Friday, October 16, 2009

Web 3.0

Web 3.0 = (4C + P + VS)

I have written a few pieces already addressing the disjointed nature of the web, whereby, you go one place for content, another for community, and a third for commerce, the most notable of these is the popular, 4C: Yahoo’s Turnaround Formula.

Let’s quickly recap the terminology:

3C = Content, Commerce, Community |
4th C = Context |
P = Personalization |
VS = Vertical Search

This, I submit, is the formula for the future: Web 3.0 = (4C + P + VS).

Web 2.0 has been a nichy phenomenon with hundred and thousands of microcap efforts addressing one of the Cs, lately, Community being the most popular force, producing companies like MySpace, Facebook, Piczo, Xanga, and Flixster.

In Web 1.0, Commerce had been the driving force, that produced companies like Netflix, BlueNile, Amazon, and eBAY. It had also resulted in the Dotcom meltdown.

The same period that is seeing the surge of Web 2.0, has also seen a great deal of investment in Vertical Search, like Sidestep for Travel.

Personalization has remained limited to some unsatisfactory efforts by the MyYahoo team, their primary disadvantage being the lack of a starting Context. More recently, Netvibes
has raised a lot of buzz, but also lacks the same organizing principle: Context.

In Web 3.0, I predict, we are going to start seeing roll-ups. We will see a trunk that emerges from the Context, be it film (Netflix), music (iTunes), cooking / food, working women, single parents, … and assembles the Web 3.0 formula that addresses the whole set of needs of a consumer in that Context.


-I am a petite woman, dark skinned, dark haired, brown eyed. I have a distinct personal style, and only certain designers resonate with it (Context).

-I want my personal SAKS Fifth Avenue which carries clothes by those designers, in my size (Commerce).

-I want my personal Vogue, which covers articles about that Style, those Designers, and other emerging ones like them (Content).

-I want to exchange notes with others of my size-shape-style-psychographic and discover what else looks good. I also want the recommendation system tell me what they’re buying (Community).

-There’s also some basic principles of what looks good based on skin tone, body shape, hair color, eye color … I want the search engine to be able to filter and match based on an algorithm that builds in this knowledge base (Personalization, Vertical Search).

Now, imagine the same for a short, fat man, who doesn’t really have a sense of what to wear. And he doesn’t have a wife or a girl-friend. Before Web 3.0, he could go to the personal shopper at Nordstrom.

With Web 3.0, the internet will be his Personal Shopper.

Web 3.0 & the Semantic Web

My definition of Web 3.0 is one of the most popular entry points into this blog. In it, I proposed the vision of a web which becomes increasingly verticalized by “Context”, and the relevant Content, Community and Commerce elements are successfully mashed up “in Context”. I also proposed 2 other elements: Vertical / Contextual Search, and Personalization. Thus, I concluded, Web 3.0 = (4C + P + VS).

I got both extremes of reactions to this formula. But I also got some good questions and observations, which, after several months of discussions, warrant a follow-on synthesis post.

One question is about Tim Berner’s Lee’s Semantic Web definition and how it correlates with my vision. Tim Berners-Lee originally expressed the vision of the semantic web as follows: “I have a dream for the Web [in which computers] become capable of analyzing all the data on the Web – the content, links, and transactions between people and computers. A ‘Semantic Web’, which should make this possible, has yet to emerge, but when it does, the day-to-day mechanisms of trade, bureaucracy and our daily lives will be handled by machines talking to machines. The ‘intelligent agents’ people have touted for ages will finally materialize.” [Wikipedia]

Well, yes, my vision is similar. Except, while Tim is an academic, and thinks in terms of new technology, I am an entrepreneur, and I think in terms of execution and viable, sustainable business models, not just technology.

So, let me now provide the bridge between Tim’s thoughts and mine.

You see, I grew up in India, with a household full of servants. However politically incorrect it may be to say so, I thoroughly enjoyed the lifestyle of being able to delegate tedious tasks to these servants. Thus, in the future that I envision, I would very much like to see Intelligent Agent “Servants” taking care of lots of my repetitive tasks.

Now, I happen to have worked on AI algorithms a fair bit, over the years, and can assure you, that for Agent technology to work, you would need to constrain the domain of its activity. Intelligent Agents would never be successful in providing value if let loose in an unconstrained environment. Thus, it needs “Context”.

A “Travel Agent” is not the same as a “Personal Shopper Agent” or a “Personal Financial Advisor Agent” or a “Real Estate Agent”. All those agents are entirely possible, if you design them in the context of the vocabulary (Semantics) of the vertical domain. Unconstrained, and without context, they fail. Thus, the Semantic Web can only be implemented in a Contextual Domain.

And within each Contextual Domain, you would find a sustainable business model that includes Advertising and eCommerce revenues, indicating that the future of the Web, Web 3.0 as we are trying to call it, is a Verticalized, Contextualized, Personalized Web.

Web 3.0 = (4C + P + VS) + Place

Yes, we need to add a new variable to the definition of Web 3.0, and that variable is Place.


You are on a business trip in New York, and you need to buy a gift for your 13 year old son. You need a Size 8 Nike Air Zoom, and you have exactly 30 minutes before you need to zoom out of Manhattan towards JFK, to catch the flight back home.

Today, you have no way of knowing which store closest to you would have in their inventory a Size 8 Nike Air Zoom.

But in the web’s perhaps not too distant future, you can presumably look it up online.

Indeed, as Cal McElroy has put it, It’s About Place.

Place, here, encompasses location. Where ‘you’ are, via GPS technology. Where ‘things’ and ‘places’ are ‘near’ you. Via GIS technology.

You may be at a beach resort in Santorini, and want to know what’s the best spot to catch a beautiful sunset. You may be in Rome looking for a great family run Trattoria near Piazza Parlamento, where politicians, you’ve heard, often gather for meals. Or, you may be looking for a new home or a new job, and need to map out the amenities (Grocery Store, Dry Cleaning, Gym, Restaurants, Nail Salon, Hair-dresser, …) in the neighborhood.

In other words, if you take each Context we have discussed, and explore its “Place” dimension, you will find a set of open problems emerging. The solutions to these problems need to become a part of the new web, so I propose to include it in my Web 3.0 definition, which therefore, becomes:

Web 3.0 = (4C + P + VS) + Place

Related companies: Navteq, TomTom, TeleAtlas, Garmin. You may also want to look up a company called Local is also a big part of IAC’s strategy.

Posted via web from sdn's posterous

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