Web 3.0

Every time you say “paradigm shift” or “synergy” a puppy gets run over.

As the shirt above implies, Web 3.0 is one of those buzzwords that conveys little meaning yet has nonetheless carved out a significant niche in media and public perception regarding the internet. I chose it for the title of this post despite its negative connotations because I think that (until Web 4.0) it symbolizes an effort to predict how people’s interaction with the internet will change over time. And my crystal ball says Web 3.0 = Smart Products! (thanks to Cameron for many interesting discussions on this topic).

What is Web 2.0?

First though, a little context: the phrase Web 2.0 is equally nebulous, but to me it signifies the first major shift in how people interacted with the internet. I see most people’s interaction with the early World Wide Web as being a passive, one-direction transfer of information. For example, I would go to a website like cnn.com and read the news. However, over time a new type of website arose. Sites like Facebook, YouTube, and Flickr are predicated on bi-directional information transfer in a way that made them very different from the biggest sites of the 90s – active participation and content generation by users is completely fundamental to the mission of these sites. This trend towards more user interaction has even spread to old-media sites via mechanisms like user commenting.

What’s Next?

So, the question I want to answer is: what is going to be the next paradigm shift (sorry Fido) in how people interact with the internet? I think that this next sea change in how the internet is used will be a significant increase in how entwined the internet is with our life in the physical, non-digital world. There are two main mechanisms by which this might happen: (1) making computers more portable and (2) putting computers in more devices.

Bringing Your Computer With You

The first trend is already well underway with the popularity of devices like the iPhone and Blackberry – people can now carry a device in their pocket that is powerful enough to enable things like GPS, surfing the internet, and watching video. The continued evolution of the smart phone as a platform is only going to accelerate and should be one of the most interesting and exciting trends in technology over the next 5 years.

Putting Computers Everywhere

The second trend is the rise of smart products. Smart products are basically any device with some sort of processor in it, from your microwave to your car to your iPod to (someday, I believe) your everything. They are extremely fundamental to the field of mechatronics and as such are a big area of passion for me. As one example of what a smart product can be, consider the smart umbrella shown below that was designed by Materious. It has a little Wi-Fi transceiver in it that automatically checks the weather. If it is going to be rainy, the handle lights up so on your way out the door you will see it and can grab it.


Smart Umbrella (www.materious.com)

This is a pretty lightweight invention (the benefit is pretty much limited to saving you the 60 seconds it would take to check the forecast each day) but it serves well to illustrate how the internet can be integrated into our physical world more tightly. The internet has radically changed the accessibility of information – smart products have begun and will continue to take advantage of it!

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