Are we still in the Web 2.0 era? Did Web 3.0 arrive already? What is Web 3.0? When will Web 4.0 / 5.0 arrive and what will it look like?
These questions and alike have been a source to many debates and speculations in last few years. Academics, industry insiders, and pundits are all weighing in and try to explain where we are and where we are heading.
At The Beginning We Had The ‘World Wide Web’
The start of the World Wide Web, or Web for short, can be attributed to Tim Berners-Lee. In 1989 he conceived the idea of creating a global connected space where information can be shared. In the early days, the Web consists mainly from static pages with no or very limited interactivity.
Then Came Web 2.0
With time, the underlying technologies behind the Web greatly improved. With the new capabilities, the notions of connectivity and sharing have been manifested through new websites and services. Blogs, social networks, wikis, RSS, social bookmarking and other services were introduced.
The term Web 2.0 itself was first used back in 1999 by Darcy DiNucci in her article Fragmented Future. Tim O’reilly and Dale Dougherty popularized the term when they established the “O’reilly Media Web 2.0 Conference” in 2004.
Web 2.0 is also described as the “read-write web” to emphasise the interactivity and the contribution of the users to websites and systems. No longer we were reduced to look at pages created for us by other people. We can leave remarks on blog posts, update our status on Facebook, rate restaurants, and share bookmarks with our peers.
And Then Web 3.0 Came Rushing In
Soon after the first Web 2.0 conference, people started to ponder about “Web 3.0” (Anderson 2012). The main consensus was that Web 3.0 is going to be the “Semantic Web”.
Semantic Web means the creation of online content which machines will be able to process and act upon. Tim Berners-Lee, James Handler and Ora Lassila argued in 2001 that the Semantic Web will allow software agents to carry out tasks for users. This is done by introducing structure and making the content of web pages meaningful for computers.
This new ‘understanding’ by machines opens up new possibilities. For instance, search results can become more relevant by taking into consideration the context of the questions and not only the keywords.
In conjunction to the rise of Web 3.0, we saw other developments coming to forefront of the Web.
Web connected mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, have allowed us to use the Web almost everywhere. It also opened the door to a whole new field of location based applications and services. We can get locations based recommendations, check-in to places in a virtual way, and locate our friends from hand held devices (Anderson 2012).
Internet of Things (IoT) enables us to send and receive information from devices which are connected to the Web. This allows objects in our environment to be ‘smarter’ and interact both with humans and other machines. Apple, for instance, have developed HomeKit, a framework to connect to and control items at your home. The door locks, window shades, or a security camera, can be controlled by your iPhone, iPad or even your watch (an Apple Watch of course).
4.0 and 5.0
Speculations about Web 4.0 and even 5.0 are being thrown into the air. Some suggest that Web 4.0 will be the “Symbiotic Web” in which humans and computer systems will have much greater mutual understanding. One of the ways to achieve that is the introduction of Artificial Intelligence to the Web.
So Where Are We Now?
I argue that we are now in the midst of the Web 3.0 era with a glimpse of what ever comes next.
Our smartphone knows when our next meeting is, where we are, what is the traffic situation and thus alerts us when we need to get moving. While we are at the airport we can receive real time alerts when it’s time to board the plan. A GPS unit in our car, connected over cellular network, allows real time tracking of our whereabouts.
These examples symbolize the present existence of the “Semantic Web”, “Mobile Web”, and IoT. With the latest advancement in AI we also starting to witness the seeds of next iteration of the Web, and it might be Jarvis.
Anderson, P. (2012). ‘Web 2.0 and beyond:Principles and technologies’.