Tim 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?