Forget about the technical definitions of web 2.0; if we are to do a little bit of plain speak we can define web 2.0 is all about a new way of searching for web content. It involves the use of new platforms to make the web more dynamic; it was a revolutionary step forward as compared to the static web of yesteryears. Web applications like Gmail, Flickr, and Wikipedia are all examples of Web 2.0. Moreover, activities like social media interaction and blogging also come under the ambit of Web 2.0.
Whether you are reading a blog, or writing and publishing content on it or you are participating in discussion forums; or you are using a some other way to engage with people on the web, every activity that your pursue to make this happen, is part of Web 2.0. Even the business of search engine optimization (SEO) is a Web 2.0 activity. To put it simply, every web activity that prompts social interactions is a part of web 2.0
The standard bearer for web 2.0 was and remains Google; but there is a feeling in the air that Google will continue to be the flag bearer for Web 3.0 as well. Yes, just when people were getting the hang of web 2.0 and were becoming accustomed to it, and webmasters were finally getting a modicum of expertise in leveraging the immense potential of web 2.0 for SEO benefits, comes the news that Web 2.0 is on its deathbed and slowly but surely is making way for web 3.0.
This actually isn’t that much of a surprise because the web and the technologies empowering the World Wide Web have always been evolving at a rapid rate. What is news today is in the dustbin tomorrow. That’s the rate at which developments are taking place in the online world and this is why the emergence of Web 3.0 comes as no surprise.
Web 2.0 vs. Web 3.0
The battle is on, is it? Not quite. Both have clear cut differences that are like chalk and cheese. To the common observer, the differences between both these terms might not be evident as the various factors and activities that are a part of both web 2.0 and web 3.0 look like have the same pattern. But to understand web 3.0 better, let’s look at the differences between the standards that define both these terms.
Web 2.0 is all about creating content for the web through the ‘read write web’ standard which enables the creation of rich media, web applications and shareable content. On the other hand, web 3.0 is all about semantics and understanding user behavior to engage with them. Content that has been created for web 3.0 focuses on each individual rather than the group, as in the case of Web 2.0.
Artificial intelligence is another running theme of Web 3.0, wherein structure data records are used for making intelligent applications. These are the kind of applications that perform a series of logical and reasoning operations conforming to a set of perceptive rules.
The Business of ‘Search’ and Web 2.0
The word ‘search’ gained traction when web 2.0 came into being. Before it, the internet was a collection of information, but the users never involved themselves with providing this information. Somebody always did it for them. But when the concept of web 2.0 began making its presence felt, web developers began using technology to get web users into the act of bringing forth information. Suddenly user driven information erupted onto the scene and sites like Wiki and blogs that offered niche information began becoming popular with the users. This was also the time when social networking sites were developed and over time they have become the catalysts for information sharing. Even RSS feeds emerged on the scene as means of contributing information and every piece of information can now be accessed through the search engines; this was also the time that the Big Boy of Search Engines, Google started playing a huge role in how the web was accessed by its users.
Today, what we call ‘search’ is in large part determined by Web 2.0. The fact that you have to type in a search phrase and get access to the top sites that rank for that keyword is founded on the concept of web 2.0. Most on page and off page optimization activities are driven by web 2.0 standards.
But, even after playing such a revolutionary role in changing the scope of the World Wide Web, web 2.0 cannot manage to bring user specific data to people searching for such data.
Therefore enter Web 3.0
Web 3.0 and Search
Google is leaving no stone unturned to improve search quality. Its recent Google Penguin and Panda updates should also be considered through our understanding of Web 3.0.
What does improving search quality actually mean? It means Google wants search engine users to get access to only the most top quality information; the kind of information that is specific to their needs and requirements and something that will prove useful for them. The focus of search will be on giving precise results.
Search engines will now handle complex queries and will present search results that have been determined keeping the users own personal interests, likes, dislikes, associations etc. in mind. There will be more information sharing between two websites to give the user the kind of information that he/she wants. This as can be imagined will change the contours of search and the process has already begun. Already, online marketers are using social media to segment target audiences and creating content that suits the needs of these specific segments. Also, they are making sure that the advertisements that the different segments see are different. What this essentially means is that users see what they want to see and read what they prefer reading.
Search is changing and it is what I call ‘preemptive search’. It understands what you want and goes about finding information that will be helpful to you. This ‘understanding’ of the user’s requirements wasn’t there earlier and this is what ‘search’ in web 3.0 will be all about.
Web 2.0 vs. Web 3.0 and SEO
There is no doubt about the fact that today, when it comes to SEO, both web 2.0 and 3.0 activities overlap. But Google aims to get rid of all the garbage on the web and web 2.0 isn’t cut out for it.
n Web 2.0 and SEO
By now, we all know the kind of SEO activities that are the life blood of Web 2.0 SEO. Take the example of blogs, they are one of the many bricks in the wall of Web 2.0 and one SEO activity that leverages the immense potential of this “brick” is guest blogging. Yes, it is as a popular an SEO activity as say, social bookmarking. Publishing guest posts on reputed sites/blogs is regarded as a highly successful way of building natural links and improving credibility.
The reason why I have mentioned this example is that it typifies how Web 2.0 has impacted the world of SEO; guest blogging at the end of the day is all about sharing content with people and this is the underlying theme of Web 2.0 – allowing users to produce content and share it across the web. All SEO professionals are using this theme to perform SEO activities that help improve website rankings.
Web 3.0 takes this concept further and is more about the ‘specifics’ than anything else.
n Web 3.0 and SEO
The problem with web 3.0 is that it’s too early to get a handle on its definition. As the presence of social media keeps growing dramatically, there is a perceptible shift in content creation, organization, indexing and consumption.
Think about it for a second, while earlier the focus was on a large collection of content being made available to users; the focus has now shifted to pieces of content. From a group, the focus has shifted to the individual. Web 2.0, in the form of comments, shared content, reviews ensured that all kinds of user created content were brought to the fore. Web 3.0 improves upon this facet by ensuring that only the ‘required’ content is brought in front of the ‘searcher’.
The focus of web 3.0 and related SEO activities is on a rich markup that is made up of elements like geographic coordinates, tags, and various other entities. As more and more importance is given to Meta data, it is playing a stellar role in giving more importance to the appropriate content in the social graph. Factors like ratings, audience profile, consumption metrics and popularity will start playing an important role in giving the right piece of content the importance it deserves.
A Fundamental Shift in Thinking
To understand and begin implementing SEO by focusing on web 3.0 requires a shift in thinking and relearning and revisiting all that you know about SEO and the way the web works. But it’s not as difficult as it seems and at the end of the day, if you put on the user’s shoes and take a close hard look at what they expect from the web and how they want to come across content that fits in fairly and squarely with their needs and requirements, you will get a clear idea about what web 3.0 is all about and the kind of SEO activities that will be a part of it.
Something else that I will like to touch upon in the Web 2.0 vs. Web 3.0 discussion is the importance of the social graph. This is a term that is used by Facebook to describe their social network. Basically a social graph describes how people within a social network are connected to each other. This article on Social Graph: Concepts and Issues is a must read, if you want to get a comprehensive understanding of this particular concept.
By understanding the interconnections between the users of the social networks, by taking a look at the information, opinions, links, news, photographs and other pieces of content that they share with each other, you have a large part of the data needed to create a Web 3.0 centric SEO strategy.
Long Way to Go
The debate has begun but the journey has just started and is picking up speed. Most SEOs and I know I am making a debatable statement here, never preempt Google in terms of adopting a new way of thinking, before Google makes changes to its algorithm. They have always kept adapting to Google’s changes in the search algorithm, a case in point being Penguin and Panda. I am reasonably sure that some of the changes that Google’s made to its algorithm have been done keeping in mind Web 3.0 and the changing needs of people accessing content; but as they say, it will be a long time before folks actually begin thinking about SEO in terms of web 3.0.
As an SEO specialist, it makes perfect business sense to understand the changes taking place in the Web around you and putting on your thinking cap to understand these changes and using them for SEO benefit. As is the case with everything, it’s important to get a head start to finish on the winning side.