To date, the Web has gone through two basic iterations. The first generation, Web 1.0, ran from 1995 to 1999 and can best be described as a flat, one-dimensional way of displaying information that could be accessed by keyword searches. Hyperlinking text was a key feature of the first generation Web and pop-up ads were seen as a way of revenue generation. Google’s current project, digitizing all of the world’s books and making the contents available via search, is basically using an advanced form of Web 1.0.
The second iteration of the Web, Web 2.0, started in 2000, and its hallmark trait is all about users sharing with other users. Peer-to-peer networking was the application used by Napster to take the Web to the next level by offering music file sharing to the masses. Since then we have seen enthusiastic amateurs from around the world work together to classify and post massive amounts of new content on the collective encyclopedia project Wikipedia.
Idea sharing tools such as Blogs, personality-sharing sites such as MySpace, photo-sharing sites such as Flickr, and video sharing sites such as YouTube are all great examples of the sharing nature of Web 2.0.
Thanks to the underlying technology of XML, which allows machines to talk to other machines over the Web, applications can also connect to and share data with each other. A good example would be connecting corporate or personal location-based data to Google Maps. The next generation of the Web, Web 3.0, is already beginning as we bring artificial intelligence to the Web making our searches more relevant, useful and accurate. These searches will have a level of guidance to them.
Today, when you enter a word or phrase into a search engine such as Google or Yahoo!, you get thousands of responses, most of which are not useful. With Web 3.0 technology, you can type in a question about managing your 401K account, and you will get relevant advice based on all of your previous searches. The search function will become more of an automated advisor. Web 3.0 will also have the option of using a 3-D Web browser providing an inner spatial world to interact with. An early version is Linden Lab’s Second Life where 2.1 million registered players select an avatar of themselves. They can interact with others, purchase land, build homes and conduct business.
In my keynote speeches, I have been showing off an early prototype of a 3D Web browser since 2000. It’s easy to predict the future when you are already there. Business audiences always respond positively to the demonstration of the 3-D eCommerce engine that will let potential customers interact with an electronic sales agent, or if you wish, a real human sales person. Computers finally have enough power, and there are enough high-speed Internet connections, both wired and wireless, to enable the transition to Web 3.0 applications over the next few years.