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February 25, 2016

What’s Up With Web 3.0?

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This isn’t your parents’ world wide web.  If you thought that Web 2.0 was mind blowing, wait until you see what’s coming.  Where Web 2.0 turned an online research tool into a global social phenomenon that redefined how we interact with one another, Web 3.0 promises to take us where no web surfer has gone before.  That’s chiefly due to the fact that the next generation of online technology will be AI enabled and able to deliver more information faster and in more ways than is now possible.  If you want to see what Web 3.0 has in store for you in the not too distant future, buckle up as I give you a sneak preview in this week’s blog.

Skynet is REAL!

The recently released Terminator Genisys movie told the story of the 2017 release of a global operating system that promises to link all computing devices.  This artificially intelligent system, whose core is protected in a subterranean vault, is set to launch Armageddon once it comes online, since it will be wired into everything with a processor, including military hardware.  The movie’s plot revolves around destroying the Cyberdyne mainframe before Genisys comes online.


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Yes, much of the plot is farfetched but, the main premise, that the World Wide Web will be controlled by AI is all too real.  In an earlier blog of mine entitled,“Do Smartphones Dream About Facebook?” I pointed out that most of the movers and shakers in the online industry, including Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft and IBM are investing heavily in AI.  Google has admitted that 30% of their ranking is already being performed by AI.  Microsoft, owner of Bing, has AI built into its Cortana virtual assistant.  So the die is cast and it is only a matter of time before AI rules the roost online.

To fully comprehend where the Web is going, you have to understand its origins. Back in the ’90s, the Internet was nothing like what we have come to know and love today.  Connections back then were via dialup that was so slow that not only was streaming video an impossibility, even graphics were scant since they slowed the time it took a homepage to load to a snail’s crawl.  Search engines prior to 2000 were plentiful, but rudimentary lists designed to help web users navigate a network composed of a couple million sites.  (Today 250,000 websites are routinely added to the Internet on a daily basis.)


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It was not until the accessibility of broadband connections on a massive scale was figured out that the Internet that we all know today came to be.  And that took nearly a decade to accomplish.  Face it, without high speed connections there would be no YouTubeor Netflix.  Social nets would be much less popular if all you could post was text.  In essence, it was the ready availability and affordability of high speed internet and cloud computing that made Web 2.0 a reality.  For many people on this planet, that would have been enough.  But as we have seen as of late, the Internet is no longer the exclusive domain of people.  Today’s worldwide web is also used to communicate with and control an ever growing legion of devices.

Rise of the Machines

Everything from our Smartphones to our appliances and automobiles are Web-enabled these days.  This has created what is referred to as the “Internet of things” otherwise known as IoT.  Like Skynet, the IoT is into everything. A quote from a blog I wrote two years ago called, “Is The Internet of Everything Really, Everything They’re Cracking It Up to Be? “sums it up quite nicely: When the Internet was young, there was enthusiasm about being able to connect to people and places worldwide.  As the World Wide Web grew, so did the amount of people and things connected to it. Somewhere during the past couple of years the sheer amount of devices that have become web-enabled has gotten to the point where there are more things connected to the Internet than people.  As everything from computers, to cellphones, to appliances, to cars and even clothing begin to become internet-enabled, the internet will start to take on a life of its own. What all of us need to realize is that everything we do, everyplace we go, as well as how we live, shop, play and learn, have been fundamentally changed due to its existence.  

The concept for the IoT has been around since the 1960s, although the term itself was coined in 1999. It was in 1962 that a researcher working for DARPA by the name of John Licklider described his vision of a galactic network where everything could talk to everything.  (Sound familiar?)  Licklider went even further by positing that by employing interconnected machines, mankind would eventually be able to improve our world experience without having to get involved.  While Lick’s vision went on to be the nucleus for the ARPANET, even he would have been surprised by recent developments in machine intelligence and robotics that have created virtual digital assistants, wearable computers and autonomous vehicles.


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He could not possibly have envisioned, however, the birth of an industry that has spawned legions of Web-enabled machines that already outnumber us.  Take for instance the fact that in 2003 there were 6.3 billion people on the planet and roughly 500 million devices connected to the Internet.(From the 2011 report by Cisco entitled, “The Internet of Things – How the Next Evolution of the Internet is Changing Everything.”)  Explosive growth of smartphones and tablet PCs brought the number of devices connected to the Internet to 12.5 billion in 2010, while the world’s human population increased to 6.8 billion, making the number of connected devices per person more than one (1.84 to be exact) for the first time in history.


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Remember, this report is five years old and, when it was written, the iPhone had only been introduced four years previously.  The report goes on to predict that the ratio of connected devices to people would continue to escalate to 3.6 per person by 2015 to 6.5 by 2020 and the conclusion is obvious.  Just as teenagers today would not know what to do if texting and social networks were suddenly to disappear overnight, so too will society’s dependence on smart devices become ever more ingrained.  Just as the youth of my generation rallied around the cry of “I want my MTV,” will the cry of millennialsand their progeny rally around the theme of “I want my IoT?”  More importantly, will the next generation, whose life will start, stop and revolve around a wired world from cradle to grave and whose lives will be tracked, programmed and computed by a technological trove of IoT devices that do everything from order their groceries to drive their cars be better or worse off in the long run?  Will the very technology that connects everyone and everything to each other help or hurt our evolution?  Or, will it prove to be our Achilles’ Heel as everyone from nation states and hacking collectives to our own government uses the IoT to control a population that can no longer exist without technology?

The Semantics of Web 3.0

The chief difference between Web 2.0 and 3.0 will be in the way the Web understands and process your needs and wants.  With Web 2.0, a Web search about Saturn will bring up information about both the planet and the car company.  Likewise, trying to book a trip from say Philly to San Francisco while easier than 20 years ago, still requires a bit of searching for the best deals.  In the not too distant future, you will be able to ask your virtual assistant to search for, find and book the trip better and quicker than you could today.  That’s because in the not too distant future, your virtual assistant, not to mention search engines and a number of other AI enhanced IoT devices will be able to understand the semantics of any request.

Amazon recently debuted an Internet connected Bluetooth speaker called Echo that not only plays music butlistens and learns.  Equipped with a female virtual assistant named Alexa, this device is much more than a music director.  Capable of hearing you from across the room, even with the music playing, Alexa will answer questions, read Audiobooks to you, report on the news, traffic and weather, provide information on business and sports, tell jokes, control lights and switches in your home, as well as ordering you a pizza or Uber.  As more apps become available, Echo will become even more useful.  At $180 Echo is affordable to the masses.

As Echo and other such devices make their way into our homes they, like Smartphones, will soon become something that we can’t do without.  The lure of convenience has always been something that is irresistible to most humans. As to whether the very machines that today knit our global community together will one day rise up to bite the hand that feeds them is a story for another day.  To quote Arnold Schwarzenegger, all I have to say is, “I’ll be Back.”


Carl Weiss has been working the web to win since 1995 and has helped hundreds of companies increase their online results. He is president of W Squared Media and co-host of the weekly radio show Working the Web to Win which airs Tuesdays at 4pm Eastern on Click here to get his latest book "Working The Web to Win: When it comes to online marketing, you can't win, if you don't know how to play the game!".