Web 4.0 Is For Wankers: Stop The Madness!

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Web 4.0 Is For Wankers: Stop The Madness!


Apologies in advance for using the term wanker. It's probably the most pejorative word I've ever used in an article title. I'm likely going to regret this someday, but it's been a long week and a little venting never hurt anybody (famous last words).

On with the show.

I've never been a big fan of the term "Web 2.0". I have no issues with some of the underlying concepts, I just don't like the term.

I wrote an article about why:

Web 2.0, Web 3.0 and Beyond: Villainous Version Numbers

I disliked the term so much, when I spoke at the MIT Venture Capital conference back in 2006, I began my opening remarks with: "Personally I think the Web 2.0 label sucks...". (the title of the panel had the term "Web 2.0" in it). Once I got that out of my system, I felt better and had a pretty good time.

So, you can imagine my chagrin when I found a reference to the term Web 4.0 on TechCrunch recently in an article by Erick Schonfield. Now granted, the article wasn't about Web 4.0. But still...The reference in the article even puts an approximate date on the Web 4.0 movement. We should expect to see it around 2020 (so says the visual in the article). Oh, and in case you were wondering, Web 2.0 was the "social web", Web 3.0 is the "semantic web" and Web 4.0 is going to be the "intelligent web". (No, I'm not making this up).

I guess the web community better get cranking on all the point releases in between Web 2.0 and Web 4.0. We've got some work to do.

People, can we please all stop the madness with trying to put version numbers on the web?

(And yes, I see the irony in the fact that my call to action itself propagates the term Web 4.0 by using it -- CURSES!).

Update: A couple of other articles on the related topic of Web X.0 as a label:

Charles Cooper (CNet): Time to dump the Web 2.0 sobriquet

An alternate view from Stowe Boyd: Another voice calling for the end of Web 2.0

Posted by Dharmesh Shah on Fri, Apr 25, 2008


I am back from Web20 Expo in SF and my head is full of all the stuff. I want to go on record, I love all thats part of Web2.0 but I agree with you about the version madness.
Putting a version number to plan software releases way out into the future is so Web1.0 ;)
Mitchell Baker of Mozilla spoke elegantly about her vision for Firefox as a platform and questioned the word "browser - we don't browse the web anymore, we create it together and live it" and the word "mobile - I am mobile and not my cell phone without me".
I wonder if why will should be stuck to what evolves to the new face of the Internet to call it versions of the web?

posted on Friday, April 25, 2008 at 9:54 PM by Sudha Jamthe

Giving version numbers to the Web has just about as much sense as giving version numbers to Web applications. Guess why there's no Gmail 2.0 or Wikipedia 3.14.

posted on Saturday, April 26, 2008 at 2:19 AM by Berislav Lopac

yeah, aren't public facing version numbers old school these days?

posted on Saturday, April 26, 2008 at 10:21 AM by todd g

It's not only about "school", it's just practical matter. In the old days, when software was distributed on physical media (CDs, and diskettes before that, if anyone remembers), it made sense to launch new features in packages, as it would be impractical to publish a new CD each time something new was added. Numbering those editions was the most practical way to label then, although software publishers often tried to be creative (I remember how FileMaker went through FileMaker II and FileMaker Pro before they settled on the standard decimal versioning scheme).
When it comes to Web applications, since they are hosted centrally and all the users get the same features at the same time, fixing bugs and adding new features is as simple as making a central code build. This way the product improvement process becomes continuous rather than incremental, so that versioning numbers serve no practical purpose.
Sticking with the "Web 2.0" and similar labels is just trying to apply an old system to a new practice, which is rarely known to work.

posted on Saturday, April 26, 2008 at 11:46 AM by Berislav Lopac

Bersilav: Thanks for your comment. You are right about web application version numbering.
But, the issue here is even broader. We're not even trying to assign versions to an individual application -- but the entire web! Shorthand is useful -- and Web 2.0 was a good way to capture what was "new". But the Web X.0 thing has gotten old and outlived its utility.

posted on Saturday, April 26, 2008 at 12:48 PM by

Dharmesh, that was my point exactly -- it doesn't make sense to apply a labeling system to a whole if it doesn't fit its parts. Even Tim O'Reilly lists a number of elements that define Web 2.0, and very few applications have them all, with many having a mix of "Web 2.0" and "Web 1.0" elements.
Web is simply Web, one continuously evolving platform, and in regards to it any "versioning system" creates more confusion then clarity.

posted on Saturday, April 26, 2008 at 1:40 PM by Berislav Lopac

Bersilav: Seems like we're both saying the same thing.
Only, you're more articulate than I am and express it better.

posted on Saturday, April 26, 2008 at 1:49 PM by

Oh, I wouldn't say that -- it's just that I'm looking for a rational explanation for my (and of many others) gut feeling. :)

posted on Saturday, April 26, 2008 at 2:01 PM by Berislav Lopac

wait guys i thought that 2.0 was referring to the second wave of VC investment in the web after the first bubble burst and they finished licking their wounds :-p . Based on that i think 2020 is probably a good bet for 4.0. And you know it's kind of bad to jump from 2.0 to 3.0 i mean no revisions in between? Then again by that point im pretty sure shaving razors will have 20 blades... i think ill just grow a beard.

posted on Saturday, April 26, 2008 at 9:42 PM by val pishva

Another "web 2.0 is dead" article by a friend:

posted on Sunday, April 27, 2008 at 7:09 AM by Jorge Bernal

Actually, if you read my post you'd see that I was arguing against Charlie Cooper. I like the Web 2.0 handle fine.

posted on Sunday, April 27, 2008 at 11:46 AM by Stowe Boyd

Stowe: My apologies. It was late and I wasn't paying enough attention. Reference is fixed now.

posted on Sunday, April 27, 2008 at 12:28 PM by

I agree wholeheartedly with your argument, Mr. Shah.
Here's a post I've written a while ago on the exact same issue:

posted on Saturday, May 24, 2008 at 4:51 PM by Pasha Bitz

Actually yes it is for wankers. Not the version mania, but Web 2.0. 
Its public relations 101. zzzzzzzzzzz . Uhhhhhhhhh how can I monetize this? Someone? Anyone? Cue crickets chirping.

posted on Thursday, February 26, 2009 at 10:31 PM by Alex Lambropoulos

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