Social networking sites have become an accepted part of the Internet, despite still being immature and likely to evolve over the next couple of years.
A few days ago, Charlene Li (Forrester) posted an article – Social networks will be like air. My immediate thought was ‘the mobile phone is the social network’. But perhaps it should have been ‘the mobile phone carries the social network’. It’s a thought that has been percolating through my brain since the comments from Davos:
¨If someone doesn’t have a mobile phone they will lack the basic functions of what it is to be human¨ – Wang Jianzhou (CEO, China Mobile)
By the middle of this year, it is predicted that 1 in 2 people will own a mobile device. The PC will never get that close. Eric Schmidt (CEO, Google), commenting at the same Davos conference, was right to state that we will see new kinds of applications thanks to the mobile phone (and its integrated features – GPS/location-aware, camera, audio/video, storage, telecoms + wifi etc.)
Bill Thompson, in an article on the BBC – How Twitter Makes it Real – makes a comment that highlights how social networks are going mobile:
¨Thanks to Twitter I carry my online networks with me¨
I think we are seeing a glimpse of the early formation of Web 3.0. I can’t be doing with people calling Web 3.0 the semantic web or social graph. Semantics and graphs are tools that feed, and feed upon, all that we are seeing as Web 2.0 – the read/write web, abundance replacing scarcity, digital natives and digital social networks. At best, tools like social graphs upgrade Web 2.0 to, maybe, Web 2.5
Web 3.0 (and yes, the analysts will probably call it Web 3D) will be another paradigm shift. I think it will become known for ‘augmented reality’ – bridging the virtual (think SecondLife), digital (the Internet) and physical (Earth) worlds. In the future, Web 3.0 won’t need a specific device. It will be meshed in our daily lives through ambient devices – sensors in our clothes, houses, cars… and eventually our bodies. But the first device to bring it to reality will be the first device that we constantly carry with us – the mobile phone. And the first software application to bring it all together is Twitter.
[Update: 27 Mar 08] Interesting comment made by a frustrated Motorola employee, as reported by Engadget:
“the next big feature in [mobile] handsets isn’t a camera or a music player – it is social connectedness”
References and further reading:
- Motorola insider tells all about the fall of a technology icon (Ryan Block, Engadget, March 2008)
- Social networks will be like air (Charlene Li, Forrester, March 2008)
- How Twitter Makes it Real (Bill Thompson, BBC, March 2008)
- Smart Mobs: The next social revolution, by Howard Rheingold, publ. 2002
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)