What is Web 3.0?
Just when you started to get used to the idea of Web 2.0, the trend setters on the web start tossing around the term Web 3.0. Can’t they just let us get used to one version before pushing another one on us? Fortunately Web 3.0 is in its infancy, and nobody is certain of what it really means at this point. The direction of the internet and its users is a fickle thing. It’s hard to predict what they are going to want and use. The next big thing is all about the right idea, in the right place, at the right time.
I’ve been attending the International Conference on Weblogs and Social Media conference the last couple days and listening to some of these visionaries talk. While there certainly is no consensus about what the future holds, there are definitely some key trends to take note of. I decided to go this year because it just so happened to be local for me. Normally I wouldn’t have taken the time off of work, incurred the travel expenses, etc just to go to a conference like this. For some bizarre twist of fate they decided to hold the conference in my home town. Given my personal work in blog research, it seemed like a no brainer to go to this conference.
The topics presented at the conference were fairly diverse, ranging from sentiment analysis to gender bias in blogs. There were three invited speakers and a number of academics presenting published papers. I have to say that by far I got more out of the invited speakers than the papers, although there were a few the sparked my interest. The three invited speakers were Danah Boyd (a prominent blogger), Andrew Tomkins (a researcher at Yahoo!), and Evan Williams (founder of Twitter). Here are some of the highlights from my notes.
Danah Boyd – “MySpace is *my* space”
In the talk she gave us a brief history of social networking starting with Friendster and went on to discuss a number of specifics about MySpace.
- 93% of American teenagers have access to the Internet.
- 55% of online American teens 12-18 have a profile on a social network site (That are willing to admit it in front of their parents).
- 91% use it to talk to friends while very few use it to talk to strangers.
- The number one spot in the “top 8″ is dependent on culture. Some cultures dictate that it should be your significant other, some your best same sex friend, and others say family members like your cousins.
- 66% of teenagers use MySpace in a private fashion in order to avoid marketeers and adults (parents).
- Teenagers think something is fishy on a page without ads. They suspect at some point they will be asked to pay for something if they aren’t being force fed advertisement.
- Gadgetry has broken the gender barrier. More teen girls have game consoles, iPods, and trendy cell phones now.
- If parents are flipping out, they know it’s going to be fun!
In addition to the key points about MySpace, Danah also discussed the direction that she sees social networking going. The future to her is about mobile devices. We already see the prevalence of SMS in Asian cultures, and it is slowly becoming a phenomenon here in the US with the introduction of sites like Twitter. The problem is how this move will take place given the current atmosphere in the mobile market. The major cell phone carriers control every piece of software on their phones and every byte of data that goes over their network. There is no self-interest for them to open these platforms and networks up for development. They want to be in control so they can utilize the technology to make as much money as possible. Because of the competitive nature, there is not likely to be any major cooperation between the carriers, which will stunt social networking’s growth.
Andrew Tomkins – “Social Media, Storage, and Data Analysis”
Andrew is a PhD member of the Yahoo! Research team. His talk focused on several different topics, including the evolution of search, and Flickr.
Interesting things being done with search:
- Moving away from the “10 results” model and devoting more real estate to targeted results.
- Search is adding in shortcuts to specific verticals. For example, integrating weather and movie times right into the search results.
- Google Co-Op allows content providers to integrate their results in your Google search.
- The current approach that is used is naive, based mostly on regular expressions and filtering for target words.
Is search solved?
- Search is really good at finding content on relatively open and static pages. Search does not integrate results where content might be buried in forums or other social network sites.
- The data sits behind walled gardens and is generally unavailable. There is lots of money still to be made in search, but it will require a large capital investment and structured deals with the owners of the content to let search inside their walls.
- For example, the Yahoo! Answers data is fully crawlable but the several billion posts in Yahoo! Groups are locked up from the outside.
Andrew also showed off a demo off a timeline based view of Flickr tags. This can be seen over at Taglines. He also mentioned that they are developing a “game” that users can “play” that will actually generate metadata and tags for Flickr images.
Evan is the founder of Blogger, Odeo, and Twitter. He is one of the leading entrepreneurs in social media and brings a unique perspective to the conference. Most of his presentation talked about Twitter and the things they are doing. Twitter started just 9 months ago, and went through a complete revamp in November of 2006. Over the last few months the number of “tweets” being sent into Twitter has doubled month over month.
- 2/3rds of the inbound tweets come from the web and IM, the remaining 1/3rd come from SMS
- They are currently working on an API that will soon be released
- While they don’t have hard data, their informal research indicates that the core demographic of Twitter is 30 year old web geeks, not teenagers as you might expect.
Evan also presented a quote from Lisa Reichelt about ambient intimacy that describes Twitter.
Ambient intimacy is about being able to keep in touch with people with a level of regularity and intimacy that you wouldn’t usually have access to, because time and space conspire to make it impossible. Flickr lets me see what friends are eating for lunch, how they’ve redecorated their bedroom, their latest haircut. Twitter tells me when they’re hungry, what technology is currently frustrating them, who they’re having drinks with tonight.
There was also a quick demo of Twittervision. This is a site developed by a 3rd party that integrates Google maps with Twitter. The result is that users who send a location code with their tweet (l:Boulder, CO for example) will be shown on the map display.
While the future is far from certain, one thing is for sure. The future of social media and “web 3.0″ will be focused around two key areas. Mobility and search. Developers needs to come up with better ways to get at the information you need and make it simple to do from mobile devices. While some predict the death of sites like Twitter, I think they are ground-breakers in their field. When blogging can become a commodity that is approachable to anyone, and all of that data is well organized and searchable, that is when we can say that web 3.0 has arrived.