Naming the Smarter Surrounds

In what few minutes I’ve had today to reduce various folders in Bloglines, I
picked up on a few strands of the "Web 3.0" fracas initiated by yesterday’s NYT

"Entrepreneurs See a Web Guided by Common Sense."
In the article, John
Markoff anticipates what he refers to almost glibly as "Web 3.0", which
proponents contend will usher in "an era when machines will start to do
seemingly intelligent things." There is no shortage of responses and reactions,
ranging from doubt,
charges of idiocy,

dismissal of the name
, and
. While I don’t want to rile more ire, I am intrigued by the
range of reactions, especially from the standpoint of how we account for
transformations of such a complex creature as the web with singular terms. In
some niche vocabularies, Web 2.0 refers to a class of applications; in
others, Web 2.0 describes web-supported co-presence (interaction and
connection). I mean that the label has been highly adaptable, a loose and
generous signifier. I tend to think that it is reasonable to wish for (and even
to tinker with) a better vocabulary for describing the complex and rapidly
evolving nets.

Most of all I wanted to grab the references and compile them (kept!) because
they add up to a fine example-set for the stasis of fact (also value, jusrisdiction). Does Web 2.0 exist?
For whom (Boyd emphasizes practitioners–have you made a Web 2.0 app?)? Who gets
to name what happens next? Does Web 3.0 exist? And what follows follows follows?
How are matters of naming settled? What must it mean for them to settle
(idleness, adequation, banality, death)? Supposing our media ecologies continue
to get smarter (also more capable), and supposing we continue to get
(potentially) smarter (also more capable) right along with the hybrid
technologies of composition, storage, and so on, shouldn’t our vocabularies keep
stride? I mean, why shouldn’t we create a more conceptually adequate framework
for describing these emerging changes (and distinctions–great and small) than
the undeniably constraining versioning of the web? Deep quandaries 2.0.

I no longer have any reservations about the "Web 2.0" label. I mention it all
the time in the digital writing course I’m teaching this semester, and I think
enough sharp work has been done by
Kevin Kelly,

Steven Johnson
, and others, to ground the reference. "Web 3.0", like its
predecessors, might likewise gain in popularity in the months ahead, and if it
does, I only hope that it serves, eventually, to spread more moments of aha!,
to steer our conversations about the vast networks, our uses for them, and their
uses for us.


  1. Hi Derek,
    In your post (referred also to mine… the “charges of idiocy” one) you ask some questions.

    Does Web 2.0 exists?

    Well, Web 2.0, with its own unclear nature (there is no clear definition for it) exists, but it is so flexible, that you can forge it as you wish.
    I work in the Web development from a long time, and this web 2.0 is still unavailable where it would count.
    Web 2.0 (that I work with every day) has not reached the real market on internet. Does the “Big Companies” use it? Apart from few (and for those also few applications) the answer is “No”.
    Is there any reason to talk about the “Web 3.0”?

    IMHO no, there are not, also because the technology, as it is now, is not capable of giving support to a “Semantic Web”. We should evolve, but to evolve we must learn and the Web 2.0 era is only a child, not discovered, not learned and not accepted. Do we have to move forward?
    Yes, of course, we should rethink the idea of the web, but “Web 3.0” is only a name to attract interest on some misty things.

    My post was not a charge of idiocy, was a tecnological meditation about what is the value of a word and what is the value of the technological achievements.

    Let’s work on HOW the semantic Web should work, how should we integrate the metadata (semantic) with our data. Let’s work to find a STANDARD, because using mystical words (IMHO -a team Leader and Senior Web Developer -the Web 2.0 is a meaningless word.).
    contents drive evolution, ideas drive it, not word…



  2. Thanks for your comments, Carlo. In my reference to your entry as a “charge of idiocy,” I was keying on your line about “Web 3.0 and similar idiocy.” I certainly don’t want to mis-represent your initial response, but I read it as highly resistant to the “Web 3.0” designation.

    I should be clear that I don’t have any dog in the fight. It really makes very little difference to me whether some set of technical structures or clusters of digital practices comes along called “Web 3.0” before “Web 2.0” has matured. I most definitely agree that “Web 3.0” rings of gold rush–a corporation-led trumpeting about the next revolutionary thing. I’m mostly interested in the fracas over the term for the way it riles up a kind of protective temperament: the folks doing the work, designing and deploying young Web 2.0 applications, have been quit to deny the legitimacy of “Web 3.0”, whether it refers to Spivak’s work with Radar Networks (and perhaps only that) or to some misty horizon of whatever’s to come.

  3. Hi Derek,
    what makes me crazy about all these stuff (and not related to you, I’m sorry if my reply has been unfriendly) is that too many times, talking about Web 2.0, Web 3.0 or whatever, people tend to forgot that the technology is a Web 0.1 one.
    We are not building ANYTHING new! This is the problem. We are talking about air: we are “renewing old clothes” but those clothes are NOT new!

    Let’s talk about the “Semantic Web”, but it would be better to think about some technological improvements before!


  4. Not unfriendly at all, Carlo. I appreciate the dialogue. I’m wary of the new/not new quandary; it’s a slippery slope, I think, and while I think it’s applicable in some conversations (perhaps the one about whether Web 3.0 is premature), I tend to err on the side of thinking “what’s new-ish in this?” or “what’s here that I haven’t understood before?” or “what’s new for me?”. You’re right that there does come a point in any discussion of innovation and r.evolution when the hype can become a trap.

    I suppose this also gets at the sequencing of innovation–whether the technological infrastructure must always precede conversations about possibilities (dreams, imagination, wonder). Each drives the other, I suppose, and only the strictest pragmatists would always insist on infrastructure preceding (and therefore constraining?) imagination.

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