Just when you thought you’d gotten comfortable with Web 2.0*, some forward-thinkers have already starting talking about the era of Web 3.0. The truth is that the lines between the two are a little blurry, and we’re already straddling the two phases of development whether we know it or not.
Several of us in Miles’ Colorado office trekked to the University of Colorado’s annual Conference on World Affairs to hear four of tech’s thoughtful voices talk about what they think the next phase of the internet might be. They all have different thoughts about how things will evolve (see below for each one’s specific takes), but essentially think there will be a lot more automation requiring less thinking or action by users.
For marketers, I think it means we need to be prepared to collect more data and adapt quickly when consumers adopt new services and devices.
One of the speakers, tech columnist Andy Ihnatko, used the example of how he learned that Steven Colbert would be taking over “The Late Show” hosting duties from David Letterman. Based on the information his browsers and devices have learned about him over the years, whatever magic is powering his Pebble Smartwatch sensed his interest in the topic, evaluated related articles and distilled the news into an alert succinct enough to deliver the news to his watch: “Steven Colbert to be new Late Show Host.” His technology knew what he was interested in without him telling it and knew the best device and format (responsiveness) to deliver him breaking news.
Of course, these kinds of advances require the attendant discussions about privacy, and how people and governments approach privacy laws will shape our reactions to the technology, but the possibilities are pretty exciting.
- Could we create virtual guides-on-the-fly that customize content automatically to our readers’ interests/travel proclivities that pop into their inboxes as soon as they start planning their trip?
- Could we create an app that pings users when they’re near a restaurant around lunchtime that we’ve written a review for that also lets them know one of their friends gave it a five-star Yelp rating?
- Could our newsletters reconfigure for each reader based on the articles they’ve clicked on in the past, leading with topics they’re most likely to engage with?
I think and hope the answer is yes.
Conference on World Affairs Speakers’ Reactions to Web 3.0
Dan Gillmor, who was the first to float the idea of Web 3.0 in a 2005 Financial Times piece, predicts that 3.0 entails more machines talking to other machines — that our devices will do things on our behalf and without our involvement. Even now, many of our devices are already connected and generating data, from our phones to our cameras, watches, fitness monitors, household temperature-control units and methods of navigation.
Do all the disruption, recommendations and predictions in our current devices and browsing capabilities get in the way of us actually processing or reflecting on the information we’re taking in?
More and more, he thinks, those devices will start working together to anticipate our needs and wants. Information-retrieval (i.e., search) specialist Tamsin Maxwell believes Web 3.0 will rise out of better search and better interaction. We’re not as close to all that machine-to-machine automation as we think we are, she says. Web searches and programs like Apple’s Siri are starting to anticipate our meaning when we ask for things, but many advances are still required in our ability to extract and analyze data, create rich interfaces and languages, and formulate better query patterns and conversational QA before our devices can really whisper in our ears effectively.
For Andy Ihnatko, who’s clearly enjoying the fruits of early Web 3.0 technology, there’s a question about whether all the disruption, recommendations and predictions in our current devices and browsing capabilities get in the way of us actually processing or reflecting on the information we’re taking in. When you get near the end of an online New York Times article, a pop up with a message about another story you might be interested in has already creeped in; are we moving on to the next before we really digest what we’ve just read?
Web 3.0 “might give us what we ask us for,” he said, “but is it robbing us of what we really need?” Sanho Tree, a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, is also cautious about the effect predictive web services can have. He referenced the “filter bubble,” [http://www.thefilterbubble.com/] where everyone’s reality is different because they’re only presented with information that fits their worldview. No one looks at the same internet since we’re all served different content based on the data that exists about us — which means we no longer have a baseline reality.
One example: If a neo-Nazi walks into a bar spouting his views, he may get punched in the mouth. If he searches the internet, he finds millions of websites and other people who agree with him — making it seem as if he’s not on the fringe of society. *
Web 1.0 = the early days of the web, with mostly static pages; Web 2.0 = pages and sites becomes dynamic and allow users to interact with the content and generate their own through social media.