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Web 2.0 and Webolution

Web 2.0 is dying. Simply by the fact that it is a term used to describe the state of the web at a certain time in history. This term was a quickly contrived marketing buzzword to describe the so-called slick websites.[i] As time goes on, it’s safe to say a new term, probably Web 3.0, will be coined and ubiquitously accepted to describe the state of the web after the current web 2.0 era is deemed no more. As many argue, we shouldn’t use such foolish terms, but I’ll get into that later. First, let’s explore the infamous term that really got things started. So what the hell is web 2.0 exactly?

We can start by looking at the web today. We have data driven websites that thrive on participation, data that is extractable, viewable, and mash-able, behind the scenes and seemingly automatic updates, slick easy-to-use interfaces, and cross-platform websites for increasingly diverse devices (mobile and non-mobile.)[ii] That all sounds really great and it is. Take E-bay for example. It is arguable one of the most successful Web 2.0 sites ever made. If you are an E-bay customer, you know that, you never have to download it (as packaged software) and it is always updated every time you visit the site. This company created an empty framework for the public to explore and utilize. We filled it with content, we created ratings, we created tags, we created Web 2.0 one click at a time. That’s right, power to the people. The best of the best follow this similar structure. Learning from experience we know these ideas will stick around for a long time and will probably change ever so slightly to accommodate new technologies and faster Internet speeds. So then, web 2.0 at a fundamental level is not so dead…

But the term most certainly needs to be. Famous bloggers scoff at the ridiculous nature of the ubiquitous moniker, describing it more as a marketing scheme that may or may not have slowed down the evolution of the Internet into something else, something better.[iii] Let’s be honest, the Internet thrives on competition. Who can make the better website, or who can make a larger more powerful, more practical database… and the list goes on. The real question – who can better prepare for future technologies, or future consumer demand? The fact is, using the term web 2.0 to describe an all-encompassing internet is almost idiotic and inhibits this desire to make a better web. With every scheming, profit-hungry investment banker looking solely at web 2.0 technologies, how can we push webolution? Even though we can try to understand the term, we cannot simply try to bottle-up everything we see. The web is more complex than that. These terms will start to seem ridiculous… right now we have to have a new one every 10 years, then will it be 5, 2…? I’m not sure the internet could change that fast and that much, but the future is always full of surprises. I can only hope we can comprehend the complexity of the web consistently during its entire lifespan, past, present, and future. Before too long, it might just spiral out of control.

So then, what surprises can we look for in the future (call it web 3.0 if your bleeding heart wishes it to be so) of the web? Faster internet speeds (everyone might switch to t1, t3, fiber optics), more optimization, more data, more content, more user ability, the growth of the application, plug-in, more obtainable and controllable data by the user (let ME get a crack at the company’s databases!), more devices, more automatic updates (everything centered around the internet should be updatable, otherwise competition will destroy it), more open source productions[iv] (FUCK Copyright, FUCK Censorship!) and a profound reliability on artificial intelligence.[v]

I also foresee an increase in peer-to-peer interactivity over the web. With the rise of online gaming and the seemingly necessity of communication, the Internet will shift to an even more social experience rather than an individual one. When I wan younger, you can bet that everyone my age had a screen name on AOL Instant Messenger. People that were older missed the concept of instant chat and relied more on e-mail to communicate over the web. I never understood e-mail when I was younger. Regardless, it was easy to see that human beings had a strong desire to contact one another and the Internet was the perfect medium to do so. As I became older this communication started to evolve, websites like Facebook started to include a peer-to-peer chat application built into the browser, even Google included instant-chat, coupled with its Gmail service. It is safe to say that more sites and applications will include instant messaging and eventually AIM will become obsolete.[vi] Even the extremely successful Steam allows you to chat with friends before committing to joining a game server. Now I had four chat applications to check at all times, each containing a different sect of my group of friends. When will it end!?! Facebook, Google and a list of other websites are pushing for a universal ID: one with a logon/password that works on every site. This would be extremely helpful. However, a problem arises; all these websites will fight over whose account should be used on other sites.[vii] Who decides what account gets used as the universal ID…? I think that this decision should be made at the operating system level not by a website company. The people get to manage accounts this way, and by logging onto a computer, you simultaneously logon to numerous websites. This seems to be the only unbiased process.

This also brings me to another point. It seems websites are starting to crossover. By this I mean, you are starting to see tiny Google search boxes on other websites, or search engines appearing at the top of your browser. A site like slide.com allows you to export your creations directly to MySpace or other personal spaces. Sites now contain quick links to other sites so you don’t have to waste time typing it in, or searching your bookmarks. What you are seeing is a growing interconnectivity, a tighter social network. As time goes on, sites might start to merge, or become in such abundance (Google search on your browser’s toolbar) you’ll never have to actually visit www.google.com ever again. I think the Google site should contain a search box for other databases like Flickr, E-Bay, Amazon, MySpace, PureVolume. These sites already appear frequently during a search, so why not make that option available at the beginning of a search. That could drastically narrow your search at the beginning.[viii] I know this is probably breaking laws, but I think copyright will change, too (I don’t want to get into this beast.) I should mention that you can already search a site in the Google window with some additional characters, but I think this option should be more readily available.

Not only are sites starting to crossover, web devices are merging as well. When I was younger I had my PC, PlayStation, Game Boy, various classic arcade machines, a mp3 player, and a giant cell phone (probably used my parents’ cell). As time went on, the PlayStation 3 utilized the Internet to its fullest extent, had a huge hard drive and started to play the same games as my PC. Do I really need a PC and a PS3 if they are almost the same? I can now play games and view the web on my cell phone. Do I need a portable game device and a cell phone that plays similar games? Similarly, do I need an mp3 player if my cell phone already acts as one? As you can probably guess, devices are slowly merging. Eventually we will see that all-in-one device. The iPhone is pushing the threshold, but it has yet to do so. People will still want the option to play movies or games in surround sound on a giant HD TV, or sit down at a computer desk and get some work done. The all-encompassing device will be portable, but will also dock at various stations on your desk or in your living room so that they could be seen on a larger screen or better sound system. It is almost like the numerous sound docks for the iPod. I can easily see the future device utilizing this idea but considering the visual, Internet, as well as audio.

Web 3.0 will also utilize 3D virtual worlds.[ix] As more computers are pushing the graphics card standard, computer games are opening to a larger customer base. With this, comes the birth of Second Life and similar environments.[x] Even PlayStation 3 has a built-in Second Life called PlayStation Virtual Home, where users can shop and bowl in 3D with other platform owners. If only PS3 combined online shopping databases like Amazon with its robust 3D environment. This might make the shopping mall obsolete. With the Internet you have a whole community of people that review products and rate them. At a shopping mall you don’t have the luxury of reading a hundred reviews before making a purchase. Couple this ability with realistic 3D HD rendering, in a virtual shopping mall, why would you ever need to leave your home?

It seems clear, webolution will happen. But how soon, is the ultimate question? I hope that it will come fast. I think everyone is sick of buying numerous computers, game systems, and phones. We all could save a lot of money with the creation of this device. Let’s hope that an honest company makes this all-in-one device and we feel safe using it. Security and dependability will be extremely important. I can see governments or hackers tapping into the device to see all of our personal information, and bank accounts. It would be easy to track people using GPS and purchase recipes. Similarly, if the device broke, our lives would come to a screeching halt. We have the technology, we understand it, and we have the power, let’s evolve.

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