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What Really Is "Web 2.0," How Does It Differ from Web 1.0, and How Will It Differ from What May Come After?

Web 3.0: allowing societies to create and share ideas
If Web 2.0 is about groups, then the next logical step would be groups of groups — societies. There is one major problem with this though:

Web 3.0 is when the web stops being about sex.

When I think about allowing individuals to express themselves, I think sex. And when I think about individuals forming groups, I think sex. But when I think about societies expressing themselves... What were we talking about again?

This is a problem, because the adoption of most communications technologies has been driven by sex. While there are already many Web 3.0 systems being developed, without sex the technology may develop much more slowly than it would otherwise. Sure we may have eVoting already, but without sex to drive identity and accountability to the next level, will it ever be secure?

It's hard to imagine what new identity technology will be needed to fuel Web 3.0, because frankly it's hard to imagine even a small fraction of the possible Web 3.0 applications. The best place to look for inspiration at this point may actually be speculative science fiction. For example, Cory Doctorow's book Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom incorporates a social identity system called Whuffie. Set in a post scarcity economy, one's social standing, or Whuffie, is what drives ordinary schmucks toward greatness. Perhaps Cory will be to the future what Leonardo da Vinci is to today.

Or perhaps we can draw some inspiration from a simple pen and paper game. Nomic and it's superset, internomic, provide an excellent model of what a Web 3.0 enabled society might be like. Or alternatively, what if our constitution resides on a wiki, but the difficulty of making edits approximates the difficulty of passing a constitutional amendment? In truth, we can speculate all we want but it's just too soon to know what Web 3.0 will be like for sure.

Web 4.0: The Singularity
So you want to know how you can make money off the singularity? Write a book about it. —Ray Kurzweil

When thinking about singularity, Neil Stephenson's Snow Crash is a good place to start. Not because it takes place in a post-singularity world, but for its raw unselfing power. Was it me who killed the orc, or was it my character? Am I successful beyond my wildest dreams, or trapped in a masturbatory fantasy? Many of the trickiest questions posed by the singularity have parallels in the MMORPG type games that Snow Crash depicts. And when you pick up a copy, notice the review on the back by Timothy Leary. Indeed, Web 4.0 is truly the land of the absintheurs and temporal synesthetes.

But fortunately you don't have to resort to hallucinogens for singular lucidity. There is a wealth of writing on the singularity and what post-singularity life might be like. My personal favorite, The Age of Spiritual Machines, is like vision quest in a box.

On the subject of accountability, Kurzweil recently said, "We hold people accountable because we hope they will realize they are accountable and do something about it. Once actions are taken by non-humans we need to rethink this, and come up with a way of motivating intelligent non-human entities into acting responsibly." Vision quest indeed.

What the Bleep
The "killer apps" of tomorrow's mobile infocom industry won't be hardware devices or software programs but social practices. —Howard Rheingold

In his recent essay, Paul Graham pans Web 2.0 because it can't be used to make predictions. Paul is right; the reason is that we have been classing Web 2.0 by its technology instead of its social implications.

Because, really, who gives a damn about technology? I don't care about technology, I care about me. I don't want to know how Web 2.0 will get me AJAX, I want to know how Web 2.0 well get me laid.

When caught in the throes of our meme 2.0 ideations, it should be the social over the technological that inspires. When we do this, not only can we make falsifiable predictions, but we can make actionable business plans and compelling emotional appeals as well.

So if you think it's too late to start a billion dollar AJAX business... You're right. But don't worry; the revolution isn't over, it's barely begun.

Footnotes
[1] Reader exercise: Is this true in real life? Why or why not?
[2] Not dead in the sense that they won't actually exist, but in the sense that they won't have nearly as much influence as they have today.
[3] Rusty may have created K5 for other reasons, but it's a fact that many of K5's first users migrated from Slashdot because of the signal-to-noise problem.
[4] This is according to my own back-of-the-envelope calculations. It assumes the identity company would partner with a retail chain with an established computer network, e.g. FedEx Kinkos.

More Stories By Alex Krupp

Alex Krupp is a student at Cornell University.

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vikram 01/30/06 08:30:28 AM EST

Well-written article. Enjoyed reading it thoroughly! Good one

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