Welcome to Web 3.0, The Contextual Web
“The Attention Internet” we’ve lived in for the past decade has been all about the business of amassing eyeballs at content sites, either through massive scale—Yahoo, AOL/Huffington Post, You Tube—or by providing search for content---Google, Bing, Ask. The way you made a lot of money was to engage a lot of eyeballs.
The Attention Internet has been about getting us to go somewhere on the Internet and pay attention on a mass scale.
Evidence: have a look at the top 10 brands online in 2011, according to Neilsen:
Rank Web Brand Unique Visitors (000) month
1 Google 153,441
2 Facebook 137,644
3 Yahoo! 130,121
4 MSN/Bing 106,692
5 YouTube 106,692
6 Microsoft 83,691
7 AOL Network 74,633
8 Wikipedia 62,097
9 Apple 61,608
10 Ask Network 60,552
(source: Neilsen Wire 12/28/11)
Facebook, Microsoft and Apple are the only ones that don’t clearly fit into either content or search for content category. But even so, Microsoft and Apple are destinations for learning, and in Apple’s case for buying content at iTunes.
Facebook, of course, is the 800 pound gorilla on the list, amassing a huge plurality of social media visits—again this is content of a sort. It’s certainly a great big site where we spend a lot of attention. That means, of course, that the new versions of the old models of advertising—adjacency, interruption, reach, frequency, bounty—can be applied with ferocious scale.
The lesson we each wished we knew back in 2002 was “it’s all about the eyeballs.” Engage the eyeballs or direct them to where they should be engaged do it on a massive scale, and the rewards are billions and billions of dollars. If I’d only known I wouldn’t have sold the Apple stock and I wouldn’t have scoffed at GOOG at $500 a share.
Now in 2012 it feels like we’re on the middle of a massive transition on the Internet. We see the order of power changing, but it’s not quite clear why. Things are happening—smartphones, apps, the Internet of Things, and of course social networks.
So are we transitioning to “the Social Internet?”
Are social networks the successors to content sites? I don’t think that answer is yes. I believe that social media really began seriously five or six years ago and it’s origin was an organic part of the Web 2.0 movement that began in the early 2000s.
We moved from “The Presentation Web” which was 1.0, to “The Transactional Web,” which is 2.0. Social Media—like e-commerce, e-service, and content strategy—are all aspects of The Transactional Web. We’re just trading social messages and links instead of orders and goods. This Transactional Web 2.0 has led to what’s been called “The Attention Internet,” which is the way companies have made big money in Web 2.0.
Web 2.0 brought social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Ping and so on which also aggregate attention.
Dakota Reese Brown was first person I read who said this. He puts it best when he writes that Web 3.0, which we are transitioning into, is “The Contextual Web.” Context will now be the critical aspect determining what we see, how we exchange messages, read content, how we congregate, and how we deal with brands online.
The shift of device balance towards smartphones and tablets shows how the context of where I am will play a major role deciding with what I’m reading and engaging. But context will be a much more massive frame no matter what device we’re engaged with. When I engage will matter. How I engage with the online experience and other users will matter.
But the biggest frame of context will be our complex, nuanced personal psychology each of us brings along from moment to moment as we consider what to engage with, when and how online.
Yes, sometimes this can be influenced by mass forces like elections and the NFL playoffs. And for the foreseeable future we will still go to big content and big search sites.
But my context is just me, Rohn Jay Miller, puttering through my day, suddenly distracted by a friend’s recommendation of a book on Facebook, jumping into the Ikea online catalog to buy supplies for my new company, trying to get directions to my daughter’s event after school.
With the Internet of Things rolling out we will have cars, set-top boxes and sneakers that will offer us online services. The critical point here, and in all of the Contextual Web, is that it will all be driven by data.
Data, data, data. Big data in the Cloud, little data in my sneakers. Whatever company, brand, government or organization that can pull together my real-time information will be able to influence accurately what my online context is like at any moment.
By using my real-time data, companies and brands will be able offer search results, content, and interruptions and adjacencies that fit my context at that moment much better than The Attention Internet was ever able to do.
There won’t be clear gatekeepers of this data, beyond a few behemoths like Facebook and Goggle. The phone companies will have mobile data, and a wide proliferation of “networks” will glom on to various means of tracking our data and re-selling it, as DSPs and vertical ad networks try to do in the online display marketplace. Perhaps privacy legislation will delay or fracture how The Contextual Web 3.0 rolls out. But data, I think, wants to be free, or at least liberally available.
General Electric, Nike, Comcast, Ford and others will collect data from their appliances, set-top boxes and cars we buy, so there will quickly be a lot of emphasis on vertical contexts.
Within Web 3.0 social networks will be the critical conduits through which we design and stumble through our individual contexts, veering out to increasingly social content experiences built by big content providers like Yahoo, AOL, newspapers, blogs and so on.
Amazon and eBay have already become large media experiences as we come to enjoy the act of browsing as much as the act of buying. For example, eBay Motors says 95% of traffic doesn’t come to buy a car as much as look at cars. They’re a media channel that sells ads more than they are a marketplace for cars.
For brands and the companies they represent the Contextual Web 3.0 will mean much deeper cross-department integration. Product and Marketing are already the same team, if companies recognize it or not. Sales, Customer Service, Manufacturing and Distribution will all need to be wired into the company’s Web 3.0 in order to respond in real-time or near real-time.
The data is there. Now we just have to organize and use it effectively, efficiently--and ethically.
I'm a Customer Experience Designer and speaker, connecting clients with customers through Service Design thinking. I study online influence and have done research and writing on that subject for the past several years. I speak in public, often by invitation. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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