The Evolution of the Web



Not too long ago, when the web was young and just hitting mass adoption, we were all astounded at the ability to have information at our fingertips, shifting forever the way we live and work.

The 90s featured an emphasis on community and connecting, and a fascination with how social media is transforming the way people think, communicate and act. As we look into what’s next with today’s web, we see how communities are gathering not just to connect and find each other, but also to find power in their shared voice, raising the bar for what companies will deliver, and the type of service they will receive.

These high-level shifts are happening in record time, and leaders and companies are striving to keep up with the trend, much less make predictions on how to better serve a much more empowered, more demanding customer base with high expectations for customized solutions.

We have compiled a summary of the megatrends impacting the evolution of the web, from Web 1.0 of the 1980-90+ (Mass Adoption of the Web) to Web 2.0 1990s-2010+ (Communities Rule) to Web 3.0 (Communities Raise the Bar), in the hopes that insights from this article will help drive the planning, strategy and execution for these leaders.

1. Technology Evolution: Computer Hardware, Software, Network and Devices

Y2K scare spawned a massive investment in IT, and much of the monies were devoted to the acquisition of new equipment – hardware and software, and new ways of communicating, the internet. With Web 1.0, graphics became sophisticated and complex; databases drove interactive solutions; advances in network, computer and server hardware and software and security drove mass adoption and international expansion.

With Web 2.0, software emphasis was more on groups, membership, segmentation and engagement of users. The emergence of smart phones and tablets and an abundance of apps facilitated the expansion and advancement of social media solutions, and the massive response of the millennial generation in particular shifted forever how we connect and communicate, how we think about expressing ourselves.

As we anticipate the rise of Web 3.0, we will see the evolution of wireless, sensors, geophysical and augmented reality solutions, along with the increased sophistication and integration of devices, databases and software. Together, this will allow companies to process unprecedented volumes of information, including video technology, creating actionable dashboards, with the focus on providing personalized services, leveraging aggregated data, and ultimately better serving the needs of the customer.

2. The Role of Marketing: From Getting a Web Presence to the Rise of Community to Forecasting Needs

The self-service nature of Web 1.0 enabled customers to quickly find information and compare it with other offerings, and even get better tech support about their solution. This is a distinct difference from an age where customers and prospects waited for information to be delivered to them.

Information and automation was the focus, and getting everyone within a corporation to collaboratively update and upload accurate information was no easy task. It changed the mindset of corporate employees at all levels, and also the expectations of customers – companies did not look professional unless the web site looked that way.

With Web 2.0, it was a given that companies would have a web presence. Internal marketing departments focused the integrity of the brand, the alignment of the message, and the technical and process hurdles of getting all the information out there, to the right audiences. Independent communities and those sanctioned and supported by companies began to emerge, and began to increasingly impact the adoption curve of products and services. Managing the messages around product and service options became a challenge and an opportunity for companies.

With the emergence of Web 3.0, online communities continue to impact whether a product is adopted or panned as well as which features and products are most desirable now and in the future. But with this next phase, Marketing will leverage the community data and begin to interpret the immediate and ongoing needs of the community, and works with internal departments to deliver to those needs.

3. The Access of Control: From Corporate Leaders to Empowered Communities

With Web 1.0, Corporate leaders dictated web communication strategy and timing. The company webmaster and IT department and marketing and other execs decided whether information is up and what information is put up.

With Web 2.0, IT works with marketing to create interactive communities (or not) and Marketing works with active users and other stakeholders for input and feedback.

With the emergence of Web 3.0, Self-managed communities are increasingly working independently of companies to make purchase recommendations, and corporate execs are scrambling to work with these communities to manage brands and messages and get the right information to the right people. Authentic and proactive communication will support any necessary damage control measures and the goodwill of these powerful stakeholder communities.

4. The Quest for Content, Including Managing Spam: Sifting the Wheat from the Chaff

With Web 1.0, there was little spam, as content is driven and approved by corporate contacts. But, with Web 2.0, content is created by a partnership of company and community and the messages of community members sometimes needed to be managed by the company. Filtering out quality content and leaders was sometimes a challenge. As Web 3.0 emerges, Company-approved ambassadors and influencers partner with companies to provide quality content, mostly unbiased, to growing communities, and Spam gets more anticipated and managed as these trusted ambassadors and influencers are valued, and spammers are increasingly shunned and sanctioned.

5. The Proliferation of Devices: From PCs to Smart Phones and Tablets to TV-Mobile-Computer Integration

Web 1.0 was marked by the mass adoption of the personal computer, even for those not in technology. It also included updated servers and software and security and network access which would support users having multiple computers. Web 2.0 saw the mass adoption of smart phones and tablets, and the obsession with always being online, playing apps, connecting with communities. This mass adoption and rapid advancements in device technology and integration will lead to the integration of TV, laptop, tablets, mobile, a Web 3.0 emerging trait.

6. Security Challenges: The Direct Correlation Between Expansion and Security Challenges

It was easy when Security and IT issues are managed by companies in Web 1.0. There weren’t that many security issues, viruses were existent, but only a problem for those too lax. And with Web 2.0, companies managed the security of communities they create or sponsor and independent vendors managed the security for independent communities. With the rapid adoption of computers and devices, network and software security issues increasingly became a problem, but there were also a host of solutions. As we emerge into Web 3.0, proactive security measures will be implemented, but need to be continually updated as hackers and others get more creative and resourceful.

7. Performance Hurdles: Keeping Up with Insatiable Demand

The performance hurdles of Web 1.0 were generally solved by updating equipment: corporations updating IT, network and software and users updating and purchasing computers and internet access plans. With Web 2.0, the volumes of users and variable usage, IT and performance needs to be proactively managed by corporate team and independent vendors and again, users had to upgrade their equipment – namely adopting smart phones and increased data plans. As we evolve into Web 3.0, Data will become increasingly overwhelming, especially with the rise of video and the dynamic updating and customization of data. Users need better devices and contracts to get full service and access and corporations need to have the hardware, software and bandwidth to deliver what the customers want, and the leadership to proactively manage and anticipate the messaging to the user, and serve the needs of the user and community, as they define it.

8. Serving the Customer: The Evolving Expectations of the Customer

In Web 1.0, corporations needed to have the hardware, software and bandwidth to deliver what the customers want, which was not easy, particularly for companies not in the technology space. Leaders learned to proactively manage and anticipate the messaging to the user, and serve the needs of the user and community, as they define it. They got more sophisticated about it with the rise of Web 2.0, when it was so much about eyeballs, communities, and the rapid spread of messages-that-needed-to-be-managed, sometimes community takes off, serving the needs of the members, independent what companies want their community to hear. With the emergence of Web 3.0, there is more content and larger communities serving more people, who range in their level of participation and involvement. The content and the community help members define ongoing needs and find offerings that meet their needs, raising the expectations of all customers, and therefore, the deliverables of the companies that serve them.

9. Delivery to the Door: As the Volume of Sales Increase, Operational Challenges also Grow

With Web 1.0, eCommerce solutions were brought online, increasing sales of some companies, and putting other brick-and-mortar companies out of business. Products got delivered using standard delivery methods, as customers and companies slowly adopted the eCommerce way, and delivery vendors adapt to the new ways of customers. With the communities of Web 2.0 there were more users and prospects and additional vetting of products and recommendations, generating confidence in purchase decisions, and an increase in ecommerce success stories. ‘The ‘Dell Way’ was embraced by some companies who have quantities of standard materials, preparing for custom-built solutions on demand. Standard delivery options become more efficient, serving more customers. With Web 3.0, we are anticipating an increased volume of eCommerce sales and it becomes important to efficiently deliver to that last mile – Think ‘The Dell Way’ and map with supply chain innovations to optimally deliver personalized solutions. New delivery methods leveraging standard delivery options, software-company-turned delivery-company options (like Amazon and Google) and entrepreneurial options will emerge and grow.

10. Shift in Focus and Profits

With Web 1.0, Retail goes online, E-mail and web get integrated, Messages are easily communicated and updated, and the focus is on getting the information right, and getting it out there, easily available. Money comes from Volume sales of standard offerings, new business generation as information gets to the masses cheaply, and more repeat business/better upsell, although with the expense of conversion of data, upgrades of equipment and staff, etc., profits are marginal for most companies as a result.

With Web 2.0 and the rising influence of communities and their impact on product and service offerings as well as corporate brand, the focus is on ‘eyeballs’ and advertising dollars, not necessarily on revenues.

With Web 3.0, user analytics on  products/ services/features, will continue to guide company strategy as they better understand the aggregated community/user needs. The focus is on profits based on better serving the needs of the customer and revenues will come from better serving immediate needs of customers and even anticipate upcoming needs and trends.

What are your predictions on what will happen with Web 3.0 and beyond? E-mail us at with your thoughts.


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