Dennis D. McDonald ( consults from Alexandria Virginia. His services include writing & research, proposal development, and project management.

By Dennis D. McDonald

I received a request from Donna Vitasovich for a definition of “web 2.0 and web 3.0” that she could quote on her blog. I referred her to my post Using a Blog for a “Web 2.0” Presentation instead of PowerPoint. That post includes a definition of Web 2.0 that distinguishes between “Web 2.0 as Technology Infrastructure” and “Web 2.0 as Communication and Business Process.” Here’s what I wrote:

The term “web 2.0” describes two dimensions of web based publishing:

1. Web 2.0 as Technology Infrastructure. When used this way, Web 2.0 refers to the ways hardware and software can be used to deliver sophisticated interactive processes over the World Wide Web to anyone with an Internet connection and a standard web browser. 

Other hallmarks of Web 2.0 technology are (1) the rapidity with which sophisticated applications can be developed, (2) the ease with which data from different systems can be combined, and the (3) independence from specific types of computers or operating systems.

2. Web 2.0 as Communication and Business Process. When used this way, Web 2.0 refers to the ways people can use the web to easily publish information online, share that information with others, and develop relationships with people who share common interests. Frequently these behaviors are individualistic, spontaneous, and highly decentralized.

It is not unusual for more traditional or hierarchically structured organizations to approach Web 2.0 applications with some caution given the lack of centralized control. It is also believed that the more people who participate in Web 2.0 exchanges of information, the more powerful “network effects” become.

I didn’t attempt to provide a definition of “web 3.0.”  Frankly, I don’t know what that means. I do know that many serious people are concerned with “what’s next.” I admit to being curious about that myself.

What Donna did not choose to quote on her blog was my definition’s intro:

I debated whether or not to use the term “Web 2.0,” which has fallen out of favor among the cognoscenti. I decided to use it, though, simply because it has to an extent emerged into popular usage and it takes less space to type than the words “social networking and social media.” 

Aside from what we call these technologies and systems we are so enthusiastic about, I’m also realistic about where we stand with “web 2.0” and “enterprise 2.0.” This came up recently in some communications with Jeremiah Owyang concerning Cisco’s seeming entry into the social networking market space via recent corporate acquisitions. I interpret Cisco’s actions (as well as efforts of companies such as Microsoft and IBM) as evidence that the tools we now refer to as “social media and social networking” are gradually becoming part of the infrastructure of technology based tools that are available for introduction into the corporate “enterprise” market.

That covers — to some extent — the “technology” side of “web 2.0.” We also need to consider the business processes for which social media and social networking tools will be adopted by organizations. The list of enterprise business processes that are potentially impacted is huge.

Some organizations will adopt the new tools as part of their general information sharing and communication infrastructure, some tools will be adopted one piece at a time, some will be adopted enterprise wide, some will be adopted by different industries at different rates, and some will be adopted rapidly because demonstrated value to specific business processes is easy to demonstrate.

In other words, the incorporation of new tools and techniques into the enterprise will proceed as it always has. Naturally many of us are interested in the speed with which this adoption process is occurring. 

Professor McAfee recently commented on the issue of adoption in his recent blog post FastForwarding to a Better Understanding, Part 3. There he reported on apparent criticism he received at a recent conference when he expressed observations concerning the variables speeds at which different groups are adopting — or not adopting — social media and social networking.

Having researched, written about, podcasted, and consulted in this area, I understand why McAfee makes his statements. One of my clients right now, for example, has people in the organization who are early adopters, some who are evangelists, some who are resistant, and some who need very explicit demonstrations of how social media are relevant to them.

It reminds me of the time when, earlier in my career, I devoted much of my time to supporting the demonstration and sale of new technology into large corporations.  Some were receptive, and some weren’t. It always helped to have real world demonstrations that could be appreciated by front line users PLUS all-important testimonials from satisfied clients.

In other words, business as usual. People involved in corporate sales of new technologies will recognize the drill and will be careful about how far they want “hype” to impact their sales quotas.

Back to the issue of labels.  I don’t care much for the label “web 3.0.” Nor do I feel completely comfortable about the terms “social media and social networking” when discussing corporate applications of blogging, collaboration, bookmarking, wikis, etc. Yet, I’m not sure how useful it will be to come up with another concise term to describe “what’s next.” The adoption process already is complicated enough. Having to explain another trend and its impacts to a potential consulting client is not something I’m eager to do, especially when the adoption process is already so complex.

“Web 2.0” may be old hat to some of us, but to many others it’s something they are just starting to appreciate.

Still, I have been thinking about “what’s next” and I’ll address that in another post. Just don’t expect me to come up with a catchy label right away!


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