After Web 2.0: WOW (Wide Open Web) – enough of version numbers for the web!!


In the wake of the 2008 Web 2.0 expo, now 3½ years since the first Web 2.0 conference in 2004, it seems getting time to work out what will succeed Web 2.0. I always thought that Web 2.0 was a useful and meaningful term, and created my Web 2.0 Framework to help unpack and communicate what it is. The term helped people to understand the nature of the shift from Web as communication to Web as participation.

I’ve also long thought that Web 3.0 is a meaningless term. It means whatever people want it to mean. While we have reached a reasonably common understanding of what Web 2.0 is (though I’m sure others will disagree), I don’t think it’s possible that any consensus will emerge on what Web 3.0 is, making its use a destroyer rather than enabler of communication. The one element that people always associate with Web 3.0 is the semantic web, which has been a very long time coming, and will still be a very long time coming. It’s a tremendous, laudable goal which is still going to take far longer than most people seem to think, so it’s not something we should be talking about in the present. Anyway, the semantic web already has a term to describe it, and it is well defined, so why do we need to use a new term to refer it?

I’ve been a long time student of how business and technology terms are born, brought into widespread usage, debased, and die. I don’t believe that Web 3.0 will be a term that be useful or used. Charles Cooper has just tried to define Web 2.5, which is even worse – yes I agree with him that it’s about time to dump Web 2.0, but the answer is NOT Web 2.5! However we absolutely need new terms to describe where the web is going and what it means.

In my recent post on openness in the Internet I used the term Wide Open Web (WOW). On consideration I think this is a fair suggestion to describe the current and next stage of the web. There are undoubtedly many other possibilities, and I think it’s time for the proposals to come out, so the most relevant and useful term comes into usage, rather than terms such as Web 2.5, that are even more meaningless than Web 3.0, and don’t help anyone understand what is going on.

One of the primary considerations for a useful term is that it communicates effectively to non-technical people what is happening. Web 2.0 was brought into widespread usage as much in communication through mass media as it was among the geeks creating it. Any new term has to have explanatory power, to elucidate rather than obfuscate.

Of course one of the core characteristics of Web 2.0 is openness, so what is different about the Wide Open Web? Critically, the fact that it is here now, and the tenor of the Web 2.0 expo was absolutely and completely about completely open platforms. That is now a given.

The question is what we now do with the Wide Open Web. It is critically important that the broad community, and not just technologists, understand quite how open the web has become, what it implies, and the opportunities that will emerge. Certainly one of the key implications is that initiatives such as DataPortability are fundamentally important to enabling the power of WOW.

I’ll think a little more about what the Wide Open Web actually means. For now a first rather clunky attempt at a definition.

Wide Open Web (WOW) is the Internet based on open applications, open data, open access, creating value from the reuse and recombination of all its elements, with users controlling all their data.

Of course the suggestion of WOW is as much as anything an attempt to get some other possibilities for what succeeds Web 2.0. Anything is better than Web 2.5 or Web 3.0!!

5 replies
  1. charles cooper
    charles cooper says:

    hello ross,
    i think you’re taking a point on the accompanying chart and blowing it out of proportion. actually, the post based on my reporting out of the conference tried to spotlight the increasing influence of enterprise-level companies in what’s now commonly referred to as the web 2.0 domain.

  2. Ross Dawson
    Ross Dawson says:

    Hi Charles, thanks for clarifying – fair enough. I guess that’s the nature of conversation – picking up on little things and taking them in another direction altogether! I do think that the shift from smaller to larger players being central to the space is a somewhat different issue to having a common term for what the space is.
    Elias, OK you don’t like Web 2.0 as a term. So what do you suggest that will help us to communicate about what’s happening out there? :-)

  3. Ruudjah
    Ruudjah says:

    Since the term “Web 2.0” already is in use, and _does_ give explanatory power, I think your point is flawed. “Web 2.0” states that it is about the web, and it is the next version, or better, a successor of it. The versioning term gains more and more power in society, where music albums, news anchors, non-ICT magazines, papers etc use this “2.0” term for a variety of products. In that sense, the versioning term has gained social basis. Using the updated “2.5” or “3.0” term then gives the following explanatory value:
    -Its about the web
    -Its a new iteration, a successor
    The versioning term is precisely what it needs to be: an abstract reference to an update, actually specifying the new iteration.
    “Wide Open Web” does not have meaning. You argue that a core characteristic is “opennes” of the web 2.0. Why suddenly introduce that term, while its predecessors where also “open”? Furtermore, it does not specify anything specific about the next iteration. It can be used for web 1.0 and 2.0 also. Web 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0 are more specific in that sense, as it illustrates a new thing by a number.
    Also, you do not provide solid ground for the reason of “WOW” being a good term.

  4. Craig Roth
    Craig Roth says:

    Even without the version numbers, this is still staging of the web which makes progress seem more staggered than continuous. As I said in my posting on What I Don’t Like About the “Web 2.0” Label (I’ll put the URL at the bottom since it’s annoyingly long) there is a lot of rapid fire innovation going on right now and drawing a circle around the innovations that fit the new trend has a harmful affect on those outside it in terms of user attention and funding.

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