CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- While many enterprise firms are still searching for ways to wrap their minds -- and business models -- around Web 2.0 innovations such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and blogs, forward-thinking Web architects are already looking ahead to the ways in which Web 2.0 can evolve into an even more user-specific experience -- Web 3.0, if you will.
What is Web 3.0? It's part of a trend that, over the next decade, will morph into Web users looking not just for Web pages that contain the information they want, but also for Web services that provide constant updates on items that appeal to their individual interests and needs. As enterprise CIOs examine their companies' online strategies, staying on top of users' desires for on-demand, tailored information will be crucial to success.
At MIT's recent Emerging Technologies Conference, a panel of Web platform architects and managers discussed the "mashup" between Web 2.0 and 3.0, and how they see it evolving over the next decade.
"The Web is going social and real time, and it's ubiquitous," said Joseph Smarr, chief platform architect at Mountain View, Calif.-based social networking service Plaxo Inc.
Panelists pointed out that some people were alerted to China's earthquake in May via Twitter messages well before CNN was able to begin reporting on it through more traditional channels, including even its website.
"It used to be that the Web changed at the speed of publishing," said Nova Spivack, founder and CEO of San Francisco-based Radar Networks, a company pioneering the mainstream adoption of Web 3.0. "Now, it's changing at the speed of thought."
The emerging mashup of Web 2.0 components started when people began taking information from one place on the Internet and putting it in another, said David Recordon, open platforms tech lead at Six Apart Ltd., a San Francisco-based blogging pioneer. Now, a single, personalized page might draw information from a range of different sources.
For instance, a Facebook page might pull in photos from Flickr, updates from Twitter, the latest story on the presidential campaign from The New York Times, and much, much more. The Web is no longer simply a source of information, but a consortium of people's thoughts and actions, said Dave Morin, senior platform manager at Palo Alto, Calif.-based Facebook Inc.
What is emerging alongside this everything-in-one-place trend is an open source, vendor-neutral approach to creating applications for social networking purposes. "What's really exciting is that this has gone from a fairly pie-in-the-sky to something with major mainstream backing," Smarr said, comparing the "rush of innovation" to that which characterized the first rush of information on the Web.
"It's kind of frothy, but you know from that froth the next big thing will come," Smarr said.
The Web 2.0/Web 3.0 mashup will be further characterized by new tools like Facebook Connect, which launched earlier this year and allows users to log on to other, third-party websites using their Facebook profiles.
"Users count on Facebook to stay connected to their friends and family," Morin wrote in a blog post earlier this year announcing the launch. "With Facebook Connect, users can take their friends with them wherever they go on the Web. Developers will be able to add rich social context to their websites. Developers will even be able to dynamically show which of their Facebook friends already have accounts on their sites."
Not only does this eliminate the need to log in to multiple accounts, but it also serves as a way to gather and centralize information about a particular user's Web-browsing habits, Morin said.
All of this innovation, of course, is having a huge impact on Internet users' surfing and searching habits, the panelists agreed. Whereas people used to scroll down a list of search results in Google, they are more and more likely to look at only the first couple of returned pages, trusting Google to have properly sorted them -- making search engine optimization more and more important as time goes on.
But in the next decade, Google searches of the entire Internet might not be the first place Web users look for answers -- a fact that enterprise CIOs should keep in mind when developing and exporting their firms' network strategies. Already, a great deal of information is being shared via Twitter and Facebook status updates in more informal sessions. Information in Twitter, Yahoo Answers and the like "is being archived, but it needs to be curated," Smarr said, advocating for better tagging methods. "The reuse of shared knowledge is going to be increased."
For example, a Web searcher will want to know not only what seafood restaurants are in Boston, but also which ones his friends like and which ones are close to him. Spivack said existing sites such as TripAdvisor are good examples of this approach, and future examples might be tied even more closely to one's particular social network.
Mobile computing is also changing how customers conduct searches online and will continue to do so as a new wave of smartphones hits the marketplace. "Now, you don't want to search -- you want to find," Spivack said. "What's going to happen to search is that it's going to be through your social networking."
Let us know what you think about the story; email: Rachel Lebeaux, Associate Editor