Tim O’Reilly has a timely post rebuking attempts to define Web 3.0 – Today’s Web 3.0 Nonsense Blog Storm. As he points out, most such attempts tend to describe incremental changes to the technologies that have come to represent Web 2.0 as opposed to a major disruptive shift that will define the next generation of Internet maturity.
But best of all, his post includes a one-liner that perfectly describes the potential value and purpose of Web 2.0:
“It’s all about building applications that harness network effects to get better the more people use them”
Whilst the reference is to companies building Web 2.0 applications (and why the backend – the data center – is what really matters), this definition could (and should) be equally applied to businesses looking to adopt Web 2.0 apps like wikis, blogs and social networks, particularly any solution involving the word ‘knowledge’ or ‘collaboration’. Many customers I talk to want the Wikipedia/MySpace/Facebook effect, but they are reluctant to open such tools to the entire organisation. Instead, the preference is to stay within a manageable comfort zone of ‘a few editors and everyone else is read only’. But that approach prevents those network effects from taking hold – it cripples the solution and limits the benefits to be gained from deploying such technologies. If you don’t want people to participate, stick with traditional web content management solutions… costly to maintain with content that is often out of date (or non-existent)