D7 Ushers in Web 3.0 Era

Web 2.0 is dead, dead, dead. Thank God!

Last night, in Carlsbad, Calif., D7 Conference organizers Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher declared: “The Web 2.0 era over.” Hell, it’s about time someone did, and why not at a big, splashy conference?

What? You’re still living Web 2.0? Walt and Kara write:

What’s the seminal development that’s ushering in the era of Web 3.0? It’s the real arrival, after years of false predictions, of the thin client, running clean, simple software, against cloud-based data and services. The poster children for this new era have been the Apple iPhone and iPod touch, which have sold 37 million units in less than two years and attracted 35,000 apps and one billion app downloads in just nine months.

The excitement and energy around the iPhone and the touch—and the software and services being written for them—remind us of the formative years of the PC and PC software, in the early 1980s, or the early days of the Web in the mid-1990s.

It’s a big deal. I’ve been saying something similar for years in different terms—the Web platform. So I’ll go further and declare—again—that the PC era is dead. Long live the Web platform, er, Web 3.0. In July 2008 I declared that “Apple has launched the defining platform of the early 21st century. The PC is dead—or will be. Long live the smartphone, er, iPhone.”

D7 made a bold statement with opening night guests Twitter founders Biz Stone and Evan Williams. Walt and Kara carefully choose who gets this coveted kick-off position. Last year, Microsoft top executives Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates opened the event.

From one perspective, the list of D7 speakers isn’t as illustrious as previous years. It’s apparently not a Who’s Who of high-tech. Twitter is a free service—seemingly Web 1.0 dot-com with no business model. But in context of the Web 3.0 proclamation, the speakers belong on a Who and What Will Be list. They’re highly appropriate to D7’s statement of purpose.

The speakers represent the intersection of mobility, information, new media and cloud computing. As I write, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson is on stage. Top executives from Palm, Nokia and Research in Motion also are scheduled guests. Microsoft and Yahoo CEOs will talk about search. Then there are representatives from Huffington Post, News Corp., NBC and Washington Post; they represent new media’s dramatic dislocation of the old news vanguard.

Three Eras of Computing
Walt and I had breakfast on Saturday morning, when he spoke to me about this Web 3.0 concept. I’m loving it, because I already believed it. Web 3. is inevitable. Its mandate: Access to information anytime, anywhere and on anything.

I predict that Windows 7 will be Microsoft’s last big operating system. The PC must decline before connected mobile devices, primarily the smartphone and netbook. The smartphone particularly is more personal than the PC. Mobiles will replace computers as the most widely used personal devices. Their days as mere adjuncts are numbered.

The transition now underway has been long coming. Three companies define the last three computing eras:

  • IBM, and mainframes
  • Microsoft, and PCs
  • Google, Web-connected devices

During the mainframe era, information and computing capacity was confined to large and expensive computers. The PC ended the era of mainframe dominance and made information more broadly available and for lower cost. The Web 3.0 era makes information even more broadly available and computing is much cheaper. Can you say free?

The transitional eras overlapped and will continue to. Mainframes and PCs co-existed for a long time, and in many large companies they still do. The mainframe didn’t go away because of the PC but simply diminished. Neither will the PC disappear during Web 3.0 era, but its relevance will diminish.

To repeat and emphasize, three attributes define each computing era:

  • More people had access to more information than the previous era
  • The costs of computing and access to information dramatically declined
  • Each era further democraticized information and empowered people to do what only companies could a generation earlier

It’s Personal This Time
The three attributes, particularly the last one, are more pronounced during Web 3.0 than the other two eras. Social media is replacing the news media, as services like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube let people self publish and self broadcast. My daughter started broadcasting on YouTube in June 2008. Her YouTube channel now has more than 5,600 subscribers. LOL, she’s contributing to the demise of old and Web 1.0/2.0 news media. Hey, until April 30, 2009, I was editor of two blogs. Layoffs, baby. Blame the teenagers!

Today, my daughter and many other self-broadcasters and self-publishers use PCs to post to services like YouTube. But where do they create and consume most of their information? The cell phone. Tweet, text and touch.

The day is quickly coming when my daughter and other self-broadcasters will shoot and edit video on the cell phone and upload to YouTube. The pipes are opening up, making this transition all the easier. Bigger bandwidth brought Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 computing to the PC, giving people more compelling reasons than applications to buy personal computers. Now those big pipes are coming to handsets and smaller notebooks and netbooks.

AT&T recently upgraded 3G bandwidth in my area; I can feel the difference. Applications and content speedily download. Suddenly, I’m not frustrated by waiting, waiting, waiting for the mobile Web. The Internet is always on, always present. That makes me—and you—more connected.

Four attribues define Web 3.0’s sudden appearance:

  • Pipes are opening: Wireless Internet access matches and even exceeds wired access
  • Web platform content is pretty much available anytime, anywhere and on anything
  • Mobile application stores serve up programs as good as or better than for PCs
  • Mobile devices expand social interaction, community and self expression

Web 3.0 is all about mobility. Handset manufacturers ship more mobiles each year— about 1 billion units, even in global recession—than the entire PC install base. Simply by the numbers, the mobile is the more attractive platform device. Cell phones are the most personal devices that people carry. Subcategory smartphone is even more personal, in part because of how the keyboard empowers personal expression and social interaction.

Walt and Kara were right to declare the Web 3.0 era—and around mobile platforms. I have a question for them: How many people are only using smartphones at this year’s D7 Conference?

In March, Gizmodo’s Jack Loftus observed at the South by South West conference: “The tech and media savvy hipsters currently at SXSW could very well be a snapshot of things to come. The conference is chock full of smartphones, but there’s nary a notebook (or netbook) in sight.”

What about D7? I’ve asked the question. Could someone from the conference answer? 🙂