Web 1.0 vs Web 2.0 vs Web 3.0 vs Web 4.0 – A bird’s eye on the evolution and definition

Do you know the answer to the next simple question?

“What do you know about web 2.0 technology?”

What’s so interesting about this video, is the simple fact that none of these so called digital natives are familiar with the term web 2.0. Although they never had a life without technology, they just don’t know how to describe “it”. So to be shure I’ve rounded up some basics on the evolution of the web.

From a historic point of view 1990/1991 is the official birth of the (commercial) Internet, which was available to the general public. From this date on you see al lot of technical and infrastructural evolution. The graphical site evolution of the internet has nice graphics on this evolution.

Web 0.0 – Developping the internet

Web 1.0 – The shopping carts & static web

Experts call the Internet before 1999 “Read-Only” web. The average internet user’s role was limited to reading the information which was presented to him. The best examples of this 1.0 web era are millions of static websites which mushroomed during the dot-com boom (which eventually has led to the dotcom bubble). There was no active communication or information flow from consumer (of the information) to producer (of the information). But the information age was born!

According to Tim Berners-Lee the first implementation of the web, representing the Web 1.0, could be considered as the “read-only web.” In other words, the early web allowed users to search for information and read it. There was very little in the way of user interaction or content contribution. [...]

The first shopping cart applications, which most e-commerce website owners use in some shape or form, basically fall under the category of Web 1.0. The overall goal was to present products to potential customers, much as a catalog or a brochure does — only through a website retailers could also provide a method for anyone (anywhere in the world) to purchase (their) products. [...]

Web 2.0 – The writing and participating web

The lack of active interaction of common users with the web lead to the birth of Web 2.0. The year 1999 marked the beginning of a Read-Write-Publish era with notable contributions from LiveJournal (Launched in April, 1999) and Blogger (Launched in August, 1999). Now even a non-technical user can actively interact & contribute to the web using different blog platforms. If we stick to Berners-Lee’s method of describing it, [...] the Web 2.0, or the “read-write” web has the [...] ability to contribute content and interact with other web users. This interaction and contribution has dramatically changed the landscape of the web [...]. It has even more potential that we have yet to see. [...] The Web 2.0 appears to be a welcome response to a web users demand to be more involved in what information is available to them.

This era empowered the common user with a few new concepts like Blogs, Social-Media & Video-Streaming. Publishing your content is only a few clicks away! Few remarkable developments of Web 2.0 are Twitter, YouTube, eZineArticles, Flickr and Facebook.

There are many different views of Web 2.0 depending on who you talk to.

[...] Developers,[...], have a much more rigid definition of Web 2.0 than average web users, and this can lead to confusion [but I don't go into this discussion.]

Web 3.0 – The semantic executing web

This in turn leads us to the rumblings and mumblings we have begun to hear about Web 3.0[...]. By extending Tim Berners-Lee’s explanations, the Web 3.0 would be a “read-write-execute” web. However, this is difficult to envision in its abstract form, so let’s take a look at two things [...]that will form the basis of the Web 3.0 — semantic markup and web services.

Semantic markup refers to the communication gap between human web users and computerized applications. One of the largest organizational challenges of presenting information on the web was that web applications weren’t able to provide context to data, and, therefore, didn’t really understand what was relevant and what was not. [..]. While this is still evolving, this notion of formatting data to be understood by software agents leads to the “execute” portion of our definition, and provides a way to discuss web service.

A web service is a software system designed to support computer-to-computer interaction over the Internet. [...]. Currently, thousands of web services are available. However, in the context of Web 3.0, they take center stage. By combining a semantic markup and web services, the Web 3.0 promises the potential for applications that can speak to each other directly, and for broader searches for information through simpler interfaces.

Web 3.0 – how, why and when. Kate Ray has made a good documentary on web 3.0, and explains realy why we need a semantic web and what the semantic web is all about.

Are we there yet??

It seems we had everything we had wished for in Web 2.0, but it is way behind when it comes to intelligence. Perhaps a six-year-old child has/had better analytical abilities than existing search technologies! Keyword based search of web 2.0 resulted in an information overload. The following attributes are going to be a part of Web 3.0: Contextual Search

  • Tailor made Search
  • Personalized Search
  • Evolution of 3D Web
  • Deductive Reasoning

Because we aren’t there yet (completely), developers and users have come up with a ‘cheap’ intermediate way of contexualizing the search problem. You can read about it in my blog post: Can Google handle the Spam pressure?

What’s important to understand[...], is that the nomenclature with which we describe [...] should not be taken too seriously. Just because a website does not employ Web 2.0 features does not make it obsolete. After all, a small e-commerce website trying to sell niche products may not have any business need for users to submit content or to be able to interact with each other. [...]

Web 4.0 – Open, Linked and Intelligent Web

“The next web”

Tim Berners-Lee gave an inspired TED talk in 2009 on this new Open en Linked Web.

Although Web 4.0 still is in developing mode and the true shape is still forming, first signals are in that Web 4.0 will be about a linked web which communicates with us like we communicate with each other (like a personal assistant). Web 4.0 is called “symbiotic” web. This Web will be very powerful and fully executing.   Web 4.0 will be the read-write-execution-concurrency web.

An overview of the web 123 in one graph and one tabel:

Dia84 Dia85


29 comments on “Web 1.0 vs Web 2.0 vs Web 3.0 vs Web 4.0 – A bird’s eye on the evolution and definition
  1. NikkiHolly says:

    very helpful article explaining the difference. thanks!

  2. Stéphanie says:


    This link really explains the difference between web 3.0 and web 4.0. For me it was some very useful additional info! (It’s Seth Godin’s blog)

  3. jonas says:

    Same for me, thanks for the good videos!
    Took me hours and hours to watch all of them…

  4. It`s really shocking how less the so called “digital natives” know about web 2.0 and the different web types.

  5. Olivier says:

    @ Frank, “digital natives” don’t know how was life before internet. They can not imagine a world without networks, connections all over the word, social media and access to media so easily.

  6. Mª Teresa Poyo says:

    Is it possible to talk about any company that right now is operating with the Web 4.0 concept?

    PS. The way through the evolution of the web was quite interesting. It is nice to being able to identify and describe this digital world we are part of!

  7. Wilma says:

    I also think that to “digital natives” social media and smartphones, pads etc. is just normal life. Children learn with iPads nowadays! Keeping in contact with others all over the world has not been easier ever. For me as well is hard to remember the time when you had to just go knock on friends doors if you wanted to meet them.

  8. “Digital natives” has to be educated in using social media and smartphones etc. There isn’t another way to protect them. It doesn’t make sense to block them. What do you think?

    • Nathalie Roithinger says:

      I totally agree on that! Without education digital natives will end up lost in the social media world which is growing faster and faster. The point protection you mentioned is a very important one. Only few days ago I read an article about cyber-mobbing on Facebook. Tragic that social media can end up in suicide when no one takes care….

  9. Wave of information isn’t under control anymore. Be smart in the web!

    • Nathalie Roithinger says:

      Again, I totally agree on your comment Claudia! Be aware of the fact that was is online or posted once, will stay online!!

  10. Very good page here. Very interesting that youngsters don’t know the expression WEB 2.0! Shows how normal it is – they don’t have to name it!

  11. All about fast web – miss slow web on these pages! Would be a good contrast – and leads to think! What is your opinion?

  12. Customized search would be great! All the data connection upsets me. Are we already transparent to 100%?! Probably we are but we don’t know!

  13. Nathalie Roithinger says:

    Where will this evolution end up? web 100.0?

  14. Nathalie Roithinger says:

    Amazon is a perfect example of web 3.0 I think. I never heard anyone complaining about Amazon and its services… pretty good business model!

  15. Maria Halasi says:

    Thank you as well for this interesting summary, I am sure it will be very useful for me in the future. Especially about Web 4.0, I will definitely be following from now on how this will progress in the future.

  16. [...] Web 4.0 is called “symbiotic” Web. This Web will be very powerful and fully executing.   Web 4.0 will be the read-write-execution-concurrency Web.” (source) [...]

  17. [...] Web 2.0 vs Web 3.0 vs Web 4.0 – A bird’s eye on the evolution and definition. Available from: http://flatworldbusiness.wordpress.com/flat-education/previously/web-1-0-vs-web-2-0-vs-web-3-0-a-bir…. [Accessed 28 February 2013] [...]

  18. Kuzhali says:

    good article

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  23. jayeisenough says:

    Just wanted you to know that I used the videos in this post for a William Paterson University professional development session on creating a virtual footprint. I’ve credited your organization and provided a link to this post. If you’d like me to remove anything, please let me know. Your post is the best I’ve seen at explaining the evolution of the web.

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