The Crest of Web 3.0 is Upon Us

I recently authored a post on Businessinsider.com titled The Evolution of The Tech Bubble.  In fact, it was a re-post of the article here on So Entrepreneurial titled Bubbles and Golden Ages.  My main goal was to take a larger glance as what we call Bubbles, and to provide some context to the inevitability of a technological paradigm and its lifecycle.  It was indeed a birds eye view, and with each phase the possibility remains where one could dive further into the details.  Thankfully, that was done for me.

Jasephase, a commenter on the Business Insider piece, has provided us longer perspective on current times using the Bubble framework I provided earlier.  Jasephase lays out a more in-depth perspective, postulating we are on the crest of Web 3.0.  My takeaway: “The trick is to look past the crest into the subtler currents to extract the themes of Web3.0 and make the Google or Facebook that will in effect become the next Web3.0 Titan.”  Well said.

jasephase on May 27, 7:17 AM said:

I realize this is incredibly long – it’s what happens when a little free time in otherwise very busy days mixes with the first coffee in months…

I have been working, by that I mean visualizing the future, through goggles strikingly similar to these for the last five years.

I agree with the author in that we are, in large part, in the synergy phase. I lose him when he reaches his ‘Maturity’ argument, in effect dismissing maturity as not occurring in the present time but 60 years in the future. I believe the paradigm he is employing here, ‘the internet’, is far too broad a subject to practically inform our thinking and actions now. But the pattern is useful.

As I see it, ‘the internet’ as a whole is, yes, in the synergy phase right now. But we can very easily break the internet up into its own phases: Web 1.0, which I would say came into focus with Google and had its own ‘bubble’.  Then, Web 2.0, the poster child of which is Facebook and social in general, which is bubbling now and may or may not burst as much as peter out. And then finally the predestined semweb, the first faces of which we are seeing now in products that bridge the gap between old and new media, between 1.0, 2.0, and even the early stages of 3.0, between social and local, between social and knowledge, between social and professional, between social and commerce, e.g., Foursquare, Quora, LinkedIn, Twitter, GroupOn, Yelp!, Square…

Thus, I would say that Web 2.0 is in its synergistic phase now, whereas everything Web 1.0 is already quite snug in its maturation phase. Hence Google’s plateau or incremental improvements (which I would argue point to long-term decline and an inevitable dropping stock price (not due just to a changing of the guard and internal restructuring)). Of course some 1.0 companies are making the shift, like Amazon, but others, like eBay, are not. Bezos can pivot and drive for the hoop at the same time.

Still, Amazon and Google are primarily single-value, long-tail companies with a lot of features and secondary products. But if you remove their core value proposition: eCommerce and search, they are dead in the water, networks without a hub. While they are polymaths, they are limited. Apple on the other hand consistently creates entirely new markets for itself to swim through, but that’s a whole other chapter…

Anyway, back to synergy and maturation. I think that this article’s graph of the internet’s growth resembles the period of a Y=sinX curve from x=0 to x=pi/2, but that a Y=X+sinX wavy step function would be much more indicative of a Web1.0, Web2.0, and semweb reality (it’s been a while so my math might be off…). Or better yet, instead of one line, envision the constructive/destructive interference patterns of three or more curves plotted to represent their respective perspectives. In such a system I think we will find that Web1.0 is in maturation, Web2.0 is in synergy, and Web3.0 is in its earliest stage (perhaps situated within the synergy phase of the internet as a whole – but that is a bigger claim than I would make or justify – history and evolution are slippery).

Furthermore, as each 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0 wave is interconnected and evidence for maturation and growth are present even in the synergistic crest, we tend to focus only on the crests (on the valuations and IPOs of LinkedIn, GroupOn, Facebook, etc…) while the subtler, smaller stories, such as the maturation of 1.0 and the growth of 3.0 waves, are obscured. Still, if we look past the bubble at the larger picture, we can reasonably foresee or feel-out a timeframe in which 3.0 will start to grow. I would argue that the catalyst for that is the 2.0 crest we are experiencing right now.

Let me expand on that. I believe that the boom of Web1.0 was the activation energy required to begin a Web2.0 phase transition, and that the current boom of Web2.0 will supply the energy necessary to get Web3.0 started. Yet we will not see the accelerated growth of Web3.0 until Web2.0’s growth decelerates. Causation is funny, chicken or the egg. Which comes first: the development of Web3.0 currents or the dissolution of Web2.0 energies? Does Web2.0 by its very nature sew the seeds for its own destruction…? Again, I would argue that it is the dissolution of relative power and of the investment of new capital and of manpower in the 1.0 companies that provides the opportunity for such drastic Web2.0 growth now. Furthermore, if we were to integrate the heights of the inflection point (entrance to maturation) of Web1.0 we get the incredibly steeply-sloped pace of growth for Web2.0. Been a long time since math…

Anyway, evidence for this: read through the lists of every Y Combinator and TechCrunch Disrupt startup – not a single one is doing anything revolutionary or interestingly new. They are all competing to build the best nifty/gimmicky features of Web2.0. They are all trying to ride the same wave. Without forcing these trends into some value-system, this is a ‘good’ thing, a necessary step for evolution of Web3.0. The higher Web2.0 goes and the faster it tips, the sooner and faster Web3.0 will be born. It will be the collective weight of all these startups, the investment of VC, and the mass of incremental innovations they bring to the table that will bring Web2.0 to its crest quickly and eventually take the wind out its sails. So I’m redunant.

Just as no VC is going to fund the next big search engine, neither will the next big social site or deals site find funding. The forces that be effectively crowd out the competition. A startup’s fate in this atmosphere is inevitable (read planned) obsolescence or assimilation into one of the borgs (Google or Facebook…). Thus innovation will peter out, which will lead to the maturation phase of Web2.0, the shifting sights (sites) of VC and entrepreneur alike, and the emergence of the 3.0 startup, to whom the current titans will appear as old media to be disrupted. Google is the dinosaur now, playing at arguably the same game as Microsoft – dead in the water, searching for a board to hang onto so as not to sink.

Seeing all this is the easy part. Making a successful startup in today’s environment, then, is even that much easier, just network, just game the system (like trading in Diablo II, or convincing our old landlord to let us rent the house). The trick is to look past the crest into the subtler currents to extract the themes of Web3.0 and make the Google or Facebook that will in effect become the next Web3.0 Titan.

What will that look like? Who is in that space now? How will it articulate with current industry? What old media will be disrupted? One thing I can tell for sure is that Google is a Sisyphus to keep on chasing a social dream. Likewise, while Facebook’s capitalization on the social graph and social search is still in its infancy and there’s no real telling how far its synergy phase will go, it is still just following the dreams of Web2.0. As of yet there is no competition (glances over my shoulder to see if Apple is listening) in the Web3.0 space, everyone is focused completely on Web2.0. Opportunity?!

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