My name is danah boyd and I'm a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research, a Research Assistant Professor in Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University, and a Fellow at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society. Buzzwords in my world include: privacy, context, youth culture, social media, big data. I use this blog to express random thoughts about whatever I'm thinking.

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web 1-2-3

I’m often asked what “Web 3.0″ will be about. Lately, i have found myself talking about two critical stages of web sociality in order to explain where we’re going. I realized that i never succinctly described this here so i thought i should.

In early networked publics, there were two primary organizing principles for group sociability: interests and activities. People came together on rec.motorcylcles because they shared an interest in motorcycles. People also came together in work groups to discuss activities. Usenet, mailing lists, chatrooms, etc. were organized around these principles.

By and large, these were strangers meeting. Early net adopters were often engaging with people like them who were not geographically proximate. Then the boom hit and everyone got online, often to email with their friends (and consume). With everyone online, the organizing principles of sociality shifted.

As blogging began to take hold, people started arranging themselves around pre-existing friend groups. In this way, the organizing principle was about ego-centric networks. People’s “communities” began being defined by their friends. This model is quite different than group-driven structures where there are defined network boundaries. Ego-centric system are a (mostly) continuous graph. There are certainly clusters, but rarely bounded groups. This is precisely how we get the notion of “6 degrees of separation.” While blogging (and to a lesser degree homepages) were key to this shift, it was really social network sites that took the ball to the endzone. They made the networks visible, allowing people to put themselves at the center of their world. We finally have a world wide WEB of people, not just documents.

When i think about what’s next, i don’t think it’s going more virtual, more removed from everyday life. Actually, i think it’s even more connected to everyday life. We moved from ideas to people. What’s next? Place.

I believe that geographic-dependent context will be the next key shift. GPS, mesh networks, articulated presence, etc. People want to go mobile and they want to use technology to help them engage in the mobile world. Unfortunately, i think we have huge structural barriers in front of us. It’s not that we *can’t* do this on a technological level, it’s that there are old-skool institutions that want to get in the way. And they want to do it by plugging the market and shaping the law to their advantage. Primarily, i’m talking about carriers. And the handset makers who help keep the carriers alive. Let me explain.

The internet was not *made* for social communities. It was not *made* for social network sites. This grew because some creative folks decided to build on the open platform that was made available. Until recently, network neutrality was never a debate in the internet world because it was assumed. Given a connection (and time and literacy), anyone could contribute. Gotta love libertarian idealism.

Unfortunately, the same is not true for the mobile network. There’s never been neutrality and it’s the last thing that the carriers want. They want to control every byte and every application that can be put on the handsets that they adopt (and control through locking). In short, they want to control *everything*. It’s near impossible to develop networked social applications for mobiles. If it works on one carrier, it’s bound to be ignored by others. Even worse, the carriers have a disincentive to allow you to spread bytes over the network. (I can’t imagine how much those with all-you-can-eat plans detest Twittr.) Culturally, this is the step that’s next. Too bad i think that inane corporate bullshit is going to get in the way.

Of course, while i think that people want to move in this direction, i also think that privacy confusion has only just begun.

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12 comments to web 1-2-3

  • I always explain it this way…
    Web 1.0 – The consumer.
    Web 2.0 – The consumer as creator.
    Web 3.0 – The consumer as destroyer.

  • More than a year ago Zeldman described Web 3.0. To me it sounds like the more things change, the more they stay the same.

  • James

    I’d disagree that the handset makers like propping up the carriers – one of the reasons the Nokia 770/800 doesn’t have a radio, only bluetooth/wifi is so they didn’t have to deal with getting it approved by a carrier. Wifi will only get more prevalent and phones with SIP clients and wifi are already out, so between that and the OpenMoko I don’t think the future is that bleak.

  • I like this post as another example of how terms like Web 2.0/3.0 mean completely different things to different people. You argue that Web 3.0 will be built geographically-focused, mobile-based applications, and you may be right. Others argue that Web 3.0 will be the Semantic Web, driven by applications that understand. For an example, see my look at Freeweb, which bills itself as the first Web 3.0 application. Hell, the startup I am currently working for, Avanoo we only half-jokingly call a Web 6.0 application. I think the terms will keep changing, but when the next generation of the web arrives, we will know, just as we now know with Web 2.0.

  • You gotta love libertarian idealism. But allowing for “complexity and plenitude of rules themselves” is part of that. Net neutrality–an end-to-end internet–is just one more ruleset. Yes, i do cherish it myself, but enshrining and imposing it through government (!) is hardly libertarian idealism.

    Interesting article anyway (very personal, as Ilya mentions, and therefore all the more intriguing).

  • “As blogging began to take hold, people started arranging themselves around pre-existing friend groups.”

    I think this is dependent upon one’s definition of a blog – my blogging experience lies outside the social networks of MySpace et al. Thus it has involved no-one that I previously knew, although I have come to meet many of the people with whom I have interacted blog-wise.

    I think the early adopter model more or less still prevails amongst bloggers (in my definition) but that the “blogging” of the social networks is a very different phenomenon.

  • John – i think that there are many topical bloggers for whom blogging is about connecting around interests, often with strangers. What i meant by taking hold refers to the much more dominant blogging practice epitomized by teens where people blog for and amongst friends. This is the whole power-law issue. Most people don’t have readers that they don’t know, yet they still blog. I think that this trend is far more visible with the social network sites than with blogging because of the interest-driven blogging.

  • Steve

    In some ways the whole blogging for friends thing reminds me of those cute little newsletters people send out around Christmas to let their distant friends and family know what they’ve been doing all year. But the Internet allows that to happen on steroids – all day every day.

  • Hi, me again :)
    This post I totally agree with. Two little points —

    (1) Blogging and friendstering is often as much about building new social networks, by meeting people online, as about maintaining existing offline ones. The open, confessional tone of many blogs/journals lends itself to discovering people, and once you’ve made friends with one person you are now exposed to _their_ friends, whom you’re likely to also find interesting. This is certainly what happened to me when I joined LiveJournal; none of my real-life friends joined for months or years afterwards (if ever).

    (2) There are definite signs that social-networking websites may be trying to emulate the same walled-garden, all-controlling stranglehold of the cell carriers. MySpace is making it pretty clear that they will block people from putting up any widgets that they consider competition, especially ones that could make people money. MySpace execs have been complaining about how YouTube “exploited” MySpace to become popular, and they won’t let anything like that happen again. My question now is, will they succeed at this, or will the users abandon MySpace for something more open?

  • While I agree with you on the mobile challenge I don’t see anything worthy of a Web 3.0 tag on the horizon. If it took nearly 10 years for us to go from version 1.0 to version 2.0 the next one has to be a major shift in mindset. That is unlikely to happen in the heels of 2.0, no I think adding location is just an enhancement of current trends. The day that someone figures out how to make 3D navigation really usefull, well ….

  • hey danah,

    I agree, the web is moving towards places … one example I just found is http://www.tupalo.com. it seems to be still in an early stage of development and doesn’t have many users. still, I like the idea behind it.

    chris

  • 1. libertarian idealism is an oxymoron if i ever heard 1
    2. web 3.0 is definitely a premature nomenclature, as per henrik
    3. usenet was the quintessential web 1.0 technology as, until deja (and
    later google) bought it, it was the closest thing to an unowned -or-
    unpoliced entity. it was also a massive copying machine, which gave
    usenet archiving a neat holographic tendency–forensically the next best
    thing to the old trick of snailing your ideas to yourself in a
    wax-sealed envelope, to be deposited unopened in a safe deposit box. the
    so-called wayback machines seem a poor substitute.
    4. i remember the transition from usenet-oriented internet (and uucp,
    decnet, bitnet, fidonet etc.) to web-oriented internet circa 1993 as a
    loss of innocence, more than anything else.
    5. i see the emergence of the blogosphere as a sort of partial
    renaissance in online kulture, in that again there is a place for noncommercial
    content
    6. commercial social networking is a case study in asymmetric data
    mining, the -further- informational empowerment of hr (where anything can
    and will be used against you), and of course branded varieties of life
    experience. a more fitting nomenclature would be web -1.0
    7. web 3.0 as you define it categorically excludes me, as my network
    resources are a barebones prepaid $ell phone and a computer lab the local
    community college generously allows the larger community to access, w.
    of course 1st dibs for the campus community. nevertheless, i have
    been putting icbm tags in as many as possible of my documents, ucann
    geourl me around the mcc south campus library @ 42.505, -82.972
    8. a worthy evolution, in my nsho, would be lower barriers to what i
    term ‘server side netizen(ship),’ (massage my ego–search it!) w/o regard
    to whether this is wireless

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