The Web 3.0 Echo Chamber

May 28, 2009

There’s not much news coming out of D7, the Internet executive chat fest, other than that Yahoo’s new CEO is willing to accept “boatloads of money” to sell the company’s Web search business, if Microsoft were willing to pay. They are still talking, sort of. But that is so-o-o last’s year’s story. Move on.

Confererence organizers Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg are looking to stir up a debate by declaring that the Web 2.0 era of the internet is over and Web 3.0 is underway.  

We think something major is happening at the intersection of tech and media, and we think it deserves its own new hyped-up name: Web 3.0.

Their definition of Web 3.0 centers on the rise of cloud computing and the delivery of a host of Web services to easy to use mobile devices running simple clean software. The iPhone, Blackberry, Google, Twitter. In the absence of news, let’s dredge up an old buzzword.

The death of Web 2.0 doesn’t go down too well with computer publisher Tim O’Reilly, who was the first to comment on the Swisher/Mossberg Web 3.0 declaration:

There’s no question that what’s happening in the marketplace is as significant a step forward as Web 2.0, but calling it Web 3.0 seems a bit silly. After all, Web 2.0 was not a new version of the web, but a name that tried to capture what distinguished the companies that survived the dotcom bust from those that survived, and point the way forward for new companies entering the market.

Of course, O’Reilly was the popularizer of the Web 2.0 term and has created a lucrative business out of defining the term to the rest of the world. 

Web 3.0 afficionados will recall John Markoff of The New York Times tried a similar manoeuvre in 2006 when the Web 2.0 craze was in full flower. His declaration of the coming of the Web 3.0 era was timed to coincide with came in the wake of the Web 2.0 Summit, another big annual Internet conference, started by O’Reilly to cash in on the concept. 

Markoff defined Web 3.0 as a coming era when computers would scour powerful Web databases to deliver highly personalised results to Internet users.  His view of Web 3.0 resurrected the decades-old ideas of natural-language search, the capacity to ask a computer a simple question and get a sensible response. 

By that definition, Web 3.0 may take another decade or two.

(Images: D7 Conference site; Nova Spivak)


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see

How can the next gen web, which is supposed to be about making the web more personal and more human, be named after a software release!

The next web is about how to make the web more human through trust because trust is the glue in the real word and the web one too.

Call it that – Trusted Web. That’s a worthy goal.

Judy Shapiro

Posted by Judy Shapiro | Report as abusive

hummmph. Eric should go back and check. My story didn’t coincide with, but followed the Web 2.0 summit that year…!

and as long as we’re giving credit, let’s mention Dan Gilmore. Didn’t he coin the term???

Posted by John Markoff | Report as abusive

John is correct.

My memory was playing tricks on me. The 2006 Web 2.0 Summit took place from Nov. 7-9. His article appeared a few days later.

And I am sure he’s probably right that Dan Gillmor was using Web 3.0 earlier than other people. I see Dan’s piece from 2005: r_on_grassroots/2005/04/ ml

The problem with Web 2.0 was that it was never well-defined. It was part industry rallying cry, partly a description of important technology developments that enabled things like Gmail, Flickr and YouTube. Partly it was just a promise to consumers that using the Web can and will get easier.

But, as a buzzword, Web 2.0/3.0 remains a pretty rocky edifice on which to build the next big thing.

Posted by Eric Auchard | Report as abusive

The death of Web 2.0 – why do we have to be so hard about the beginning and end of phases of development in the evolution of the web. At the same time it is our obsession with the need to classify things that can lead us into these problems. If anything Web 3.0 – if that is what we are comfortable calling it – will see the development of long over due rules to help clarify information, the author, what it relates to and where it is stored. We cannot continue with a web where there is so much freedom to misinform.

Posted by Marc Walker | Report as abusive