Here comes Web 3.0.
You may have read the news announcement Wednesday that YouTube, the hugely popular Google subsidiary, has introduced YouTube Insight, a free analytical tool to help video makers track their users.
YouTube Insight enables these video makers to track where viewers are located and what path they took to find the videos.
Here's the money quote from Google: "For example, uploaders can see how often their videos are viewed in different geographic regions, as well as how popular they are relative to all videos in that market over a given period of time. You can also delve deeper into the lifecycle of your videos, like how long it takes for a video to become popular, and what happens to video views as popularity peaks."
All of this may sound like a cute new little novelty tool -- you know, so you can find out that the largest percentage of folks watching your new Mentos-in-the-Sprite fountain video are in Barcelona, Spain and Clinton, Okla., and that most of them linked to the video from eBaum's World -- but YouTube Insight is anything but a toy. It is also not designed for you and me.
Rather, the real target is marketers and advertisers, and YouTube Insight, despite its apparently low-key introduction, is in fact a major salvo from Google in forcing the evolution of Web 2.0 to Web 3.0.
If that sounds confusing, join the club. The whole Web generational thing has always suffered from a lack of clarity about definitions -- a fact secretly cheered by companies in the industry who want amorphous terms so that they can claim to be anything venture capitalists are willing to pay for.
For our purposes, let's keep the definition simple. Web 1.0 consisted of all of the so-called e-commerce companies of the 1990s -- that is, the thousand of firms that pioneered the notion of retailing on the Internet -- as well as the first generation of Web sites such as eBay and Amazon, and communities such as AOL and Yahoo!. These sites were largely static, with the interaction mostly reduced to order forms. Most of the Web 1.0 e-commerce companies died when the dot-com bubble burst in 2000.
Web 2.0 are those firms that emerged, almost unnoticed at first, from the rubble of the dot-com bubble. The mainstream sites morphed into more dynamic experiences, featuring streaming audio, then video. Users were more empowered to customize their experiences, and were allowed to do much more linking to other sites.
The most important new Web phenomenon to emerge in the Web 2.0 era were the social networking sites -- including MySpace, Facebook and YouTube -- as well a new generation of start-ups providing tools and applications for those networks.
We still live in the Web 2.0 world -- and indeed, companies such as MySpace are now among the most used services on the planet. But, as is always the case with tech, even as one era is approaching its peak, another is already waiting in the wings to replace it.
If Web 2.0 was the application of the latest content technologies to the Internet, Web 3.0 is the systematic attempt to use technology to monetize the gigantic audiences for the Web 2.0 communities.