Web 3.0 is about taming the deluge of data.Posted on Wed Jun 3 2009
Frankly, I get pretty annoyed with Web jargon, especially when it seems like it's being propagated mostly to sell e-books and consulting services. That's one reason I've chafed at the phrase "Web 3.0," which gets bandied about almost any time people talk about "what's next."
But the truth is that — whatever you want to call it — there really is a new era emerging in the Web's evolution.
So what will define Web 3.0?
The best explanation I've heard was from Andrew Keen, author of "The Cult of the Amateur." In a recent Social Media Club presentation here in Birmingham, Andrew broke out the Web's history like this:
Web 1.0: Mainstream media and retailers dominate, using traditional approaches to broadcasting and sales.
Web 2.0: Blogging, peer-to-peer sharing and Google empower the masses to communicate openly. The old guard struggles to remain relevant.
Web 3.0: Mainstreaming of social media creates a constant flow of information. Challenge for users and businesses alike is to harness the flood without drowning.
The best example of Web 3.0, or at least the transition between here and there, is Twitter. The site's simplicity, flexibility and explosive growth have created more content than anyone could possibly digest. Couple that with the constant activity on Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, blogs and Friendfeed, and it's easy to see why everyone feels so overloaded.
The mission now is to bring order to the chaos, to carve out your own tributaries from the river of information.
How's it being done, and what it does it say about where we're headed? Find out after the jump.
Here are a few trends that are distilling the conversation and, in the process, defining Web 3.0:
No one wants to manage accounts on 25 different social sites. This frustration has driven the creation of tools like iGoogle, FriendFeed and Netvibes — all aimed at streamlining your social Web into one space. But more importantly, it has led to the reinvention of Facebook as the ultimate social aggregator.
Recent redesigns of Facebook have turned it into a place where your photos, videos and blog posts can be easily (and automatically) funneled into one place. That's an approach that FriendFeed pioneered years ago, but there's a big difference: Your friends are actually using Facebook.
And now they can even comment on your shared items without leaving the social network. That's bad news for YouTube and other sites that need traffic to create ad revenue, but it's good news for users who don't want to scramble all over creation just to say "Cute video!"
We've all been seeing those "Share this!" buttons for years now. If you're a marketer or PR person, you've probably plastered them all over your work in hopes of helping it "go viral." But the reality is that these links to sites like Digg or Reddit just haven't been that useful.
That's finally starting to change thanks to Web and smartphone tools that simplify the sharing process.
A few examples:
TBuzz is still in its infancy and has lots of bugs to work out, but the idea gives us a good hint of how onlineconversations will evolve in the coming years. Big thanks to Alan Wolk for letting me know about this one.
• Hootsuite's Ow.ly Social Bar: A bit more comprehensive than TBuzz, this tool shares sites but then also makes it easy for the viewer to share it again. So if you like the link I send you to, you can click a button at the top of the page and keep the share train rolling. Here's an example of what the result looks like.
• Smub.it: Designed to make sharing easier on an iPhone, Smub actually works on just about any device with a Web browser. You simply add "smub.it/" in front of any URL, and it will pull up a page of simple buttons to share that site on Twitter, Facebook, Digg, etc. Try it right now if you'd like.
The design-heavy microsite has been under serious assault lately. Why? Because businesses and marketers are realizing that there's an infinite supply of content out there, being refreshed every day. Why go through all the trouble of creating 100% of your site's content yourself?
And here's another point: A few years ago, if you wanted video on your site, you had to write or find a code that would let you host the video. Big pain in the butt. Now Google is dumping millions of dollars into making YouTube the best, most advanced video service on the planet. Why would you still go it alone, when you can just embed YouTube on your own site for free?
Right now, this concept is being pushed to its limits by ad agencies and others who want to get buzz by showing how minimalist their Web design can be. The most notable examples are Modernista's pop-up home page, the similar Skittles project by Agency.com, and most recently BooneOakley's bizarre conversion of its agency site into a YouTube video.
For now, these kinds of projects are mostly just publicity stunts. But there's no denying that repurposed content from sites like Twitter and YouTube is going to become the norm with almost any site design in the near future.
So what's your take on the term "Web 3.0"? Is it a bold new era? Or just a bunch of bull? I'd love to hear what trends you've noticed and where you think they're taking us.
Today's photo credit: dkodigital on Flickr.