The Pervasive Web

A lot of people have begun speculating about Web 3.0. I don’t want to even go there. Some folks have been calling it the “semantic web” which refers to the more tightly integrated ability to find information in a manageable way. That’s probably not a great definition either. But what the heck, I don’t agree with it either.

The official next generation of the web is what I call the pervasive web. The pervasive web speaks to the redistribution of what we know as the internet – browsers and computers interacting with data and service and even people – into a truly “always available” experience. The concept behind pervasive web is that you the user can access your information wherever you might be and interact with the global community wherever you might be, in whatever method is available. You know – the right content, at the right time, in the right place on the right device.

The closest thing I see to pervasive web today is Twitter which has been my favorite thing to blog about recently. Through Twitter, you and I can interact with each other and our world while sitting in front of our computers or while walking the dog via our cell phones. This is pervasive web. This is pervasive conversation. Facebook comes in quickly behind this by allowing folks to message each other and update their status messages from wherever they are.

I don’t know about you, but I’m extremely frustrated by the limitation of most of the web to 17-30″ of screen space. At some point, the internet will emerge from the finite boundaries of screens and truly cross over into real life. That’s the pervasive web and that’s where we’re going.

Rick Segal, who in full disclosure is one of b5media’s VCs, wrote a post called “The Wheels of the Bus” the other day that caused me to think harder about this concept. He wrote:

Walk among the people; the real people. Watch, ask, listen, ask again, listen again. You can spot trends, solutions, validate ideas, etc, by taking the train and bus to work. For example: In the U.S., the Sunday paper has an insert section that contains a big pile of coupons and flyers from local grocery stores. Millions of households base the shopping plans around those flyers. Who has the hamburger on sale, etc. Nobody has successfully pulled off a comparison site that let’s you put in your shopping list and simply tells you, go here, take these coupons and save this much. Massive audience of rabid people who try to squeeze every penny out of the grocery budget. There are actually some good reasons why and I’ll cover this in another post but the larger point is that in talking to people, I know this is a big deal based on hundreds of hours of research on this one.

Rick is hitting on something thoughout his article and I highly recommend you read it. At the end of the day, listening to what people need in day to day life and delivering on it is the key to business success. I think it goes beyond business success. I think it taps into the future of the web. We’ve seen companies come along like Tripit which organizes travel itineraries and Slingbox which allows for cool interaction between your television and the internet (and for whom my friend Dave Zatz works for) figure out ways to meet peoples needs in real life. Lots of companies are cool ideas, but these guys are actually listening to what people want and figuring out how to deliver it.

I can’t tell you how many people I know who when you talk to them about the internet react with something about not wanting to sit in front of a computer after they are done with work. Hey, somebody help these people out!

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The Problem with RSS

RSS is the lifeblood of bloggers. It is the means to unspeakable content distribution to a wide variety of places. It is the means to an end that is widespread readership. Techcrunch has 461k readers who read the content via readers such as Bloglines, Google Reader, mobile RSS readers such as the Viigo app we have launched for Blackberries as well as unknown other syndication deals.

RSS is the life blood of blogs and new media types.

However, that’s where it stops. The problem with RSS is that that simple three letter acronym strikes fear and trembling into the masses. People like my father don’t know how to read my content in any other way other than using his web browser to surf on by – if he remembers. Most people still don’t subscribe to podcasts – they listen to them in flash players or by direct download from the web.

This is the barrier to Web 3.0 and so far no one has figured out how to hurdle that barrier.

While RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication, outside of tech circles, people have no clue how to even use Internet Explorer 7 to subscribe – and more importantly follow and consume – syndicated content. Even the good folks at FeedBurner Google dump a nice front end on the front of RSS pages (click here to see mine) but then what does the average user do with that? There is a gap of education missing.

Maybe the gap of education isn’t missing but the format is lacking?

Web 3.0, in my eye, is a departure from standard modes of interaction with computers and the internet. It is the removal of the need for keyboards, mice and screen; an expansion beyond the limitations of the screen. It is mobile and distributed content. It is distributed content.

Twitter is early Web 3.0 as the need for the computer and interaction from the standard web browser is removed in place of the interaction of text messaging. That is just the beginning.

It seems clear to me that the person who figures out how to bridge the distributed content gap from low mainstream adoption to critical mass, will be the winner of the race to Web 3.0 and will likely be a very rich person for life.

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