Mar 22

Nat Torkington

Nat Torkington

The Future of Web 2.0

I've been in Singapore this week, giving presentations on Web 2.0 and helping the government's Infocomm Development Agency with their plans to foster startups in the country. I often get asked about the future of Web 2.0--is it a bubble, when will it be replaced by something new? Fortunately we've done a lot of work on this at the O'Reilly Radar lately, and I'm able to lay out a clear vision of the future for them. It goes something like this ...

2004: Web 2.0 coined, the movement named.

2006: "You" named TIME Magazine's "Person of the Year", a tribute to Web 2.0.

2007: You are here.

2008: Firefox 3.14159 ships (those geeks at Mozilla just won't be able to help themselves, and the resulting flamewar and developer resignations over whether to call it "PiFox" or not will lead to it being dubbed "PyreFox"). This version adds offline support to Ajax web applications. People will want to call the result "Web 3.0" but that term was claimed in advance by the Semantic Web so the blogosphere will quickly decide to call this Web 2.86 but the period will be quickly quickly lost (to the condemnation of purists) and the media will refer to "Web 286".

2009: Semantic web researchers develop a deductive calculator that solves arbitrary problems using the math knowledge encoded in the web. It would be heavily adopted by school children to solve their homework but it will require the problems be expressed in TeX markup and the only papers to have been expressed in the format will be from a obscure Russian grad school that specializes in the geometric expression of information theory results in Riemann spaces. The imminent arrival of Web 3.0 will be predicted.

2009: The fascination with widgets leads Firefox 4 to integrate with the native operating system's desktop to offer a new cross-platform widget environment. Out of respect for the diligent workers still building the Semantic Web, it is agreed that we'll reserve "3.0" for their work. Bloggers skip that number and go straight to Web 3.1.

2010: Semantic Web developers release a new XML format. This will be hailed as the final step to the completion of Web 3.0.

2010: The growing proliferation of complex user interfaces built with Ajax, Flex, and anything else web developers can get their hands on will lead to growing calls for standardisation. The W3C will fail to be able to do this, but a consensus API and widget set from the leading Ajax toolkits will emerge and be implemented by Firefox 5 and then, several months later, IE 12. Because it's almost 100% of the way to Tim's vision of the Internet Operating system, he'll argue (and win) that it should be called Web 95.

2011: Semantic Web researchers will unveil a game that tricks kids into adding tuples to an RDF data store. Despite being hailed as the gateway to Web 3.0, all that will result is the world's most complete database of Pokemon characters.

2012: The clandestine Mozilla thin client system will launch--an entire bootable platform, built on Linux, that only exists to run the web server. The war over whether it should be GNOME or KDE will have been settled by producing two versions, which hampers adoption rates initially. Finally the two projects will be forced to merge or kill the best chance they have to overthrow Windows ("2011 is the year of the Linux desktop", headlines will pronounce) and the GNODE (as it will be known)-powered Firefox 6 will sweep the world. Headlines pronounce Web 98.

2013: A long delay will pass without much innovation, during which time Firefox 6 will achieve near-complete market penetration before the arrival of malware targeting it. The Mozilla team, caught between bug fixes and new features, will struggle to finish Firefox 7. Their solution will be to acquire Opera and release it on top of OpenSolaris as an "Enterprise-ready Firefox". The resulting fragmentation of the web (thought to be over after IE 13 was retired when Microsoft turned into a pure services company in 2012) results in chaos. Mozilla will promise but never-deliver a web portability tool dubbed "No Trouble", and in its honour wags will dub this era "Web NT".

2013: Semantic Web researchers will unveil a new RDF database for Java 6 Enterprise Edition ("Raging Marmot"). Parties will be thrown in honour of the arrival of Web 3.0.

2015: Mozilla will EOL their Opera line, integrate the few remaining features they liked into Firefox. To win back the faith of their users, they'll invest heavily in designers and UI specialists. The resulting focus on user experience will cause this incarnation of the web to be known as "Web XP".

2020: After many years of development and malware fighting, Mozilla will drastically revise downward the feature set for Firefox 7. They'll skip version 7, and release "Firefox X". X will support RSS for blogs, IM, twitter, and the new communication system that flashes updates from your friends every 2 seconds in yellow on black 64pt type as you work. "Crack", as the system will be called, will be so addictive that it drives sales of Firefox X through the roof (the Mozilla Corporation will have burned through its cash reserves attempting to get Firefox 7 out the door and must consequently put a price tag on X). From the profits and resulting IPO Mozilla will launch the Mozilla Benevolence Fund, dedicated to solving disease, eliminating hunger, and spreading warm fuzzies in the third world. Within six months, the body count of Crack users found dead in the glow of their screens (unable to leave because of the addictive sense of connection provided by Crack) will turn public opinion and Wall Street against Mozilla but the genie is out of the bottle. As the corpses stack up in city streets, the professional time-wasting class known as Knowledge Workers will have been eliminated from the world. We'll return to a hunter-gatherer-like society in which the strong survive and the weak are feasted upon. As civilization crumbles, bards will proclaim we are able to see into a new world that's free of offices and cities, a world where mankind lives in rolling green fields and cloud-filled skies. In honour of this view of the world, the bards proclaim the age of Web Vista.

2022: The last Semantic Web researcher announces a Sudoku solver that operates on RDF-expressed puzzles. The failure of the last functioning laptop (a milspec Pentium from 2008) is all that prevents the arrival of Web 3.0.

(Update: Closed comments Aug 1, 2007 due to spam)

tags: web 2.0  | comments: 37   | Sphere It

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Comments: 37

  Matthias Zeller [03.22.07 10:10 PM]

The best Blog post I have read in a long time. Maybe the last one as well since all Blogs get replaced by 140 character Twitter posts very soon. Experts blame MTV and ADD.

  Theo Tonca [03.22.07 10:42 PM]

Hilarious! In a few years time you may be deemed the new nostradamus.

  Danny [03.23.07 01:42 AM]


Timeline a little out: I'm at the vapourware stage with your prediction for 2011, an RDF-based Sudoku solver appeared over a year ago...

  Chrono Cr@cker [03.23.07 04:35 AM]

A well written piece. Good job.

  Roy Schestowitz [03.23.07 05:15 AM]

Never look ahead more than 5 years. That's what a smart adult once told me. But it has a value of amusement nonetheless.

  CoStick [03.23.07 05:37 AM]

The year 2008: the Semantic Web dominates the Net and tagclouds become dynamically interactive and intuitive. Search engine N1 is... no Google.

  Nikesh [03.23.07 06:08 AM]

Not a good idea to comment on future :)

  m@ik [03.23.07 06:51 AM]

Awesome! Thanks for that great post. Web 3.0 here we come... :)

  webME [03.23.07 07:03 AM]

you forgot Web ME, the failure that caused the great IT depression and the arisal of myspace generation

  Robert Eckstein [03.23.07 07:04 AM]

Oh, I needed that this morning, Nat. Thanks! Don't forget that Web Vista will repeatedly ask permission to roll the fields of grass and slightly move the clouds.

- Bob

  Michael Sparks [03.23.07 01:45 PM]

Nat, is this a subtle way of suggesting you have little faith in semantic web technologies? :-D

Nice light relief from some of the more "taking themselves too seriously" web 2.0 predictions :-D

  Coty [03.24.07 09:40 PM]

Is "the world's most complete database of Pokemon characters" not enough?


  wayou [03.25.07 01:17 AM]

Really funny, and partly realistic, and what about O'Reilly president3.0 of the web ? the blogigarchy is on the road !

  jERRYcULLET [03.26.07 02:33 AM]

Not bad. at least we can expect it~hehe

  David Moss [03.26.07 10:16 AM]


Very funny! Except your timing is off: I think this is all going to take place in the next two years!

  Joe Smith [03.26.07 03:25 PM]


  Jim Hendler [03.27.07 05:26 PM]

Hey, I coined Web 42.0 for when the Web can answer the question of life, the universe and everything...
p.s. What you're really going to hate is that one of my former students wrote an OWL (RDF-based) Sudoku player back in August '06 -- boy did you miss that one... see for details.

  Mohamed Bishr [03.28.07 07:04 AM]

hilarious! but I think is happening much sooner! Sudoku is already there, Web 3.0 immediately follows , hold your breath

  Benedict [05.08.07 07:40 PM]

Interesting, but clicking on John Batelle's pic on the top right corner was interesting. There is so much copyright nonsense that makes me wonder. In today's digital photography world, why are people SO paranoid about copyright on this non-so-impressive picture? Can they not be just a bit more open minded?

It says:
"John Battelle
John Battelle speaking during the " Built to Last or Built to Sell: Is There a Difference?" keynote at the 2007 Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco, California.
Photograph copyright James Duncan Davidson. Photograph is licensed for use under the Creative Commons BY-NC-ND license. When using on the web in compliance with the CC BY-NC-ND license, please link the photograph back to its Flickr page, give credit as "James Duncan Davidson", and don’t remove the watermark. For all other uses, or to order prints of this photograph, please contact"

First off, this is John's picture. And what is James going to pay him? And what is the big deal about this unprofessional picture? Why can people just grow up from the old book days? This is the age of Web 2.0, and these amateurs are just acting too old!

  Dave [05.08.07 07:42 PM]

Mozilla is so plain and featureless. Why do people still stick to that dead horse?

  Andy [05.31.07 09:12 PM]

The post is hillarious. Nice to see common sense on the web has not been completely lost in the semantics

I guess all the SW guys have to do now to demonstrate the semantic future is already here is to implement Soduku and a Pokemon character database...

  Alex Szilaghi [06.01.07 09:18 PM]

This is funny. I think Nostradamus didn't see this.

  pegatinas [07.31.07 03:53 PM]

How did I miss this? To quote my favorite webguy: "Web 2.0’s radical openness and transparency, combined with its intensely social nature, are precisely why it brings you the best of nothing."

  Gombos Atila [07.31.07 05:14 PM]

I think that Web 2.0 main objective is making a website more usable, and to make any particular content easier to read and weigh in importance. This all is done with the help of sectioning the elements - like putting the more important elements into the more visible places, or by making the texts bigger. Not to mention the graphics - excellent color schemes, rich surfaces and interesting reflections. I love Web 2.0 and I think that in the next few years will dominate the WWW.

  Geld [07.31.07 11:39 PM]

Interesting article! How could i have missed your presentation in Singapore? And yes, web 2.0 is just starting up here...slowly...taking forever. Not even many web development company here specialize in this except the big agencies.

I'm sure looking forward to more web 2.0 in Singapore and hopefully web 3.0 soon(think it gonna happen much sooner than we expect).

To answer Michael:
You don't really need a specialized web 2.0 software/builder to do the job. It's more of putting the concept into play with the different already available tools. Just my 2 cents.

  ibolya [08.01.07 02:59 AM]

I think a lot of web 2.0 front end/user interface innovations are going to be quite helpful in the enterprise. not really the back end stuff, but i think the biggest problems of SOA has been the user experience. Same goes for all sorts of browser-access apps like the PeopleSoft’s human resource management console etc.

  LS-SAM [08.01.07 03:13 AM]

Great ideas - i think you may be correct! I guess we'll have to wait and see?

  Andy@e articles [08.01.07 08:02 AM]

When computers become sufficiently adept at image interpretation they could be used in airport security screening luggage -- dramatically speeding up the screening process and making it more reliable. Watching how people tap the power of Web 2.0 in the future will continue to be fascinating and it will also help speed the arrival of Web 3.0.

  John [08.01.07 10:14 AM]

No, Mozilla still has its own features.

  John [08.01.07 10:17 AM]

Mozilla still has its unique features.

  William [08.01.07 11:31 AM]

Extremely entertaining and brilliantly written prediction.

The scaring part is however that your scenario isn't impossible. Ok, the names might not be the right ones but I could very easily see some of the problems you are writing about coming true.

  Keith [08.01.07 11:34 AM]

i cant wait for web3.0 to be released.!!! Great article Nat. Keep it up.

  Roy [08.01.07 11:39 AM]

Way to go mozilla firefox. it will continue to be the market leader in web many years to come

  allen [10.19.08 10:53 PM]

I think that Web 2.0 main objective is making a website more usable, and to make any particular content easier to read and weigh in importance.
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