What are the differences between web 1.0, web 2.0 and web 3.0? Is there a web 4.0? Our whole world, our whole lifestyle, way of thinking and living, consuming… everything around us has changed more than you think with the evolution of the web. In this post we will review the evolution from web 1.0 to web 4.0 and how this has completely changed our society.
If there is something that we can affirm, changes and grows every day at an exorbitant rate, it is undoubtedly technology. Not even the almighty Google is capable of covering and keeping up to date with all the changes that take place within its browser. There are so many people using any technological product at the same time that, if the premises of those post-apocalyptic films were fulfilled and there was a “big blackout”, the world would literally come to a halt.
Everything around us is based on technology: from our mobile devices to which we dedicate so many hours a day, to the simple little light that indicates that the kettle is heating the water.
What’s more, if we stop to think about it, technology has advanced more in the last 20 or 30 years than in the entire history of mankind.
But what has undoubtedly changed our lives completely in the last few years has been the Internet. Very few people today can conceive of their lives without going online. Even the elderly, those who thought they would never need it, have had to adapt to the new technologies. Nowadays, it is rare to do business that cannot be done over the Internet. Although let’s be honest, web developers for “adult management” have a lot of room for improvement.
The technological evolution of websites
The web has evolved more than we think in recent years; Internet, browsers, applications, operating systems, etc. are, in a way, new technologies. It is logical and normal that developers dedicate hours and hours to find possible improvements and technological advances. Not to mention the competition within the sector itself, or who has never heard of the war between iOS and Android to bring the best devices to the market?
You don’t have to go back many years to remember when BlackBerry users thought they were the best because they had an internal chat system. Or how we had to ask for credit advances to be able to send a simple SMS. Something that today, just a couple of years later, is completely obsolete.
Focusing specifically on web pages, we have to go back to the 1960s to discover the predecessor of what we know today as the Web. This is none other than the Arpanet network, created by the US Department of Defence as a communication network between different US research institutes and universities.
By the way, I am sorry to be the one to have to communicate this, but if you are still one of those who believe that the Internet was created to be used as a defence against military attack, it is a complete myth.
The birth of web 1.0
It was not until 1990 when the first web was created in the sense that we give it today, the web 1.0.
This web was a very simple system of static HTML in which it was only allowed to consume content, but not to interact with it. It was a purely one-way communication.
This website, which very few people will remember today, not because many years have passed, but because it was not as common to have at least one device with Internet access per person in each house as it is today, has certain peculiarities worth mentioning.
- First of all, file storage was completely different. Nowadays, web pages should weigh as little as possible, everything should be stored in an external database if possible. In the case of web 1.0 this was not the case, everything was stored within the server itself, so we can imagine how the loading time and weight of the same would be.
- During the golden age of webs 1.0 CMS did not exist, the all-powerful WordPress was not responsible for virtually all of the websites that are hosted on the Internet, as it is today. In those times only the beloved and hated HTML was available. A system that, let’s face it, makes it very difficult to be creative in terms of design.
- These websites were loaded with so-called CGI functionality. When users made a request on the website, the data was not sent directly to the server, but first had to be processed by external software. Via a CGI interface the data was transferred back to the server, which then generated an HTML document.
- But that’s not all. At that time, browsers tried to stand out by offering support for proprietary tags, creating serious incompatibility problems between websites using these tags and non-compatible browsers.
- But if something was very popular at the time, it was undoubtedly the guestbook. Why not extrapolate something that accompanies us in our daily lives to the Internet world? In those days it was very common for websites to have an external “section” that stored user comments without affecting the performance of the web pages. We are talking, of course, about the predecessor of the comment box.
- What would a website be today without the contact form that helps companies to get leads? Web 1.0 was the predecessor of everything we know today and, of course, the contact form was not going to be less. At that time there were no contact forms as we know them today. When we wanted to contact one of the companies that provided us with this two-way information, we could only access their email address. Thus, we had no choice but to go to our email server and contact them in the most traditional (or innovative at that time) way.
The most popular websites we could find at that time were Netscape, AltaVista, AOL and Yahoo!
Web 2.0, welcome social media
In 2004, Web 2.0 officially came into our lives, an era that many nostalgic millennials will remember for being the golden age of Internet forums or the first world-famous social media, such as myspace.
This web is mainly distinguished from the previous one in that we left behind unidirectional communication to give way to a web in which users play a very important role. A large part of the content was created by and for the users.
It is worth noting that the biggest difference between Web 1.0 and 2.0 is not so much at the technological level but at the interactive level. While it is true that there have naturally been many advances in terms of hardware, the way of consuming information would not change until several years later.
Many people may not be 100% aware of it, but the advent of Web 2.0 completely changed societies around the world. Before the advent of social media and independent media, people received information only through the press. We had no choice but to believe the news that journalists stationed in different parts of the world brought us with information about what was going on in the world. Perhaps people were not as aware at that time of the political manipulation of the press, but we had no choice but to blindly believe what they wanted to tell us, nothing else.
With the advent of globalisation through social media, forums or independent Internet media, our perception of the world changed completely. Many of us began to know what was going on in societies and places that we couldn’t even put on the map before.
Web 2.0 and the great social change
But that was not all. With the arrival of social networks and the ease of communicating from different parts of the world, a world of possibilities opened up for many people who were lost in a classic and conventional society. Countless people around the world have discovered, thanks to the Internet, that their true vocation lies on the other side of the globe, drawing among Japanese mangakas, or that the music they really like is sung by a group of Koreans thousands of kilometres away.
And that’s the wonderful thing about the Internet; being able to enjoy what you like so much, without anyone judging you for it. And, above all, to discover that there are thousands of people out there who like the same things you like. Although, sorry to be the one to say it, it is also easy to discover that you are not really as unique as you always thought you were and that humans are more similar to each other than we think, just in different parts of the planet.
Back to web 2.0, technically speaking, it was time to leave the classic HTML for the nostalgic ones and the first content management systems or CMS, with which the design and content management of a website was optimised, started to appear. Thanks to the CMS, the design of web pages improved a lot, giving rise to what we know today as user experience, among other terms. With this new system, it was possible to independently manage the content and information and the design of the website. It was possible to freely change the design of the website without having to transform the content. In addition, several editors were allowed to upload content to the website, making things much easier for developers.
I could spend hours talking about web 2.0 and how Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, wiki, blogs, Instagram, forums, etc. changed the world, but it is time to explain why the arrival of web 3.0 is such an important change in the way we consume and transmit information.
The big change, web 3.0
Although it may seem that web 3.0 is a recent development, the term was first coined in 2006, but it wasn’t until 2010 that we saw the real changes that were coming.
If I could describe web 3.0 with two simple terms, it would definitely be interactivity and personalisation. And this is precisely what distinguishes Web 3.0 from its predecessors.
The main feature of this new way of interacting with web pages is the storage of information in the cloud. At first glance, this may not seem like a very significant change, but it is much more important than it seems. With this new system, connectivity between different devices begins; the possibility of accessing different databases from a computer and then doing so from a mobile device, for example.
Now the user is 100% owner of the information handled by the web pages, and the fact is that these databases in the cloud have a system of complexity and personalisation that constitutes a new method of adding semantic content to the documents that make up a web page.
But what is this semantic content?
Semantic language in Web 3.0 is nothing more than the “language” in which the information that users add to a website is written so that processors can interpret it. It is about moving away from the limited HTML language and moving towards formats such as RDF, OWL or XML that are translated through information coming from the user such as forms, images, catalogues, etc.
And what does all this apparently not so big change mean? Nothing more and nothing less than the personalisation of content.
The web has evolved so much that it has reached a point where it almost knows us better than our own mother. Who hasn’t come across an advertisement for something they were looking for? Who hasn’t heard of Google listening to us? Although it is true that this aspect continues to cause uncertainty for many people, including myself, we cannot say for now whether Google really controls every aspect of our lives or whether it is simply a matter of cookies. We will talk about conspiracies another day in another post, of course.
Web 3.0 has become a nest of information that offers us content tailored to our tastes and preferences. At first glance, this may seem quite useful, but the debate arises when we discover how big companies obtain this information. The fact is that there is a huge market of data that ordinary users cannot access. But we should know that with every click we make on the Internet, we are leaving a large footprint of information that others will use to try to sell us things.
And that is how we arrive at Web 4.0.
While it is true that many of these Internet companies have had to deal with the consequences of commercialising user data, it seems that the way in which this information is used is not going to change for the time being.
Web 4.0 seems futuristic, but the truth is that it has been with us since 2016. In this new stage of the Internet, all the methodologies that we knew until now are perfected and a key concept is added: artificial intelligence. Gone are the movies where futuristic robots invaded our world; artificial intelligence has been with us much longer than you think, but not in the way you think.
Artificial intelligence is nothing more than software that learns, to put it in a nutshell. To give an example, Google’s proofreader is an artificial intelligence that has been with us for many years. Long gone are the days when Google’s literal translations seemed to be described by an illiterate robot. After years of learning by the users themselves, nowadays a text extracted from Google’s translator could perfectly well pass for a speech said by someone who, at the very least, speaks perfect English (although there are exceptions, of course).
Large Internet companies such as Microsoft, Google or Facebook are relying on Deep learning and Machine learning technologies to develop new information systems that would function in a similar way to the human brain.
Technologies such as Siri, Cortana or Alexa are based on this type of system. While it is true that we could now claim that our devices are always “listening” to us, ready to respond to us when we say “Hello Siri”, these big companies still claim that the microphone theory is still in the minds of conspiracy junkies.
These kinds of technologies have advanced so far that we can now trust software, with a simple phrase, to buy us a plane ticket or play us our favourite song.
And the best (or worst) thing is that these devices do nothing but learn and learn until they completely “know” our tastes, lifestyle, schedule, etc.
The arrival of the Metaverse with web 4.0
But of course, we cannot talk about web 4.0 without talking about the famous Metaverse. Web 4.0, also known as the symbiotic web, seeks to blur the line between human and machine. Would the creators of Habbo Hotel imagine that one day their virtual reality would reach the level we know today?
This concept of virtual realities sounds interesting and appealing, but we must bear in mind that we are moving further and further away from reality and immersing ourselves in a world that, as we saw in web 2.0, can completely change entire societies around the world. Enter the Metaverse with responsability, please.
Will there come a day when a device knows what we want before we even know it? What will web 5.0 bring? Those answers and many more, years from now, when we meet again in web history part 2.