Why Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg are wrong about naming Web 3.0 “Web 3.0″

Can we just head this trend off at the pass? It seems that Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg, at their “All Things D” conference announced the beginning of the Web 3.0 era.

That’s ridiculous.

And I’m not the only one to think so.

Short aside: It’s interesting that neither Kara nor Walt show up very often on friendfeed, which is the best example of the 2010 Web right now. Kara Swisher has made a total of five comments there. Walt is even worse, doesn’t bring any items in there, and only has six comments. How can you know what the 2010 Web is, if you don’t use it and don’t participate in it?

The Web does NOT have version numbers. Naming what was going on in the last eight years “Web 2.0″ did us all a large disservice (Tim O’Reilly did that, mostly to get people to see that there was something different about the Web that was being built in 2000-2003 than what had come before).

But by naming it a number, I believe it caused a lot of people and businesses to avoid what was going on and “poo poo” it as the rantings of the new MySpace generation (which was just getting hot back then).

See, the Web changes EVERY DAY and a version number just doesn’t do it justice. Think about today, we saw Microsoft announce a major new update to its search engine, named “Bing,” that turns on next week and is already getting TONS of kudos. Seriously, in the rental car shuttle today a guy I met said the demo he saw at Kara and Walt’s conference was “awesome.”

Also today was Google’s Wave, which caught everyone by surprise and which sucked the oxygen out of Microsoft’s search announcements. Check out all the reports that I liked from around the world this morning.

But, back to the theme of this post. There IS something going on here. I covered it a few weeks ago.

The things that are happening are NOT just Twitter and search. Here, let me recount again what is making up the 2010 Web:

1. Real Time. Google caught the Wave of that trend today BIG TIME.
2. Mobile. Google, again, caught that wave big time Wednesday when it handed Android phones to everyone at its IO conference.
3. Decentralized. Does Microsoft or Twitter demonstrate that trend? Not really well.
4. Pre-made blocks. I call this “copy-and-paste” programming. Google nailed it with its Web Elements (I’ll add a few of those next week).
5. Social. Oh, have you noticed how much more social the web is? The next two days I’m hanging out on an aircraft carrier with a few people who do social media for the Navy.
6. Smart. Wolfram Alpha opened a lot of people’s eyes to what is possible in new smart displays of information.
7. Hybrid infrastructure. At the Twitter Conference this week lots of people were talking about how they were using both traditional servers along with cloud-based approaches from Amazon and Rackspace to store, study, and process the sizeable datasets that are coming through Twitter, Facebook, and friendfeed.

So, why doesn’t a version number work for these changes? Because they don’t come at us all at once. A lot of these things have been cooking for years. The Internet makes iteration possible. Tomorrow will be better on the Internet than today. In the old world of software you’d have to wait for the compilers, then you’d need to distribute tons of CDs or disks. That no longer needs to be done.

The idea that we have a version for the Web is just plain ridiculous. It makes the innovations we’re implementing too easily dismissed. How many times have you heard that “Twitter is lame?” I lost count 897 days ago.

Now, is using a year number, like what I’m doing, better? Yes. It gets us out of the version lock. And it makes it clear to businesses that if you are still driving around a 1994 Web site that it’s starting to look as old and crusty as a 1994 car is about now. Executives understand this. It’s a rare executive who drives an old car around. Most like to have the latest expensive car to get to work in.

Same with the Web. Calling it the “2010 Web” puts an urgency into what’s happening. If your business isn’t considering the latest stuff it risks looking lame or, worse, leaving money on the table. Just like driving a 1994 car risks looking lame or, worse, breaking down a lot more often than a newer car.

Is the year metaphor perfect? No, I’m sure there are a few things wrong with it. For one, if you want to host a conference based on the “trend” you’ll have to change your conference name every year. That costs money, which is why conference companies like to have more stable trends that they can exploit for a few years, at least.

Also, there are some clear “eras” in the Web, so I could see wanting to suggest that we’re in the third era of the Web, but I’ve been studying this for the past eight years and calling the second era “Web 2″ actually held us back because mainstream users didn’t think anything was happening in the past few years and Web 2.0 became a useless phrase anyway.

Anyway, can we use year numbers to describe the Web now? It’ll make it easier to evangelize the modern world to businesses. We’re entering the 2010 Web, that’s what I’m exploring. Calling the Web a version number is for people who don’t really understand, or participate in, what’s going on here. Kara and Walt, you gotta do better here.

About Robert Scoble

As Startup Liaison for Rackspace, the Open Cloud Computing Company, I travel the world with Rocky Barbanica looking for what's happening on the bleeding edge of technology and report that here.

113 thoughts on “Why Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg are wrong about naming Web 3.0 “Web 3.0″

  1. As a matter of logistics, the title of your post is fallacious for attempting to refute a quality that is by definition given as the essence. That is to say, you hurt your argument by taking for granted that the name of the movement is web 3.0, before suggesting that others are wrong to call web 3.0, web 3.0. Logicians, future anthropologists and the greater many who do not participate but become psychologically effected will likely not be pleased.

  2. I agree it is ridiculous, although I'm not sure how naming it 2010 Web is better. I'm working on a book and have decided to go with the Web 3.0 and Web 4.0 terminology.

    Seems like you've stopped blogging, or maybe just enjoying a vacation :- ) ?

  3. Scoble's obviously just intimidated by ATD and the fact that their term will likely catch on before his own 2010 Web nonsense. They're both bullshit and unnecessary.

    Just call it the Web, and I promise people will still know what you're referring to.

  4. The fact that they haven't even participated in the real time web, which is one of the HUGE themes this year is scary, to tell you the truth.

    Says the guy who doesn't know how to use an FTP client or participate in web development whatsoever, but wants everyone to believe he's some kind of Internet expert.

  5. Absolutely. I said the same thing in my blog post that we are in an awkward time because Web 2.0 has jumped the shark and there's nothing that deserves to be called Web 3.0 http://soacenter.com

    In fact, I would be perfectly happy if there were no more version numbers for anything except maybe software.


  6. “It’s a rare executive who drives an old car around. Most like to have the latest expensive car to get to work in.”

    Unfortunately for that metaphor, most people aren't executives. They also have more common sense than that, and use what works for them. No matter what terminology you use, the executive types will always be on the trailing edge of technology, because they can't understand it until it's gone mainstream and can be canned into a cute phrase. I've spent the past 10 years of my life as a Unix systems admin, and am speaking firsthand. This applies even more strongly to the U.S. population at large, most of which are not only computer illiterate, but just plain stupid.

  7. Kara/Walt

    I am on friendfeed, twitter,youtube,flickr,facebook,linkein,google,blah blah blah
    I do marketing for friendfeed so how can you announce web 3.0
    I was suppose to announce that thing or only I am eligible to do that..I I I I I I I I I I only IIIIII

    not fair.

  8. All these social media distractions, perfect for the narcissistic ADD set, have really improved your blog — by improved I mean lack of output, I only need to check in once a month.

  9. Hmmm, this is a tricky one. Personally I see all the little incremental changes going on in the web – tighter pre-integration, smoother API's, new behavioural tools, etc. So I agree that any kind of versioning is rediculous. It's like trying to version the state of the economy. Where is the US and UK today? Are they in version 5 or 6..? Or have they just had to roll-back a version due to the credit crises..? There are so many little things taking place that make up the bigger trends. We can “era” it, but then let's stay away from numbers all-together. It only creates confusion…

  10. When using the Web 3.0 metaphor, there's a larger sense of context that they are drawing from that isn't mentioned in your post.

    The old joke — for people like Swisher and Mossberg, and many others as well — was that at Microsoft, quality was version 3.0. For whatever reason, Microsoft products tended to go from obscurity to success, whether you're talking Windows, Word, Excel, or Internet Explorer. WordPerfect was kicking MSFT's ass to the tune of millions of dollars every time founder Alan Ashton breathed in — that is, until MSFT launched Word 3.0. Lotus was doing the same to MSFT and bragging about it, until Excel 3.0 came around. And so on. (By the way, I was never a MSFT employee, but worked with them on several initiatives ranging from tv to real-time energy pricing.)

    There's an old mantra, “build, fortify, leverage” that was used to describe the process of owning a marketplace. This had nothing to do with versioning but it does convey a sense of process and continuity that also describes the maturation of the web.

    I don't want to discount your thoughts about 2010 Web. You obviously have put a lot of thought into this.

  11. Robert,

    I hardly ever comment but after watching Jay Berkowitz's presentation on Web 2010 on Monday you and he have similar approaches and he has fleshed things out a bit more. You two should write a book – seriously.

    I was greatly offended by Kara's “rebuttal” article. She was demeaning calling you names and totally condescending with her opinions. You clearly touched a nerve – so don't stop.

    The real core difference is that you are commentator with an opinion. She and Walt are or profess to be journalists. You have never tried to say you are anything different. They should evaluate their own journalistic integrity before they start professing new eras in computing and just report on them like they are supposed to do.

  12. Why call it 2010 Web either? Waddueff. Leave the web alone plz. it's for me geeks and not hungry marketers, people who wanna make money just for naming the web (at least Tim did contribute a lot when he allegedly “coined” Web 2 dot oh)

  13. …and shame on you all for not even mentioning it earlier in comments or the article. That is all.

  14. It is quit good to gave terms for the next Web generation era, but I think before to consider the new ones, it should be reviewed a million times or make some research if that is necessary to do before reveling the topic concern.

    But, of course that's my opinion only.. =)

  15. You are so right. I am trying to use Twitter, etc. to get my new project off the ground. I am in the field of “Cougar Dating” which is rather new, but everyone seems interested. I have no knowledge of how to use twitter–know it is important, but totally lost in the language about “clouds” etc. Just because YOU (those who know and use twitter) know everything about twitter and Facebook–some of us are still in the dark–total darkness here.

  16. “Web 3.0″, “2010 Web”, … boring. Lets really put on our marketing hats…

    How about “WeB1″ with a logo of cartoon people holding hands around a globe?

    Just kidding–who cares? “Web 2.0″ has always been a fuzzy term… ditto “semantic web”. The next terms will be fuzzy too. The web and various technologies and applications are moving so fast by the time we have consensus on a name (if we were to have consensus, that is) we'll be arguing about whether the latest new thing is part of that name or is justification for the next name.

    I'm cool with “Web 3.0″ or “2010 Web” — the mean the same thing, fuzzily speaking.

  17. Robert, I agree that the best information comes first hand.

    You can't credibly dismiss something unless you have experienced it personally.

    Whether FF or Twitter or passing fads doesn't matter here – it's the evidence used in arguments that's under review.

  18. “How can you know what the 2010 Web is, if you don’t use it and don’t participate in it?” Ah i'm beginning to understand. The 2010 web is the web that you are using …. Come on, there are tons of services and i use a lot of them and don't like Friendfeed. So if you don't like what you like you don't get it? Strange.

  19. I am really excited about Google wave I think this will change the internet as we know it. Nice website by the way,@scobleizer @iamchrislang recommended it to me.

  20. Thanks for clarifying Robert. I agree Web 3 lost all meaning quickly. The most I could come up with was Semantic got intellectually snobbish and the defining issue became getting wireless into 3rd world areas so goat herders could find markets. Somewhere in the hysteria FB got leapfrogged by Google Wave. Go figger. I like 2010 better.

  21. I totally agree with the no version numbers, although for non tech (read simple business people) it's sometimes easier to get a point across and go for the generalisation and explain it as a third phase we're in.

    And on the side… I love my Alfa GTV from '97. Yes it's not environmentally the best car, it doesn't have the latest gizmo's but there sometimes has to be something said for 'nostalgia' no ?

  22. having unleashed a few good and bad TLAs when at Gartner, the best ones described a emerging product category in simple terms that an average business person understood without needing a user manual.

    Web 3.0 like Enterprise 2.0 is a pompous term that will sell a few conference seats

    But it fails the basic “what do it do” test…

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  24. No, no, NO.


    Kara (and Walt even more so) are known for being ahead of the curve. A good review from Walt can put your product over the top.

    And few reporters covering tech industry and policy are as serious as Kara. I wish I had more like her alongside me in the Capitol. Her visits to DC always produce interesting insights on the things I see every day.

    BUT — as much as I respect Kara and Walt (and they know this), I think it's disingenuous to dismiss technology you don't even use. I use Twitter every day. I've used it to work on stories. I' have a friend who's the lead Congressional writer for a major wire service — he uses Twitter and has broken MAJOR news by watching.

    Kara and Walt are failing by looking only at the tech vs other tech POV. In the “big picture,” journalists need to adapt to what's out there to break news. If they don't, they die.

    (disclaimer: I'm an actual journalist)

  25. So if you go see a movie and tell a friend you thought is was lousy, should your opinion be dismissed because you are neither an actor, director, or producer? you would clearly lack the movie industry credibility

    If you eat a a restaurant and tell a friend you thought the food sucked, should your opinion be dismissed because you are neither a restaurant owner, cook or chef? You would clearly lack culinary credibility.

    Opinions are nether right or wrong. They are just opinions. Feel free to disagree, but don't use the illogical argument of appeal to authority

  26. “It makes the innovations we’re implementing too easily dismissed.”

    “We”? Can you point me to even one thing YOU have built, developed, or innovated? Even one line of code for a shipping product? The topic is interesting, but please…don't include yourself with the innovators. You are a user and an observer.

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