Web 3.0: The Building Block Web

lego bricksTim O’Reilly is well-known not only for his successful publishing company (which I have written for), but also for his definition of the term, “Web 2.0”, in summary defining the web as a platform, moving from the desktop to the cloud. I’d like to propose we are in the process of taking that one step further, perhaps even moving to our foundations, taking components of that platform, and enabling others to use those components in their own applications. Some talk about the “real-time web” being Web 3.0, or the 2010 Web, but when you look at it “real-time” is just using the web as a platform, making it real-time.  The web still hasn’t really changed in essence to something else beyond the web becoming “the platform”.  The web needs to shift to something else for that to happen. I think that shift is happening in a form I call “the building block web”.

When I think building blocks I think Lego bricks.  Each one has its own unique size and shape, and when you take the basic lego bricks you can add your own, making something unique and powerful.  The web, as a whole, is evolving towards this state.  We see Twitter, with its open platform enabling others to share in ways they were never able to share before in their own applications.  We see Facebook and Facebook Connect enabling businesses to incorporate Facebook activity, relationships, and more right in the bounds of their own brand (Jeremiah Owyang suggested we might call this “farming”).  Recently, we saw Google Wave producing ways for users to collaborate in ways they were never able to before, and embed these in new ways into external environments. We see Facebook implementing Facebook credits amongst various applications and enabling some developers to charge using Facebook credits, Facebook taking a cut along the way.  Each of these “components” is a building block.  They’re each basic foundations, or Lego bricks that have organized the web into components developers can now build new and interesting things with.  The new platform is on top of these foundations, which are built on top of the web, and viewable via a desktop or browser.

Robert Scoble, as he was interviewing me and Louis Gray last week, mentioned he thought Facebook should implement reviews similar to Yelp, and they could then profit from the deals made surrounding those reviews of retail and other physical purchase locations.  It’s a great idea, but I suggested Facebook doesn’t need to do this.  Facebook seems to understand the building block web.  They are providing means for Yelp and others to take what Facebook is good at – building relationships and sharing activities and content with your close friends and family, and incorporate that content and social graph into and out of Yelp’s own environment.  They are even providing for some developers (as mentioned earlier) the ability to integrate their built in credit system.  Facebook provides their own foundations or Lego bricks, provides a means for those people to pay for things, and Facebook takes a cut of every piece of that along the way.  Seems like a much better model than reinventing the wheel if you ask me.  Now imagine if Yelp joined the building block web by providing their own “blocks” giving other apps the power of what Yelp is good at: organizing great reviews around physical purchase locations around the world.

Now look at Google.  Google understands this well.  They are providing Friend Connect, OpenSocial, Android, Wave (on 3 different levels!), and letting Developers decide what to do with them.  Google is adding to this new platform giving developers new building blocks to play with and create cool things with.

This new web is surrounding us as we speak.  Each of the major players is in a race to see who can create the most building blocks for developers and entrepreneurs to incorporate into their own products.  No longer are entrepreneurs focused on building for the web.  They’re focused on building around these building blocks. The building blocks are the platform. This is Web 3.0.  Who will win?

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24 thoughts on “Web 3.0: The Building Block Web

  1. Hasn't there always been something of a divide between the providers of web infrastructure and the interactive web properties? Most companies fall into one category or the other, with a few of the largest providing both infrastructure and interactive offerings.

    In web 1.0, infrastructure providers were entities like the Apache Software Foundation, open source communities for Linux/PHP/etc, Adobe (for Flash), Microsoft, etc. Google was a company big enough to built both substantial infrastructure and end user sites. AOL was too, but never opened up to build an ecosystem around its infrastructure.

    In web 2.0, some of the infrastructure providers have been the open source community around Ruby-on-Rails, Amazon Web Services, Google, etc.

    For web 3.0, Twitter wants to be infrastructure. Facebook is big enough to build its own ecosystem as well as a substantial user-facing site.

    I think what is new in web 3.0 is that in previous generations of the web, the providers of the building blocks did not grow very big nor make very much money compared to the sites which built upon their infrastructure. Apache powered a huge fraction of the web, but did not directly profit from it. Google made money because of its user-facing properties, not from infrastructure that others built upon.

    In web 3.0 we're expecting that model to be reversed. Twitter and Facebook are expected to be huge successes. Other services building upon them may make a little money too, but the provider at the center of that ecosystem will profit more. The value of the building blocks compared to the finished product built with them is new in web 3.0.

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  2. Well said, DGentry. I do think it's a bit more than that though – I think Web 3.0 is/will be the ability to pick and choose infrastructure from any of these sites you choose and build your own. The difference between then and now is that it is/will be standard, something expected of every web property, and it is/will be widespread. I think before that wasn't quite near as much the case as now. I do agree with you though that now we're also able to monetize that much better and easier than before.

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  3. Thanks Jesse! I like this post, because it validates much of what I've been thinking (pre-publication) about how software functionality should be assembled and delivered. We've been talking about SOA for about ten years now, and that model is just beginning to gain traction. However, I think it will be made obsolete by what ZD Net's Dion Hinchcliffe terms Web Oriented Architecture (WOA).

    I also appreciate DGentry's comment that “The value of the building blocks compared to the finished project built with them is new in web 3.0”. The appropriate analogy seems to be that of luxury vehicles. Expensive, well-engineered cars and SUVs suffer the highest theft rates, precisely because thieves know they can disassemble them and sell the parts for more than the purchase price of the whole vehicle. I believe this will be true of the Web 3.0: the building blocks will command greater value than the composite applications built with them, simply because the blocks can be monetized each time they are reused.

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  4. […] Jessie Stay over at Staynalive brings up the idea of the Lego internet, where large companies are busy making widgets, API’s and other building blocks that designers and developers can leverage in their own applications. Jessie mentions that the Building Block internet might just be a way to visualize Web 3.0 which is not a bad way of looking at the world, or how applications are developed. […]

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  5. Some other building blocks:

    gravatar for avatars, ning for social platforms, some four companies are fighting for the discussion fields, etc.

    But I'm wondering about the Drupal stuff I'm following from a distance about a year or so, is this part of what WOA (Web Oriented Architecture) mentionned here by Jesse Stay ?

    As I understand Drupal, it's a sort of metaprogramming with webprogramming blocks for multiple functionalities, a bit like DLLs or function calls.

    More precisely the impression I've had so far from description is that of a sort of WebLogo – the original Logo language was extremely powerfull, but the computers weren't yet fast enough to run the interpretators – I'm refering to the C=64 days here.

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  6. Jansegers, you're definitely on the right track with Drupal. Drupal definitely does a good job at organizing some of these building blocks, but it hasn't been until recently that so many of the building blocks have been readily available.

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  7. Wondering whether web 4.0 will let me take those blocks and host them myself. Build my own universe, kind of like Lego. Perhaps my fatigue would diminish. I'm a member of so many social networks, and frankly, it's really too much work to keep all of them up to date. I want to hang out on my domain, push to and pull from all those networks, and keep everything synchronised. Automagically 🙂

    Like

  8. Interesting post Jesse! I think you're right on, but I would hope there's much to “web 3.0” than that. I want to see 3.0 as an era of building blocks and platforms combined with better data portability and open standards. I still want to see the day where your data and content is better controlled by individual. I want to build my profile and share my content on an open system and take my profile to other social networks, myspace/facebook/twitter and it automatically displays my profile. My profile being one of the “building blocks”. If I want to leave my profile, I remove it from the network. If I want to share my photos on flickr and photobucket, I connect my account it displays all of my photos. If I edit/add photos to my main account, it gets updated in all networks connected to my account. If I decide I don't like a network, I disconnect my profile and leave.

    On a side note: services like Ping.fm, Pixelpipe and Tubemogul are NOT the solution. In fact, they're the exact opposite.

    Where we're at now, it seems that everyone is trying to BE the platform, so they're not focusing as much on working with other platforms. Facebook is at the forefront, but should Facebook become the main platform? I don't know. They probably will at the rate they are growing. Facebook Connect is a good example of what I'm talking about.

    I guess my main concern is that I hope the “building block web” will put more focus on turning the user and their data into a “building block” as well. Only a select few are doing that.

    Scoble's comment about Yelp hits on this. If Facebook WAS this “main platform” and it had a review system like Yelp that I could dump my content into. I could simply connect my account to Yelp, and then Yelp could display my content. Instead, now I have to manage my Yelp account as one building block, Facebook as another, etc, etc.

    From the looks of it though, it's going to be how you describe it in your post, and we'll still be managing 30 profiles.

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  9. Jason, great points. While I'm sure they'd love to “be” the platform, I
    think they realize there's no way for that to happen. In reality I think
    they're all trying to get their hands is as many apps as possible. If you
    provide more blocks, more people will use them, especially if they're the
    more critical blocks (like the wheels, or the squares). They can then
    provide ways to charge with payments platforms, etc. and make money off of
    anyone using those blocks.
    I agree with you that it needs to open up even more. We're getting there.
    Facebook is providing their stream now via the openstrea.ms protocol and
    has even hired David Recordon, who pretty much started some of the Data
    portability arguments, to open up their platform even more. Google is
    taking an open approach all the way. Twitter isn't there yet, but I predict
    they'll get involved in leading and joining open standards as well.

    Like

  10. Interesting post Jesse! I think you're right on, but I would hope there's much to “web 3.0” than that. I want to see 3.0 as an era of building blocks and platforms combined with better data portability and open standards. I still want to see the day where your data and content is better controlled by individual. I want to build my profile and share my content on an open system and take my profile to other social networks, myspace/facebook/twitter and it automatically displays my profile. My profile being one of the “building blocks”. If I want to leave my profile, I remove it from the network. If I want to share my photos on flickr and photobucket, I connect my account it displays all of my photos. If I edit/add photos to my main account, it gets updated in all networks connected to my account. If I decide I don't like a network, I disconnect my profile and leave.

    On a side note: services like Ping.fm, Pixelpipe and Tubemogul are NOT the solution. In fact, they're the exact opposite.

    Where we're at now, it seems that everyone is trying to BE the platform, so they're not focusing as much on working with other platforms. Facebook is at the forefront, but should Facebook become the main platform? I don't know. They probably will at the rate they are growing. Facebook Connect is a good example of what I'm talking about.

    I guess my main concern is that I hope the “building block web” will put more focus on turning the user and their data into a “building block” as well. Only a select few are doing that.

    Scoble's comment about Yelp hits on this. If Facebook WAS this “main platform” and it had a review system like Yelp that I could dump my content into. I could simply connect my account to Yelp, and then Yelp could display my content. Instead, now I have to manage my Yelp account as one building block, Facebook as another, etc, etc.

    From the looks of it though, it's going to be how you describe it in your post, and we'll still be managing 30 profiles.

    Like

  11. Jason, great points. While I'm sure they'd love to “be” the platform, I
    think they realize there's no way for that to happen. In reality I think
    they're all trying to get their hands is as many apps as possible. If you
    provide more blocks, more people will use them, especially if they're the
    more critical blocks (like the wheels, or the squares). They can then
    provide ways to charge with payments platforms, etc. and make money off of
    anyone using those blocks.
    I agree with you that it needs to open up even more. We're getting there.
    Facebook is providing their stream now via the openstrea.ms protocol and
    has even hired David Recordon, who pretty much started some of the Data
    portability arguments, to open up their platform even more. Google is
    taking an open approach all the way. Twitter isn't there yet, but I predict
    they'll get involved in leading and joining open standards as well.

    Like

  12. Interesting post Jesse! I think you're right on, but I would hope there's much to “web 3.0” than that. I want to see 3.0 as an era of building blocks and platforms combined with better data portability and open standards. I still want to see the day where your data and content is better controlled by individual. I want to build my profile and share my content on an open system and take my profile to other social networks, myspace/facebook/twitter and it automatically displays my profile. My profile being one of the “building blocks”. If I want to leave my profile, I remove it from the network. If I want to share my photos on flickr and photobucket, I connect my account it displays all of my photos. If I edit/add photos to my main account, it gets updated in all networks connected to my account. If I decide I don't like a network, I disconnect my profile and leave.

    On a side note: services like Ping.fm, Pixelpipe and Tubemogul are NOT the solution. In fact, they're the exact opposite.

    Where we're at now, it seems that everyone is trying to BE the platform, so they're not focusing as much on working with other platforms. Facebook is at the forefront, but should Facebook become the main platform? I don't know. They probably will at the rate they are growing. Facebook Connect is a good example of what I'm talking about.

    I guess my main concern is that I hope the “building block web” will put more focus on turning the user and their data into a “building block” as well. Only a select few are doing that.

    Scoble's comment about Yelp hits on this. If Facebook WAS this “main platform” and it had a review system like Yelp that I could dump my content into. I could simply connect my account to Yelp, and then Yelp could display my content. Instead, now I have to manage my Yelp account as one building block, Facebook as another, etc, etc.

    From the looks of it though, it's going to be how you describe it in your post, and we'll still be managing 30 profiles.

    Like

  13. Some other building blocks:

    gravatar for avatars, ning for social platforms, some four companies are fighting for the discussion fields, etc.

    But I'm wondering about the Drupal stuff I'm following from a distance about a year or so, is this part of what WOA (Web Oriented Architecture) mentionned here by Jesse Stay ?

    As I understand Drupal, it's a sort of metaprogramming with webprogramming blocks for multiple functionalities, a bit like DLLs or function calls.

    More precisely the impression I've had so far from description is that of a sort of WebLogo – the original Logo language was extremely powerfull, but the computers weren't yet fast enough to run the interpretators – I'm refering to the C=64 days here.

    Like

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