to my satisfaction, but that's probably partly because unlike many other people, instead of relying on someone else's resources, I prefer to run my own presence on the Internet. That way I can have a bit more control over who has access to my life. As such, I live in somewhat of a "gated walled garden". I do let people in, but I can snap it shut like a steel trap if I have to. However, that means that people have to go out of their way to come to my site.

As for whatever this "Web 3.0" will be or whatever this "Web 2.0" will be, how can people maintain their privacy in such places? There are things I'd love to share with people which I would just as soon not see a prospective employer not see, or perhaps they may make judgments based on same. I've gained some insight about the implications of sharing parts of your life online in relation to employment, though not in a career-curtailing fashion like others have. Honestly, it worries me.

Anyway, those are my thoughts on the matter. Basically, just like real life, there are bad things out there, albeit they can be much worse on the Internet given the anonymity it can afford. But that's not to say I don't recognize the good things as well. It's just that all this innovations don't seem to take the darker side in mind. Not to mention, it doesn't give a lot of room for those like me who really want to be individuals, going so far as to run their own presence on their own server, placing next to no trust in sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and even less in others.


Frank   May 25th, 2009 11:07 pm ET

In my opinion, Web 3.0 will be about fully integrating mobile devices with the internet. The iphone and its infinite apps possibilities is just the beginning of it, and it will be the standard by which to start from. Nationwide Insurance just introduced an amazing iphone application and advertised it on tv... web 3.0 has indeed started.

Dillon   May 25th, 2009 11:33 pm ET


Where are The UNIX guys? Sirizly. We should all know the answer:
Web 1.0 – Read
Web 2.0 – Read/Write
Web 3.0 – Read/Write/EXECUTE.

From 666 to 777. (kind of funny if you consider symbolism, and my purposely chosen method of writing the permissions wrong for the sake of humor..)

Due to the nature of executing, Web 3.0 is a ways off still. =\

Susan   May 25th, 2009 11:34 pm ET

While many associate Web 3.0 with an evolution in technology, I believe Web 3.0 to be more of an evolution in the way business is done via the internet. As we have seen with Web 2.0 tools such as facebook, twitter, Youtube and blogging (user generated content and social networking), you can grow social communities virually, into legions of millions. Eventually businesses will tap into these communities and make it profitable for "followers" to refer and recommend products to each other and receive rewards for doing so. Web 3.0 is when business figures out how to monetize on the crowd. And they are definately working on it. How many Big Biz have a facebook page now?

Mike in WI   May 26th, 2009 12:55 am ET

Actually, most of the things mentioned in this article are completely irrelevant to the way the great majority of people live their daily lives. Until the Web moves beyond the current mix of voyeurism, gossip and commercialized crap, it will never be taken seriously by mainstream America, let alone the rest of the world.

Yuping Liu   May 26th, 2009 1:28 am ET

I have also heard of definition of Web 3.0 as three-dimensional web based on virtual 3D technology.

Irina Kobernik   May 26th, 2009 2:09 am ET

Thank you for the post. What do you think about the idea that the Web teaches people back. I mean people fill Internet with information and when they look for information the search engines give users that what other users posted. Who teaches whom and what would happen when computers learn to understand us )))))

Dwo   May 26th, 2009 2:24 am ET

Seriously, it's a buzz word just like 'Web 2.0' was. It's nothing more than a marketing gimmick. The truth is that Web 3.0 is the same as Web 2.0 which was the same as the plain, garden-variety Web.

Gilesevi   May 26th, 2009 3:24 am ET

What about the period between 2001 and 2005? what was that?

Ebay? Flash sites overkill? Online gaming?

Heres my take on Web 3.0. A move back to the egg. A retreat from overload of soc.ial websites. Web 3.0 really is nothing until something TRENDY happens and all the masses and tech geeks flock to it. \

IF Web 3.0 happens it will be on cell phones like that trendy one everyone one wants. THAT really maybe where 3.0 happens NOT on desktops or laptops.

3.0 will happen on portable communication geek machines.

Martin   May 26th, 2009 4:42 am ET

I was hoping it was something like 'Human v. 2' but its a description of how people use the web with the greater BW available. Mentioning the twitter fad only made the article have less of a case. Maybe mentioning the latest 'web' possibility (HP & CERN @ LHC) could have made it more interesting.
We'll be back when that 'interesting' development is mentioned.

Phil Hunolt   May 26th, 2009 7:12 am ET

Phishing vs, Fishing

In the mid 1960's I started working with the "prehistoric" B500 Burroughs mainframe computer, with 19.2K memory capable of running one program at a time. I will call that period "Phil1.0". Then came mainframe advances with online terminals and even mainframe-sharing technology, a period of my life that I will call "Phil2.0". The server technology replaced the mainframes, entirely, which I witnessed first-hand....yes, "Phil3.0" was born. PC's replacing mainframes? Not in MY was evolving and occurred, thus FORCING me into "Phil4.0". Getting my own laptop which i am using now...I will call "Phil5.0"...and all of this being attainable now on my 3G cell phone...I am thrust, currently, into "Phil6.0". Hey, I can watch old Mayberry reruns on my cool is that? Honestly, I reflect back on the "old days" and reminisce what pre-internet life was like. No, computer-destroying viruses or trojan horses or worms. As mentioned above by some...if we don't get a grip on internet security and fraud...face it, are we REALLY better off? I recall a quote on a field engineer's coffee cup from the "prehistoric" mainframe days: "If builders built buildings the way programmers wrote programs, the first woodpecker to come along could destroy civilization". Unless Web3.0 is accompanied by a matching level of security...that quote will be just as true today, and tomorrow. Time to crawl into a bass boat, throw out a line and just go fishing.

RBL   May 26th, 2009 7:58 am ET

You are right about one thing...I don't care. What a waste of 5 minutes of my life reading this worthless article.

oracle2world   May 26th, 2009 8:41 am ET

The real time information and semantics seem to be gathering some momentum. But I like the tone of the article, not pretentious, and making a little fun of the term. Most of the folks where I work (maybe all of them) throwing around Web 2.0 and the like never wrote code or soldered a wire.

New revolutionary technologies, real breakthroughs like automobiles, the vacuum tube, gunpowder, etc. gave rise to dictators intent on taking over the world. I'm not sure what form the new cyber wars will take, but with very fine detailed control of people something has to arise. Maybe call this Web 4.0 "Borg".

We have a large layer of "leadership" that is extraordinarily high maintenance. Offices, cars, private jets, enormous homes that no one lives in very much, large cities, huge numbers of people that just count money, etc. Any group that focused on the main thing and dispensed with the expensive frills ... might just emerge as the winners.

Phil Hunolt   May 26th, 2009 12:20 pm ET

Speaking, again, of security...what plans are enacted for the internet to survive the massive solar storm predicted for 2012? The Earth's magnetic poles may reverse, electronic outages may become widespread not to mention other catastrophic destruction. Will all of this internet/web application building have been for naught, should this become a reality? ~Phil

Judy Shapiro   May 26th, 2009 4:20 pm ET

Postcards from the Web 3.0 “bleeding edge” conference last week made it clear that the concept behind the next gen web is about making the generic web a personal experience. However, while the tech side of Web 3.0 in the areas of semantic, intelligent search or even mobile seems to have gotten off the ground - it seemed the human side needed to transform the next gen is not part of the conversation yet.

From my perspective, the next gen needs to be centered about the very human element of trust and how we use all this cool internet technology to make trust happen. After all, what good is linked data or intelligent search technology without trust. Trust is the social glue in the real world and this must translate to the web world too.

This is why I believe the name Web 3.0 does more harm than good because it evokes a software release which obscures the vision of the next gen web as the human, personal web. Maybe it should be renamed the Trusted Web so that we change the field of vision to the human element of trust. Just a thought.

sparkyL   May 26th, 2009 7:15 pm ET

web 1.0 was about information
web 2.0 is about communication
web 3.0 will be about experience

Al Gore   May 27th, 2009 10:15 am ET

"Web 3.0" is merely a fuzzword awaiting its promotion to buzzword. Currently content free.

Chris Kinsman   May 27th, 2009 1:37 pm ET

I think Web 3.0, or whatever the label may become, will encompass more real-time online collaboration between office employees, clients and creative thought generators. E-mail will become less and less important as a tool because of its limited one-to-one communication and lack of sharing and interconnectivity. E-mail will become a way of archiving and storage and function less as a communication tool.

Mobile, web apps, online collaboration, real-time info and media integration will begin to replace e-mail and will all become seamless streams of communication and interactivity. We will no longer be tied down to one device. Small businesses will not just need a website, but will need a mobile app, web app, social networking, online collaboration, real-time communication, transaction apps and thought clouds to help them compete on a global stage.

In addition, I feel that the next generation of communication and tools will somehow mold itself into eco-awareness and we will begin to see this help reduce our carbon footprint and guide us into making behavioral choices that better affect our world.

jen   May 27th, 2009 7:06 pm ET

I think that web 3.0 is not just merley a buzz word or meida hype, but I also don't think it is happening just yet. It will be similar to web 2.0, and there will be many definitions of it as well. But I think that communication technologies will driver of it and I can't wait to see what people come up with next. There are some interesting reports at about the these same trends. A personal favorite was "Is Technology no Longer the Engine of Growth?"

Nathan Sokalski   May 27th, 2009 7:42 pm ET

I think one of the big Web 3.0 features will be that more companies and organizations will make efficient use of the stuff that already exists. By this, I mean taking advantage of ALL the capabilities of things such as server-side programming, automation, mobile-device optimization, etc. With the number of things that many sites could easily do on their websites that they are either just too cheap to do, are unwilling to find someone that knows how to do, or just refuse to upgrade their site or webserver, I think that many sites could be much more popular or well-liked if they would just take a little time to fix their sites. I realize that there is a cost to making certain changes, but as a web developer most of the things I am referring to would not cost any more money to do than the things these sites currently have; they just need to be willing to do them.

Jeff Mills   May 28th, 2009 1:33 am ET

Web 3.0 is basically gonna be like Skynet from terminator....

Instead of people getting social and interacting in Web2.0 dialogs, computers and AI's will begin to "talk" to each other and communicate at a much higher intelligence than we've ever seen and begin to THINK and MORALIZE on their own... like Humans try to do.


AB   May 28th, 2009 1:58 am ET

Web 3.0 will see the downfall of revenue-less sites such as Facebook and Twitter and the rise of new platforms where money is actually made – akin to Google Adsense, Amazon Affiliates, etc. Also the term "cloud computing", which really is just a buzzword right now, will transform into a future where we pay monthly fees for software like Microsoft Office that isn't installed locally on our PCs but delivered "from the cloud".

Tim Bass   May 29th, 2009 4:18 pm ET

As someone or many have menioned, Web 1.0 was about making information available. Web 2.0 was about connecting, communicating, collaborating, social networking, individual and group publishing, blogging, crowd-sourcing and the transformation of traditional media.

In the 2.0 period, we started to see the rise of cyber currency, virtual worlds and virtual or cyber-economics (and valuation of virtual assets). One possible direction for Web 3.0 could be a further "cyberfication" for a lack of a better word, where virtual assets and worlds take on more value and importance.

One of the constants of the human condition (sorry, I digress a little), is that humans continue to commit crime against humanity and one another. There is no end to crime, war, disease, hunger, social inequality, injustice and other human-world generated problems despite great advances in technology.

There will continue to be groups of people, the rich, the famous, the political and the super beautiful, who will flourish in the "real world". However, for the vast majority of normal humans on the planet, the not rich, the not super beautiful, the not famous, the masses of the world's population will find increasely more comfort, emotional satisfaction, freedom of expression, and security by spending more time in virtual worlds.

This natural evolution of the masses will give rise to more virtual assets and virtual currency creating a natural evolutionary supply and demand. There are serious limitations with resources in the "real world" and the economic gaps between the rich and the poor continues to grow.

However, the constraint are different in cyberspace.

Well! I might be talking about Web 6.0 😉

My point is, the future is very different than most of us can imagine.

I see the Future   May 29th, 2009 4:57 pm ET

I will just have to wait for Web 4.0, were your computer is the web, no more OS to install, no hard disks, all your data and apps on cyberspace available anywhere, anytime on any device.

виагра   July 12th, 2009 7:30 pm ET


BigD   August 4th, 2009 9:47 am ET

Web 3.0 = cashing in on Web 2.0

BravaBra   June 2nd, 2011 5:02 pm ET

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Journalism   September 6th, 2011 12:25 pm ET

i thank who ever wrote this because it gave me a lot of information for a paper im writing on this subject. i also want to thank all the people who commented cause now i have some of the peoples thoughts.

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Are you a gadgethead? Do you spend hours a day online? Or are you just curious about how technology impacts your life? In this digital age, it's increasingly important to be fluent, or at least familiar, with the big tech trends. From gadgets to Google, smartphones to social media, this blog will help keep you informed.

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