While searching the Web recently to find out what other pundits believe Web 3.0 will come to mean, I found a blog post by Stephen Baker on BusinessWeek.com in which he says that his “assignment in Monaco was to lead a panel in defining Web 3.0.” After summarizing the ideas that his panel came up with, he ends his post by asking readers what they think. My favorite comment on this post (from ‘bob’) simply says “I think you all wasted your time.”
While it’s very doubtful that a trip to Monaco could be considered a waste of time (especially if it’s paid for by someone else), I certainly agree that serious discussions of questions as meaningless as “What features will the next version of the Web include?” are largely a waste of time concocted by marketers and conference-planners. The people who will build what will come to be called ‘Web 3.0’ don’t have these sorts of discussions. So, here I go again.
The fact of the matter is that most people define Web 3.0 in terms of what they’d like to see happen. Some say it will be defined by the widespread adoption of SVG, some say the key concept is “software as a service,” some say Web 3.0 will be when we fix the bugs in Web 2.0.
Personally, I believe that one of the biggest unsolved issues faced by the Web right now involves trust. Wikipedia, Google, Yahoo! Answers, and hundreds of other sites that are heralded as models of Web 2.0-ness all rely on user-contributed content. The theory goes that a crowd of people is smarter than the old-style “gurus.” Whether or not that’s true is a topic for another article (and maybe an experiment). The relevant issue that I think Web 3.0 will deal with is “Who do you sue when the Web 2.0 community gives you bad information?”
Traditional media companies have rules governing things like fact-checking, use of anonymous sources, printing rumors, and separating advertising from editorial. At some point in the past, they even followed these rules.
Today, this isn’t the case, and the media likes to blame it on the free-wheeling ways of the Internet. The logic goes like this: “Someone published this irresponsible or wrong information on the Internet, and so we in the mainstream media can report on the fact that someone reported this information on the Internet. If this information later turns out to be false, don’t blame us, blame the Web 2.0 bloggers.”
However, because many of these bloggers are anonymous or just repeating things they heard on some other blog, there’s no one in particular for mainstream media outlets to point a finger to when they get in trouble for reporting something they read on the Internet. They want this situation remedied pronto!
Clarifying who should be blamed will be the driving force behind Web 3.0. Just like Web 2.0 has it’s signature technologies (AJAX, RSS, Mash-ups), Web 3.0 will have its darling protocols and acronyms. The hot technologies in Web 3.0 will be RFID, biometric identification, and digital certificates. Logging into a Web site using your fingerprint will be marketed as a handy way to not have to remember passwords, but it will also provide solid proof that you were the person who posted that damaging information about that multinational corporation.
Web 3.0 identification technologies will also be used to reduce or eliminate spam. By blocking all email that isn’t signed with a digital signature, you could eliminate 100% of the spam you get. Unfortunately, it would also block all of your legitimate mail, because almost no one uses digital signatures today.
In Web 3.0, more people will start to use digital signatures, which will make everyone start using digital signatures for fear that if they don’t then their emails to or from their old high school sweethearts will get blocked.
Real Web ID will enable new forms of e-commerce, eliminate certain types of e-crime and piracy of electronic media, and reduce the number of fake Myspace profiles. Online privacy advocates will redouble their efforts in response.
Several years into the Web 3.0 revolution, the general population will begin to look for something else…some sort of improvement to Web 3.0. Right at about the point when Web 3.0 has outlived its usefulness, the conference planners, pundits, and marketers will get together somewhere beautiful and start to think of a name for what will come after Web 3.0. I’ll reveal my theories on what this thing might be called and what it might look like in a future column.