Web 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0 Defined

A couple of months ago, an e-mail thread went around the company discussing “Web 3.0” technology. Naturally, I felt the need to put in my two cents, and I thought it would make for a good blog post. Let me know what you think. Do you agree? Disagree?

Marketing speak aside, I like to think of these labels in terms of “eras” of the Web.

So, Web 1.0 represents the first decade of the Web (1990-1999), which is characterized primarily by a read-only Web.

Web 2.0 represents the second decade of the Web (2000-2009), which is characterized by a shift in the use of the Web to not only connect to a company’s or product’s constituents by giving them information but also allowing users to connect to the company/product and to each other. This is often called the era of the read-write Web. I think this era is also characterized by a counter-cultural shift in views regarding ownership of data and privacy. This cultural shift will continue into the Web 3.0 era and will begin to affect the mainstream culture, as well and (I think) lead to changes in copyright law.

Web 3.0 represents the next decade of the Web (2010-2019). It will be characterized by a read-write-execute Web, and we will see a proliferation of SaaS and Software + Services models. Software that lives primarily on the desktop will become less and less important as the desktop serves primarily as a client to reach services in the Cloud. I think that we will see rich clients proliferate on the desktop, but, in the end, they will really be using the Cloud for storage/retrieval, and the creation and use of rich clients lends itself well to a REST architecture as rich clients are used to maintain all application state and the messages sent back and forth contain no state at all and are cacheable at every layer of the network… but I digress.

As more and more people become accustomed to storing their data in the Cloud and sharing it with others, our cultural concepts of ownership and privacy will dramatically shift. There could be a widespread backlash as this begins to affect the mainstream culture, or perhaps the backlash will not occur at all as Gen-Xers and Gen-Yers have already begun introducing their parents and grandparents to Web technologies, and they’ve embraced them as a way to keep in touch with their friends and family. I suspect that, by 2015, we’ll have a clear idea of how this shift will play out.