Gartner is Wrong about Web 3.0

I have a lot of respect for the folks at Gartner, but their recent report in which they support the term "Web 2.0" yet claim that the term "Web 3.0" is just a marketing ploy, is a bit misguided.

In fact, quite the opposite is true.

The term Web 2.0 is in fact just a marketing ploy. It has only come to have something resembling a definition over time. Because it is in fact so ill-defined, I’ve suggested in the past that we just use it to refer to a decade: the second decade of the Web (2000 – 2010). After all there is no actual technology that is called "Web 2.0" — at best there are a whole slew of things which this term seems to label, and many of them are design patterns, not technologies. For example "tagging" is not a technology, it is a design pattern. A tag is a keyword, a string of text — there is not really any new technology there. AJAX is also not a technology in its own right, but rather a combination of technologies and design patterns, most of which existed individually before the onset of what is called Web 2.0.

In contrast, the term Web 3.0 actually does refer to a set of new technologies, and changes they will usher in during the third decade of the Web (2010 – 2020). Chief among these is the Semantic Web. The Semantic Web is actually not one technology, but many. Some of them such as RDF and OWL have been under development for years, even during the Web 2.0 era, and others such as SPARQL and GRDDL are recent emerging standards. But that is just the beginning. As the Semantic Web develops there will be several new technology pieces added to the puzzle for reasoning, developing and sharing open rule definitions, handling issues around trust, agents, machine learning, ontology development and integration, semantic data storage, retrieval and search, and many other subjects.

Essentially, the Semantic Web enables the gradual transformation of the Web into a database. This is a profound structural change that will touch every layer of Web technology eventually. It will transform database technology, CMS, CRM, enterprise middleware, systems integration, development tools, search engines, groupware, supply-chain integration, and all the other topics that Gartner covers.

The Semantic Web will manifest in several ways. In many cases it will improve applications and services we already use. So for example, we will see semantic
social networks, semantic search, semantic groupware, semantic CMS, semantic CRM, semantic
email, and many other semantic versions of apps we use today. For a specific example, take social networking. We are seeing much talk about "opening  up the social graph" so that social networks are more connected and portable. Ultimately to do this right, the social graph should be represented using Semantic Web standards, so that it truly is not only open but also easily extensible and mashable with other data. 

Web 3.0 is not ONLY the Semantic Web however. Other emerging technologies may play a big role as well. Gartner seems to think Virtual Reality will be one of them. Perhaps, but to be fair, VR is actually a Web 1.0 phenomenon. It’s been around for a long time, and it hasn’t really changed that much. In fact the folks at the MIT Media Lab were working on things that are still far ahead of Second Life, even back in the early 1990’s.

So what other technologies can we expect in Web 3.0 that are actually new? I expect that we will have a big rise in "cloud computing" such as open peer-to-peer grid storage and computing capabilities on the Web — giving any application essentially as much storage and computational power as needed for free or a very low cost. In the mobile arena we will see higher bandwidth, more storage and more powerful processors in mobile devices, as well as powerful built-in speech recognition, GPS and motion sensors enabling new uses to emerge. I think we will also see an increase in the power of personalization tools and personal assistant tools that try to help users manage the complexity of their digital lives. In the search arena, we will see search engines get smarter — among other things they will start to not only answer questions, but they will accept commands such as "find me a cheap flight to NYC" and they will learn and improve as they are used. We will also see big improvements in integration and data and account portability between different Web applications. We will also see a fundamental change in the database world as databases move away from the relational model and object model, towards the associative model of data (graph databases and triplestores).

In short, Web 3.0 is about hard-core new technologies and is going to have a much greater impact on enterprise IT managers and IT systems than Web 2.0. But ironically, it may not be until Web 4.0 (2020 – 2030) that Gartner comes to this conclusion!

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7 Responses to Gartner is Wrong about Web 3.0

  1. Manuel Vila says:

    In my mind, Web 2.0 is more like a transitional state between the View (Web 1.0) and the Model (Web 3.0). Referring to the Model View Controller (MVC) paradigm, Web 2.0 is some kind of Controller.
    Web 1.0: Only the View is available, the Model is completely missing. The computer can’t interpret anything.
    Web 2.0: APIs are coming, Controllers give partial accesses to the Model. The computer starts to enjoy.
    Web 3.0: The Model is largely opened, we are finally able to read and write the World Wide Database. The computer can’t wait!

  2. Nodalities says:

    Gartner says ‘No’ to Semantic Web?

    The wonder of RSS alerts mean that I, of course, caught sight of this at the time, but the trials and tribulations of living with someone as they turned six (and the party isn’t until this weekend – will…

  3. Yihong Ding says:

    Hi Nova,
    It has been a few month since our last email. With all the respect to what you have done and said, I have some arguments to this post.
    First of all, if you only tells about “terms,” neither Web 2.0 nor Web 3.0 is a marketing ploy. They have their meanings. Though the intention of Web 3.0 is still under debating, what Web 2.0 represents is clear.
    In my previous post “a simple picture of web evolution” I mentioned that “Web 1.0 connects real people TO the World Wide Web. Web 2.0 connects real people WHO use the World Wide Web.” This distinction is so significant that we have to assign this new web achievement a distinguishing name; and Web 2.0 happens to be the one (and it is quite a good one).
    The current issue is what’s next. By following this naming convention, we can assign the term “Web 3.0” to the next major evolution of the Web. The only question is — what Web 3.0 would be. Certainly we still do not have a precise answer.
    Is Web 3.0 the Semantic Web? In the same post I mentioned earlier, I tell the ideal future Semantic Web to be a web that “will connect virtual representatives of real people who use the World Wide Web.” If the dream of Semantic Web really becomes true, machines will well understand most (if not all) web content. Based on this assumption, we humans certainly are going to hire machine agents that can understand both our commands and web content, and let them do most of the tedious web exploration work for us. This is why my vision of the Semantic Web is in such a form.
    But isn’t this picture of future a little bit far away from the current picture of Web 2.0? Certainly the answer is YES. It thus explains why Web 3.0 is very much unlikely to be this dreaming Semantic Web. Such a Semantic Web could become true at Web X.0 except that this X is not “3.”
    Now back to Gartner’s viewpoint. If we watch clearly what David Mitchell Smith said, he didn’t reject either Semantic Web or even the possibility of Web 3.0. What he really wanted to express is that we must not hijack the term “Web 3.0” when we are still unsure of what this term should mean. “Web 3.0 companies” are meaningless when Web 3.0 itself is still less of meanings. This is the message that Gartner wants to deliver.
    Except of these previous comments, I actually very much agree with the rest of what you said in this post. Hopefully these comments could be a good supplement to your post.
    Moreover, for your convenience to check what my points are, the post “A Simple Picture of Web Evolution” is at:
    The post “Gartner rejects the temptation of Web 3.0” is at:
    — Yihong

  4. Emil Eifrem says:

    “We will also see a fundamental change in the database world as databases move away from the relational model and object model, towards the associative model of data (graph databases and triplestores).”
    Interesting notion and I agree. The strict and static relational world is no longer a very good fit for the information landscape of today and tomorrow. Have you checked out the Neo graph database? It’s Java, soon-to-be-Affero-GPL, scales to several billions of nodes on single-machine-hardware, simple and elegant API. (Disclaimer: I’m involved.)
    Do you know of any other “graph databases”? With graph models being such a fantastic tool in mathematics and other domains, it’s kinda weird that the software development community hasn’t long ago developed and adopted them as a persistence backend.

  5. Nova,
    I agree totally with your analysis of the Gartner report.
    Manuel: Yes, re. the MVC pattern re. the Web 1.0 – Web 3.0 journey. I’ve written about this in the past:

  6. Nags says:

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