Imagine starting up a new laptop and automatically having your personal files, pictures and address books are at your fingertips—and you didn’t even have to transfer or load a single application or document. With a few clicks and a single log-in, your information is right there.
Or think about how fast and easy it would be to collect your favorite applications, files, music, photo volumes and more—to digitally save and maintain them in a single remote location and then be able to access all of them from any handheld device or computer anytime, anywhere.
Sound intriguing? These scenarios are more than just interesting ideas. They will be pervasive in a few years with the evolution of Web 3.0 and cloud computing. The implications of this shift are far reaching for not only consumers but also businesses, especially software publishers and other high-tech companies with a significant Web presence. In fact, the paradigm for e-commerce and the business models that support it have already started to change.
Early in 2000, Web 1.0 was all about putting up a Web site. Connectivity varied. Many people had dial ups and bimodal communication was difficult. Software publishers were some of the earliest adopters of Web 1.0, testing multi-channel business strategies by launching online stores and going direct-to-consumer for the first time.
At the same time, service provider models emerged as the computing industry began moving away from client server software to test software-as-a-service models. In this environment, innovative companies saw a unique opportunity to provide hosted online services to help companies more efficiently manage traditional business processes.
Gradually, Web 2.0 came on the scene. Over the last few years, it has changed the nature of the Internet. Supported by the rapid adoption of broadband super-speed connections, bimodal communication has become a standard.
With the introduction of Web 2.0, the Internet has become much more than a destination to make an online purchase. It has become a gathering place where social communities are formed, personal information is shared, and people dialogue and reconnect with old acquaintances. The launch of social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook have taken on mass appeal among end users.
Once again the Web is changing how business is done. Social networking, for instance, is creating a whole new way for software game publishers to monetize the online sales of their products. Community is fast becoming one of the strongest mechanisms used in gaming to promote adoption and commerce. The Web 2.0 technology is drawing consumers into a game through free-to-play offers and then keep them engaged by spending a few dollars on new outfits, weapons and other virtual gear, chatting online with friends, watching videos and more—and accomplishing all this without ever leaving the game experience.
By effectively tapping into these viral gaming communities, publishers can merchandise expansion packs or sequels, run viral marketing programs, use a common wallet across games to support micro-transactions and sell third-party content. It is in this completely interactive online scenario—where commerce, community and connection to the consumer merge—that more and more of today’s game profits are made.
Many industry experts believe that Web 3.0 will be even more significant in its potential to create change and opportunity for the software industry. It has the power, for instance, to redefine both the technology and economics of how software is sold.
The speed at which the evolution from Web 2.0 to Web 3.0 occurs will depend in large part on the capacity of the Web infrastructure. The high-speed broadband that supported the evolution of Web 2.0 will no longer be enough. Web 3.0 will require the build out of multiplex broadband networks. There are natural limits to the global network infrastructure, however, much like constraints experienced by producers of CPUs. Just as that industry has moved to parallel processing via multiple cores per socket and threads, the Internet is also following that trend. Browsers from Mozilla and Microsoft already support threading.
Even in its early stages, Web 3.0 is already changing the face of computing by enabling users to tap into software and services stored in data centers rather than on a user’s PC, a model which already has become widely known in IT circles as cloud computing.
As part of cloud computing, user applications are being transformed into rich Internet applications. Instead of pedestrian computing functionality—like conducting online searches with words—Web 3.0 offers users a richer application tier with far more logic. The breakthrough is when the technology itself is aggregated from the client and put on the Web. In this environment, software-as-a-service models will be able to be developed and deployed much more quickly and cost effectively because the infrastructure for development—the code—will live in the clouds.
In a Web 3.0 world, the way users experience the Internet will once again be different. Because content and applications will live up in the “cloud,” users will be able to experience the Web on a phone, or move from device to device, instead of being limited to a PC. Advancements in usability will be key and will need to catch up in order for this new multiplatform paradigm to succeed.
Not only will Internet users face changes with the emergence of Web 3.0, but so will companies conducting commerce over the Web. Whole e-business models will be revisited.
Think about the software industry for a minute and how its development, marketing and sales approaches might be impacted by a cloud-computing model. For example, how should publishers structure their applications to transition them from a user to an Internet application? How will the profile of the customer change? Will the customer be the service provider who hosts the applications in the cloud or the end user accessing the applications from the cloud? How will customers pay for their applications, by click or subscription?
In the near term, it is true, there may be more questions than answers where Web 3.0 is concerned. What we know with certainty, however, is that Web 3.0 is more open and collaborative than any technology of the past, and it is definitely a critical force in the future of computing.
Ted Hoy is vice president of product at Digital River.