Is Web 3.0 just hype, or are people actually working with these technologies? Do people even understand what Web 3.0 is? That is what we endeavored to find out when in June 2011, we did a survey of about 200 people to see if they understood and were applying Web 3.0. Some of the answers we got back were expected, but we also did get some surprises.

I should first tell you about the survey population because it does have an impact on some of the data we collected. The survey went out to my list of about 10,000 people who are interested in collaboration, read my blog or have signed up in some way. The survey also went out to the 40,000 subscribers of Elearning! Magazine. What I would say about both groups is that they are pretty sophisticated technically, and they are early adopters of technology (see Figure 1). I believe it is this fact alone that accounts for the surprising number of respondents who said they were already doing Web 3.0.

Figure 1: 40% of the Survey Population Considers Themselves Early Adopters

When we asked about what tools they were currently using for collaboration and online community (see Figure 2), it was clear to see that social networks are now very popular.

Figure 2: Current Web 2.0 Tool Usage

This was not always the case. When we did a similar survey in 2009, only about 15% of those we surveyed were using social networks for work. Data from a 2010 Elearning study showed that 67% were using social networking and collaboration tools for business, and that number jumped to 83% this year. When viewed the other way, the data also supports this finding. When we asked who uses social networks for personal use only, in 2010 it was 10% and by 2011 it had dropped to 6%. Last year 23% said they were planning to use social networks and collaboration technologies; this year it was only 11%.

To support the claim of “early adopters,” 72% of those surveyed own notebook computers and 59% had smartphones, but only 20% had iPads or tablets. In software, 71% used blogs, wikis or forums, and 62% did audio or video podcasts. When asked about team workspaces (SharePoint was given as the example), 61% said they currently used them. These tools were used most often to find new information and connect with colleagues.

What is Web 3.0?

In our survey we clearly defined Web 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0 so that those taking the survey all had the same frame of reference. The definitions we used in the survey are below:

  • Web 1.0 is defined as organizations publishing content to people to inform them. In learning, this would be best illustrated by an instructor-led classroom, where students absorb what is pushed to them.
  • Web 2.0 is defined as people publishing to each other to inform, work and socialize with one another. In learning, this would best be illustrated by a dispersed team collaborating on projects via social networks, group workspaces and/or communities of practices.
  • Web 3.0 is defined as people and machines publishing to and interacting with each other to inform and augment each other's work. In learning, this could be a learner who is recommended courses or solutions by the system for work or browsing he may have conducted. The content presented to the learner could be augmented with multiple layers of content, i.e., mobile application with location-based information augmenting a map.

61% of the survey population claims to have done a good job implementing Web 1.0, 37% Web 2.0 and 29% Web 3.0. This last finding was something of a surprise, as most of those surveyed (83%) did not believe Web 3.0 was here, but would be in 2015. 55% of those who implemented Web 2.0 say it helped collaboration.

Three quarters of those surveyed saw Web 3.0 as “the intelligent web,” “the semantic web” and that it included natural language search and location awareness, but 63% felt its biggest benefit was more intelligent, relevant and personalized search. As a matter of fact, this was so important that 50% of those surveyed said that it was OK for Google, Facebook and Twitter to invade their privacy as long as it gave them better search results. Although I feel privacy is a thing of the past, I am not clear that I would give these vendors access to more information about me than they already have (that I know about).

Web 3.0 Budget

Not too many companies have a budget item for this, but if you ask who owns the Web 3.0 projects, it is clear that IT believe they do at this time. This was also true of social networks in 2009, yet two years later, when the management team understands what their value is, they believe they not only control the projects but the budget. This pattern is repeating itself with Web 3.0, so even though IT own it now, within two years, as the value becomes more apparent, the management team will own the Web 3.0 projects/budget.

There are always barriers to the adoption of technology; Figure 3 below shows that time, budget and resource constraints are by far the biggest barriers in adoption of Web 3.0.

Figure 3: Barriers to Web 3.0 Adoption

Technologies like augmented reality, virtual worlds, multi-player games, 3D learning, gamification and face/voice recognition were only used by 7% of those surveyed and two-thirds had no plans to use these technologies within 24 months. Personal portals, simulations, mobile learning and smart search are currently used by 17% of those surveyed, and another 48% believe they will use these technologies within 24 months. We believe some of this response is being driven by the large number of smart devices (iPad, tablets, smart phones, etc.) that are moving into the enterprise, often brought in as personal devices by employees.

Because of the survey respondents’ role as early adopters, 73% felt Web 3.0 would have some or a large impact on education. When asked the effect Web 3.0 would have on education (corporate training), 55% believed that most learning will occur at a distance and be available 24/7. In addition, people would learn together not because of age or geography but based on topic and interests.
Right now IT is in control of Web 3.0 in most organizations, and Web 3.0 could be a boon for ailing IT organizations because of access to corporate data and the high levels of integration needed for Web 3.0 to be successful.


Web 3.0 is not here yet, and not everyone even agrees on what it is. I see it as functional additions to Web 2.0 rather than a dramatic restructuring of the Web. Three years ago no one knew what an iPad was. Who is to say that three years from now we will not be using location-based augmented reality applications on smart devices on a daily basis?

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