Web 2.0 was the phrase coined about a decade ago to describe the seismic shift in how people related to the internet. Some people wrongly suggest that “Web 2.0” simply means “social media”. That’s like confusing an MP3 player with the music it contains in its memory. The music is the reason the MP3 player was invented, and in the same way, Web 2.0 was the reason social media came into prevalence.

So, what is this fundamental shift known as “Web 2.0”? Perhaps the best way to understand it is by looking at Web 1.0, and then drawing the contrast.

In the earliest iterations of the internet, the idea was for people to be able to go to a source, like a library, and find the information they wanted. Remember, the first web page was built by a research facility to help researchers find their information more easily. The result was predicated upon the user instigating the action by searching for a specific result. This information/action flow gave rise to one of the great internet powerhouses, Google. Google specializes in delivering the information you want to see, based upon your inputting the key words that represent your desire. The flow is instigated by the user.

Web 2.0 reverses that process.  In the new version, the information now finds the user, regardless of the user’s input.  When a user goes online, his identity is recognized and his interaction with the data is customized to match his interests and desires, based upon his previous online history.  If you’ve spent any time on Facebook, then you’ve already seen this happening. Using a technology called “retargeting”, Ebay remembers what you last looked at on their site, and when you go over to Facebook, an ad for that item will appear on your Facebook newsfeed. What you like now follows you around the web. You can think of it as a bit creepy, like you’re being stalked, but really it is just the wonders of technology that are allowing the web to customize your user experience to make it uniquely appropriate for you.

Really, there are only two ways this can happen. The user searches for the information, or the information searches for the user. I think that’s why talk of Web 3.0 isn’t terribly useful. The only things I’ve seen on this subject are just differences in website design, style, or coding languages. In fact, if I were to make a prediction about Web 3.0, it would be that the user is no longer required to even consciously interact with the web interface. In a leap into tomorrow, you would have the full library of the internet in your mind, and it would automatically overlay your real world experience. Your interface would give you descriptions and definitions of any and all objects  it recognizes as something you probably don’t know or understand. So, when you walk into a museum, you’re not puzzled about whether a painting is by Monet or Renoir. Your interface automatically labels the paintings for you. Sound like science fiction? The fact is, Google Glass is already part way there. It won’t take much more for a contact lens to accomplish all this, and more.

Some say that’s just a further extension of Web 2.0, though, because it is still the information flow to you that makes the difference. I suggest it is 3.0 because the interface is gathering the information on your behalf and sending it to the internet in a streaming, live fashion BEFORE the web responds with advice and information. 

So what does any of this have to do with business marketing online?

Again… everything.

By utilizing social media, and making it an integral part of your Online Marketing Platform, you are going out to where your prospective customers are “hanging out”, and you are engaging them in a way that no search engine could imagine. You are putting your business in front of them, but doing it in a way that is friendly, engaging and inviting. By using the social media driver properly, you are creating the kind of interaction that Web 2.0 is all about. You’re moving your business into the 21st century.

In a nutshell, Web 1.0 was about being found by your actively searching customers.  Web 2.0 is about you positively engaging with your customers, whether they are looking for you at that minute or not.