Why Web 3.0 is a meaningless term


A couple of months ago when I was spending a few packed days of meetings up and down the 101 in Silicon Valley, several people asked me about Web 3.0. I told them pointedly what I thought, and at the time I determined to write a blog post on why Web 3.0 is a meaningless term, but never got around to it.

This seems worth coming back to, since Jason Calacanis has just proferred his own definition: “Web 3.0 is defined as the creation of high-quality content and services produced by gifted individuals using Web 2.0 technology as an enabling platform.”

Which is a fabulous illustration of my point: that when people refer to Web 3.0, it means whatever they want it to mean. In other words it’s a meaningless term until the point that there is a reasonable degree of common understanding of its meaning, so it can be used in a sentence and actually convey something.

Some people, such as Brad Feld, hate the term Web 2.0, and even more when 2.0 gets applied to every word in the dictionary. I believe that Web 2.0 has become a meaningful term through its consistent use and development over several years. My personal definition is:

“Distributed technologies built to integrate, that collectively transform mass participation into valuable emergent outcomes.”

In our Web 2.0 Framework we both provide a visual representation of this, bring together a variety of definitions by leading people of Web 2.0, and create a landscape of how Web 2.0 companies are positioned relative to each other. While people might quibble about how we’ve gone about it, they are unlikely to propose something completely different. Click on the image for the full three page Web 2.0 Framework.

Web 2.0 Framework

So what might Web 3.0 mean? Fred Wilson talks about the convergence of the programmable web, the semantic web, and the social web. A recent article in Technology Review by John Borland called A Smarter Web is the best popular synopsis I’ve seen of the semantic web view of what Web 3.0 might become. Nova Spivack talks about RDF as well as the semantic web, and has an interesting chart to illustrate it.I believe that some of the key elements of Web 3.0 – if it ever becomes a meaningful term – will include universal reputation systems and complete user control of application elements as well as data. But for now, Web 3.0 is not a meaningful term. What is useful is talking about the specific technologies and architectures out of which the next phase of the web might emerge. That’s where progress will be made.

Other commentary:

Mathew Ingram

Blue Blog

Josh Kopelman

PC4 Media

Brian Solis