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Web 3.0

noun [uncountable]

a third phase in the evolution of the World Wide Web, based on the idea that the Internet 'understands' the pieces of information it stores and is able to make logical connections between them

'With Web 3.0, it's about the Web becoming smarter, getting to know you better from your browsing history (and all you've contributed to it during Web 2.0) and automatically delivering content to you that is relevant.'

Bizcommunity.com 13th May 2010

From its inception in the early 1990s through to the foreseeable future, the World Wide Web is a developing phenomenon, constantly evolving in response to new technologies and the changing expectations of users. The Web of today is a very different animal to the version that first gained widespread acceptance in the mid-1990s. Likewise, it seems that the Web as we now know it could be transformed into something even more sophisticated, as experts begin to discuss the advent of Web 3.0.

use of the term seems at present to focus on the concept
of enhancing the 'intelligence' of
the underlying architecture of
the Internet

A precise definition of Web 3.0 is difficult to pin down, but most descriptions agree that a fundamental characteristic of it is the ability to make connections and infer meaning – essentially, the Web is going to become more 'intelligent'. This has led to the coining of expressions such as the semantic Web, or the intelligent Web, in reference to Web 3.0.

Most references to Web 3.0 characterize it in relation to its forerunners. The inaugural Web, sometimes referred to as Web 1.0, was the version of the Web in existence between 1991 and 2003. This was essentially a 'read-only' Web, somewhere we could go to access information on a kind of 'look but don't touch' basis. From 2004 onwards came the evolution of the 'read-write' Web, or Web 2.0, which, by contrast to the static nature of its predecessor, was all about interaction and collaboration. In a wave of development characterized by wikis, blogs and social media, users were now controlling the content of the Web rather than merely observing it. The logical progression of this should therefore be the 'read-write-execute' Web, a version of the Web in which users can create and execute their own tools and software to manipulate and extract information, rather than using other people's software and websites. However, though this may indeed be one aspect of Web 3.0, use of the term seems at present to focus on the concept of enhancing the 'intelligence' of the underlying architecture of the Internet – the idea that information will be organized and identified in a way that makes searches more effective because the platform 'understands' and makes connections between pieces of data.

Background – Web 3.0

The expression Web 3.0 is, of course, a logical progression from the term Web 2.0. Following the pattern of Web 2.0, various spoken forms are possible, such as 'Web three point oh' and 'Web three (point) zero'.

Though there is some evidence to suggest that Web 2.0 first appeared in the late 1990s, the expression first rose to popularity in 2004, when US media company O'Reilly Media hosted a Web 2.0 conference. Co-founders of the company Tim O'Reilly and Dale Dougherty are therefore closely associated with original use of the term.

The use of 2.0, 3.0 etc in these expressions is based on the idea of labelling a product design relative to whether it's the first attempt or a later modification. This kind of nomenclature is especially common in the world of IT, where software tools are continually upgraded, and are therefore labelled e.g. 'v. (=version) 1.2.1', or feature numbers as part of their names, like for instance Adobe Reader 9 or Internet Explorer 8. The interesting thing about 2.0 in particular however, is that it seems to have taken on a life of its own as a productive suffix, now occurring in a wide variety of contexts where Web-based innovation and interaction are having an impact. Recent examples include Parliament 2.0, which relates to the idea of participatory media (e.g. social networking, webcasts, etc) as a means of engaging public interest in parliamentary debate.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

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This article was first published on 12th July 2010.

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