Does Web 3.0 Exist? You Tell Me

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Our guest author today – Anthony Licari – has a passion for literature and posts about the nuances of life on his website, plus dissecting contemporary subculture on Lounge Nouvelle.

I think most of us who design or develop websites have run into the phrase: “Make my site like Web 2.0ish” followed by a far off look in our eyes and a smile waiting to explode. I saw the phrase “Web 3.0” used in a Mashable article so casually it was as though it’s an understood and accepted fact. As several leaders in the discussion of the world wide web have pointed out when asked about Web 3.0, it’s more or less a marketing term.

Now to clear some things up before we continue on here I will say that I’m not arguing that Web 2.0 isn’t used to describe certain things that are identifiable. What I’m arguing is that the word and these continual version numbers should not exist.

Web 1.0 is a term never used yet is imperative for the existence of Web 2.0. O’Reilly Media are the people who made the phrase Web 2.0 popular. What I have never understood is that for some tech people why they would add a version number to the word. Either they’re really stupid or they’re really smart. Changing the first number of a version implies that we are dealing with something completely different. Night and day. Yet here we are in 2010 and I can still do a Google search, have a Web 1.0 site pull up and find it useful. That’s all that matters I thought. That a site is able to properly meet its goals.

It doesn’t help that O’Reilly’s definition and explanation is five pages long. In the taxonomy of the world around us, outside of the scientific community, we don’t create words that encompass five pages of description. This is getting closer to the root of the problem and why it’s a marketing term and a marketing term only. You can Google “Web 2.0 colors” and get a result, “Web 2.0 designs” , “Web 2.0 applications” , “Web 2.0 penguins” and as such when someone says “Oh that’s Web 2.0” , I don’t have the slightest clue as to what they’re referencing other than the site appears fresh and new.

Fresh and new. Imagine the past 100 years of cars. How many of you are driving a Car 10.0 right now? Most of us probably have a car and our car is either new, used, or old. How would you describe a car from the 1940’s? Now think of a car salesman in the 40’s. You weren’t just buying a new car, he had all these buzz words to describe this new technology from the war. Airplane technology being put into cars. Your car is going to fly. At the end of the day though, it’s just a car and after all the hype has gone down and something new comes out those buzz words will be lost in time and all that’s left is what it was in the first place: a car.

Websites and applications are the same. We don’t refer to websites in the 1990’s as “Web 1.0”. They’re old looking sites or a website built in the 1990’s. In 5 years when “Web 3.0” is all the talk the phrase “Web 2.0” will be gone. We’ll still use it, or know of it because it’s overused. The average internet user has never used the term “Web 1.0” or thought about it, and they won’t think of “Web 2.0” in 10 years because it’s just a buzz word. It doesn’t describe anything specific it’s only fodder for promotion or demotion like this article. At the end of the day all that you really have is just a website. Maybe you’ll use strategies from the Web 1.0, 2.0., or 3.0 era to make it achieve your goals.

My biggest gripe as I’ve eluded to is it being non specific and too much of an umbrella term. We all know that things change, like with cars. That’s the evolution of something. There’s no need to say that we are now in version 3 of the web. Just call it the web, everyone knows that things change and evolve and get better. Cell phones, cars, televisions, guns, stereos, speakers, etc. We all use a computer, the same computer that once took up the space of an entire room and had huge tubes powering it. What changes about the computer are the specifics. The processors have version numbers, the monitors, the video cards. Everything that is evolving in the guts is what changes but the computer still serves the same function and as such it is and will always be called a “computer”.

With that we have HTML5, Ruby on Rails, Cloud Computing, the guts of the web.. the specifics and the trends are what change and it is those things that version numbers and language really matters. The web is just the web and as much as it evolves and methods are created to make it faster and better and more useful it is still and always will be the “web”.

Unfortunately there’s nothing anyone can do to stop this monster of a misnomer. Hopefully for the sake of my sanity it gets overplayed and dies out. It’s kind of silly even writing an article now in hindsight. I think the fact that needing to read a multiple page definition of what “Web 2.0” and “Web 3.0” is; pretty much says it all.

So, do you think Web 1.0/2.0/3.0 are practical terms to use in design & development or are they marketing lingo?

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Anthony authors short stories and prose on his website and Lounge Nouvelle.
  • Grabbins

    My answer to this question is no.

    For me web 2.0 was used to describe websites that gave some kind of interaction with the user. Like social networking sites and web apps. I think it’s purpose was to give these sites a label so that it instantly put them into a category, as well as sumarising their overall feel – gradients, drop shadows, reflections and rounded corners. Basically everything that would make you cringe in print design.

    It will be interesting to see what people have to say about web 3.0!

  • Loved reading this! It bears the same feeling I have toward this notation. Can we ever rid ourselves of this? I’m tired of listening/saying/typing/keeping up with “what is” Web 2.0. Thanks for your time and yeah, I’ll be tweeting this on the WEB!

  • Web is an constant evolution. Web is just another media (that is more powerfull than others, of course )

    Put Number version is a real waste of time, look that examples: Washing Machine 3.0, Mouse 5.0, Mobile phone 3.0 Maybe they do not exist but can be imaginable. Can you think? oh yes! that’s another cool Marketing campaign to increase sales of that same product.

    Web thing is not a machine, is not a tool. Web was us in all life aspects: comunication, information, easy way to colaboration interaction of whole topics: political, social, technology, economy, medicine, etc etc, etc from the begining when just some crazy guys start to talk until today when we have a critic mass

    I can say that Web 2.0 was only an old cool marketing conference some years ago done by a cool agency.

    You are right .it’s time to remove anything of 2.0 of my blog :-)

  • Ryan

    I largely agree with the sentiment in your article. I think Web 2.0 is just marketing lingo.

    We see it all the time in the world of retail products, from food to cars. They take the same old product and iron out a couple of kinks in it. Then give it shiny new packaging and pretend that is a brand new idea, or a completely re-envisioned version of the original product.

    Sure, there are more tools for designers and coders to do the job better. But, by and large, little has changed. As far as the term goes, it is crap.

  • “Web 1.0/2.0/3.0” are marketing drivel. Period.

  • I interpret Web 2.0 as the current state of the web, where we have dynamic pages that allow discussion amongst the writers and readers of a website. Web 3.0 will be the next step in the Web’s evolution, with additional technologies (the Semantic Web) that allow machines to perform tasks on the Web with minimal human user input. There is a big misconception that the Semantic Web is an entirely new Web; it is, in fact, an extension of the current Web.

    I like to think of it in terms of the evolution of a restaurant website: Web 1.0 is the static site that just has a menu and location; Web 2.0 is the same site, but with a blog and a section for customer reviews; Web 3.0 has all of the above, but the site has been extended to accommodate a machine’s use of a Semantic Web application to locate and make a reservation for a human user that inputs their food preferences, budget and location.

  • Interesting to see the differences of opinion on such an understood term.

    @Grabbins More or less to add onto that with the categorization is the creation of a false dichotomy which will inevitably box in and limit the thinking and thought process of designers and developers relegating them to create what’s trendy right now rather than what ought to be done.

    @Victor I like your thoughts on the transmission of information via the web.

    @Catherine Your brevity is well put.

    @Jenn I think your description of the evolution and description of the various versions is well put. However, as simple as that may be, my question to you then is what is the practicality of those terms? Is it something that web developers who are creating something actually need to use and consider when working with others or has the language largely crept into marketing aspect of the web where it serves no practical purpose other than a selling point?

  • spiltBeans

    There is a lot of confusion about the term 2.0.

    Web 2.0 was coined to describe websites that focused on giving the user some sort of control or input, such as, social networking sites and to some level news websites that allowed you to customise your experience. These websites often used glossy buttons and so on which gave rise to the style 2.0 which has now dominated the term.

    It would be presumptuous to call anything ‘1.0’ that didn’t have a sequel planned already so I guess the guys that built the internet didn’t feel the need to call it 1.0 when it launched (although if you think about it I bet it was probably the millionth version)

    3.0 however dorky is still an interesting concept though. If 1.0 was the original internet and 2.0 is the internet we now have what will 3.0 be? My guess is something to do with porn.

  • @splitBeans The creators of the web had no intention of ever creating versions from what I understand. Web 2.0 and thus the implication of Web 1.0 first surfaced in 1999 in an article. It was then re branded in 2003 to more or less describe the changes in user interaction on the web. Change is inevitable though and makes one think “Duh?” why even call it anything?

    Porn is all knowing. It’s probably why the internet was created in the first place.

  • Linus

    According to me “Web 2.0” is a really stupid term that I don’t use unless I’m forced. Forced being working for someone that wants “a cool web 2.0”-site. For there to be a 2.0 there first have to be a 1.0. Which I doubt anyone ever said, one day it just switched to 2.0 from nothing.

    But leaving my loathing for the term a side. I would say that if anything, it’s 2.1 or something. Cuz what’s the point of having the period if it’s always followed by zero? Also, the difference in appearance between 1.0 and 2.0 is a lot bigger than 2.0 and what’s going on across the web today. Therefore I would not say that 3.0 is here yet, no.

  • Hi Anthony,

    I really loved reading your ‘down-to-earth’ view on these marketing phrases.

    A website should do what was intended by the client and the webdesigner, nothing more or nothing less.
    That’s my humble and personal opinion 2.1, haha.

    Thanks for sharing your brilliant thoughts, Cheers & Ciao …

  • @Anthony I think that the Web, as it has evolved, can be considered a large set of technologies – the code, design, tools we as web developers use, etc. As with most technology sets, the whole “1.0, 2.0” verbiage seems to have caught on.

    Is the numeric labeling of Web “versions” necessary? Absolutely not; we all (should) know the difference between a static, dynamic and machine-navigate-able site. It’s definitely become a way for non-designers/developers to sound like they know what they want in a project (it’s like their “smarter” way of saying they want you to make them the next Facebook).

    Although I do agree that it has become overused marketing lingo, they are real terms, unlike what some of the commenters here are saying. There IS a separation, and Web 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0 ARE terms used in the actual development industry.

  • @Jenn Right, I think most people here would probably agree that they are used but do they need to be used? Are they serving any practical function? We all do things, say things, have things that are unnecessary and serve absolutely no function at all or are of imperative necessity yet we continue to use and do those things.

  • @Anthony It’s sole function in the industry is purely classification :)

  • I just love this article. I like your views and your writing style. Great work Anthony keep it up :)

  • @Jenn Isn’t that the sole function of all language? To create a classification for communicating abstractions, ideas, thoughts, objects between humans?

    By practical function I more or less meant the need of the term, not in that I’m unsure of whether or not the term actually identifies, or as you put it classifies. So allow me to rephrase. Do you think there’s a need for the term Web 2.0?

  • Jorgen

    “Web ” is nothing but a marketing buzz word to pitch sales. You cannot put a version number on natural progression as new technologies become available. It implies a development roadmap and release cycle.

  • Sorry mate, but your article is kind of BS. You obviously haven’t read O’Rilley Web 2.0 explanation or haven’t understood it. Web 2.0 doesn’t stand for design trends, is stands for principles of interactions of user with web applications (web 2.0 and later) and sites (web 1.0).

    The term “Web” with version behind it is really a nicer way of describing the generations of web. Web 1.0 was “read-only” kind of a media. Web 2.0 is user generated content kind of Web and Web 3.0 will be fully semantic kind of Web. If those aren’t generations with huge leap from one to another, I don’t really know what is…

  • @Vladimir

    If Web 2.0 doesn’t stand for design trends then you should be able to do a search for “Web 2.0 design” and return null, but you won’t. You’ll find a plethora of articles and websites dedicated just to Web 2.0 design and that is my point in that it is defined as you say it but used in other ways, it is a misnomer that I clearly stated in the article itself. I appreciate the clarity but this article is about the usage, not what they define, and well quite ironically that makes it obvious that you haven’t even read the article you’re commenting on or understood it.

    The best part of your comment though was the expression of sympathy followed by, in the same sentence no less, calling the article bullshit. That made me laugh.

    I would be up for actually conversing about this, having a good discussion and not talking at each other if you’re up for it. I must sleep now and I’ve enjoyed the comments thus far. I hope they keep coming and I’ll jump back in the discussion later this evening.

  • The version number doesn’t mean anything, it’s just a way for people to identify a design style.

    Serious designers don’t use this term because it is meaningless; it attempts (and fails) to describe a design style that is nothing more than a passing trend.

    The term Web 3.0 will undoubtably be used in the near future, but not by us. It will be used by clueless marketers and clients, as they attempt to describe a post-2.0 style. The term will be defined by what it rejects rather than what it includes.

    I think the style that will be called web 3.0 won’t be a style at all; it will be the absence of a singular style (Much like Postmodernism is to Modernism).

  • cryptonit

    I use the term web 2.0 knowing it’s rubbish. But if you have to deal with the average client, terms like web 2.0 light up their eyes! And the good thing is: They even don’t know any definition of web 2.0. I always add some real terms to the term web 2.0 like “web 2.0 + comment function”. That way I can sell “the web 2.0 thing everybody talks about”. Maybe thats not correct but if the client is happy who cares?

  • As little experience as I have in the field, I think that Vladimir’s basic definition is correct. Web 2.0 is more of a UX idea than a design idea. However, people quickly caught on to the term and identified it with a strong visual trend going on in the web world at the same period, and that’s how we get the ubiquitous, vague and ever-elusive definition of “looks Web 2.0.”

  • Franzie

    well it is marketing… but it’s also a new approach to representing information. the fact is if you don’t label it 1.0 or 2.0 or whatever it will be harder to identify in peoples minds

  • Seriously people, sit down and think if there’s really a reason for such a term to exist. Why don’t we have Mobile 2.0, cars 2.0, telephones 2.0 as Anthoni pointed out?

    It’s may describe some things well but everything should be easier for everyone if this term didn’t exist. Web 2.0, web 3.0, web 4.0 each five years. For what?

    Just think about it deeply and with insight.

  • I think you missed the mark. The reason our cars aren’t 10.0 now vs. 1.0 is because they still do the same thing: drive you from point A to point B. But web 2.0 is NOT the same thing as the original web, it has a completely different function. Web 2.0 refers to the social web. It’s a new approach and redefines how we position ourselves or our businesses online. Now as for web 3.0, no I have not seen any indication that a significant paradigm shift has occurred to warrant this label. But that still shouldn’t diminish the significance of what 2.0 was.

  • Rob Miracle

    I disagree about it being marketing. I will agree that its abused, misused and misunderstood. Maybe it started out as marketing, but its developed a commonly accepted meaning.

    1st Generation Web was/is about delivering information.
    2nd Generation Web was/is about interactivity and involvement.
    3rd Generation Web is undefined. Its not cloud computing, mobile or any underlying technology, its about how we use it and we haven’t grown past 2.0 yet.

    These technologies like cloud computing, mobile, and such will be important to whatever 3.0 turns into. Maybe 3.0 Humans “live it”.

    Regardless, there is no start/stop to each version, its evolution. One day we will find that we do things differently. Old sites will still do their job but this new classification of how we use it will gel into a new evolved entity.

    The version numbers are there to sound geekish, nothing more.

  • well, I don’t it’s all about marketing. Web 1.0 is a description of pages that have no interaction with users. Just websites to read.
    Web 2.0 is a group of websites that user interaction exists (forums, chats, guest books, twitter).
    Web 3.0 is reserved for sites that are build in the way the machines will understand what the site have in content. So machines could be like people. They’d understand the site content.
    Web 3.0 is the future and it won’t be able for a long time. For now, there are only prototypes of semantic webistes built with microformats, OWL, RDF, XML and many, many other semantic languages.

  • Great post and comment. Actually, the Web 3.0 debate is much more specific as of now – check out There is also a great book out on the site.

  • It looks like everyone has their view on what the 2.0 means! – all very valid. If I can add my penny’s worth. The web has really only been around for 50 odd years ( the last 10 being the infancy phase) and only in the late 90’s .com crash did most people become aware of buying online. We needed to walk before we ran. Many had tried and failed- badly. So the toddler phase brings streamlined structure separated from presentation – interactivity is more of a by product of the freedom that gives us. The web pretty much changed its face and we were so excited we called it web 2.0 almost as a way of saying by the way we were all really young so those tag soup tables don’t count. It really was just a simple term for our version no. brains to get a hold of the dramatic change we are a part of. So I don’t think there is anything wrong with the term. Over used and misunderstood yes (but so were Nirvana and we all listen to unplugged now and again.) When clients use it is that a problem? All they are saying is that they don’t want one of those boring 800×600 tables banner on top links down the side which I have seen designers still produce! urgh. They need to be educated regardless. So from here we can move onto getting out of nappies and getting more mobile :) I’m sure it will all change dramatically again and in our wonderment we will call it something else ‘Webx-reloaded’ or something geeky – And then be embarrassed a few years on. As for web 3.0 – who knows and who cares the older the web gets the more it doesn’t care about age eh? It’s just a number.

  • When it comes to creativity, we like to categorize things. Just think of art history, we got all the periods and styles that as you get closer to our days they are more and more overlapping each other.

    Should an artist really care about how will his work be labelled? No.. Labelling concerns only the art critiques.

    Should as Web designers care about how our work will be labelled? I think it would be waste of time for us, but I don’t think we have to be irritated by those that label our work. That’s their job.

    Should a bird care about what the ornithologist will say?

  • In a nut shell, web 2.0 merely refers to the idea of the theory known as the intelligence of crowds applied on the internet. In other words, websites that could not survive without user input – AKA collective wisdom!

    Coining a term for this was a great idea, I feel. However, as so many people do not truly understand the meaning of web 2.0, it almost renders a terminology useless.

    I feel that when eventually web 3.0 becomes an official term, it may be something relating to the mobile web.

  • I use a law of 2.1. Version 1.0 is a great idea and everyone start using it, the feedback is incorporated into the next version and the developers release version 2.0. This builds on 1.0, completes the feature set – but it was rushed out and buggy. More feedback, bug fixes etc. and out comes 2.1

    2.1 Fully featured, Bug Fixed, still in touch with it’s 1.0 roots is the one to buy.

    After that, things go downhill, version 3.0 is never good.

  • Manifesto42

    Adam Sofineti got most it right, but i would like to add a few thoughts.

    I am not of the opinion Web 2.0 started as a marketing ploy, but it caught the commercial side of things very early on. We have to admit that it is convenient as a selling stand point: client: “give me a shiny web 2.0 site, not those boring looking ones”. We, developers, know what that means, we know the supposed definition of web 2.0, so in a marketing perspective, it is convenient to have a label. For the rest, no, not really, and like Anthony said, designers creativity cant be limited by labels or by versions.

    As a philosofical discussion, sure we can talk of web 2.0. Its practical to have a label to a numbered, (mostly) defined set of features. In a nutshell, a very limited nutshell, consider it like describing the release notes of a major new version of a particular application. Its a practical discussion tool.

    ALTHOUGH i admit its kind of weird to version something as wide-as-life like the web, but its merely putting certain features inside a box, for discussion sake. Or at least, thats what my opinion is on how things should be looked at, but we all know some think differently. Its their problem and their mistake. ;)

    I blame designers, UX experts and developers (and call they stupid and unworthy of their position) if they take the label/versioning of the web (no matter how silly it sounds), as a castrating tool of what they are developing (and we know some of them do). When i think of an application or website, it can never, and it doesnt, cross my mind if i am using web 2.0, 1.4 or -0.5! I will build what i am asked for, with the best UX i can provide for that particular purpose, with all the functionalities its supposed to provide. Period. If its web 2.0? Frankly, my dear, i dont give a damn.

  • Danny Valize

    Love this discussion. In addition to @cryptonit, clients seem to only get the picture when I refer to 2.0. “Oh you mean getting connected”. Yeah dude, something like that.

    @James Downes: great comment and relativised sense of humour. So true ;-)

  • As I understand it, Web 2.0 was originally used to describe a real qualitative difference in the web. Specifically that it became more like an application from a user’s point of view rather than a static means of delivering information. I think this was the meaning of the term as originally coined by O’Reilly Media.

    I realise it has come to have a meaning that has more to do with style and design and this is unfortunate because it creates the impression that it describes something purely superficial.

    I am not convinced yet that Web 3.0 exists (although I have seen the term used) because that qualitative change has not yet occured.

  • Who will really define Web 2.0, 3.0 or 4.0?

    A term that can be make up just by anyone popular and influential enough. It’s a trend that many will continue to follow suit.

  • @everyone My conclusion is that I need a beer.

  • Blimey… It’s very interesting to see everyone’s take on this subject…

    Web 3.0 is characterised by the “machine-readable” or “semantic” Web — a way of describing how machines would be able to infer meaning in the content of the Web instead of just parsing it as text.

    Web 3.0 would enable us to find (in a single, simple query) all of the movies that Humphrie Bogart starred in between 1936 and 1945 instead of searching for “humphrie bogart” and then clicking through all of the results.

    Here is a very loose summary of the marketing / hype names for the different phases of the Web…

    – Web 2.0 = the social Web (
    – Web 3.0 = semantic Web, ( using technologies such as RDF, N-Triples, OWL, Dublin Metacore to give meaning to what was previously just text, and allowing machines to infer meaning.

    Web 3.0 is closely aligned with Tim Berners-Lee’s vision of Linked Data, (

    It’s late, so I might have mis-spelt / mis-quoted some stuff, but hopefully this helps.

  • I didn’t realize there was such a debate about this. It’s simple really… web 2.0 is used to point out a period of time much like the term “dot com boom”. If you want to take it further and exaggerate…. the depression era or generation y or baby boomers.

    Yes, term web 2.0 implies that there was a 1.0 because we are used to seeing these number on software updates. STOP LOOKING FOR THEM. It doesn’t matter. It’s just a sort 2nd uprising that people are trying to market and point out. Why? because after the 90’s when all we had was “crappy” sites in html/tables we got things like myspace, facebook and digg that allow you interact more with people and content. At the same time with CSS and CMS’s designers were pushed to design more dynamic lay outs and designs and created this “fresh new look” unlike anything we had seen from the 90’s. All of a sudden a nice button with CSS roll over effects was much classier than the old flashing blinking gif buttons that were used before. We also started to pay more attention to subtle gradients and shadows much like the one found to the right of this column —->

    web 2.0 does not automatically denote that there will be a web 3.0. Some people may choose to call it that, but not until it comes, if it hasnt already, or we pass it will we actually classify it with a name. Who knows, we may very well call it “Code FB” if Facebook continues to take over the web lol or Google web if they ever jump into the ISP business and google starts to run more of our apps.

    I’m just kidding there, but web 2.0 is just a term used to classify a time period where we have seen much growth in the internet world, who knows what the next term may be or when it will come.

  • Future web is all about people’s realtime online life-flow and that is not web 3.0. It’s something more.

  • Ragu

    This is a great discussion. The only input I would like to offer is that cars ARE classified by numbers: 2010, 2009, 2008, 1963, etc. haha!

  • Peter

    I always think of these terms as references to certain stylistic choices. For example when I hear Web 2.0 I think of shiny bubble buttons and masses of all things striped. It’s difficult to conjure up an image when I hear Web 3.0 though. I would personally imagine Pixel Popping & Noise / Textured panels.

    I think you are right, why give an up to date style a name. The number really means nothing, it would make more sense to replace every instance of web x.0 with “current design trends”.

  • MB

    I gotta agree with the BS comment about this article. You compare “web 2.0” to naming cars. The reason we aren’t at car 10.5 is that they call them honda fit, scion TC, Ford Mustang, they could just list the deviations from the original to use as a description (car with windshield, car with windshield and wipers, car with…), but that is silly and inefficient. They use a name to identify a product. Call it a marketing term if you like, but when a client says they want web 2.0, I can take a stab at what they’re talking about and it is clearly different than a 90’s website. I think that style and design is undefined, but function is.