2007: The Implicit Web

My partner Brad and I were at lunch with Josh Kopelman a month or so ago and we got to talking about a number of exciting new web services we are seeing and Josh blurted out "web 2.0 is the explicit web and web 3.0 is the implicit web". That’s been rattling around in my mind ever since.

It’s true that many of the best things about web 2.0 (tagging, posting, digging, embedding) require explicit activities. Those activities provide great value to both the person doing the explicit action and in a social network, great value to many others.

What Josh was talking about when he used the words "implicit web" is myware, something I’ve been big on for a while now. For those who care about such things, I did not coin the term "myware", it was Seth Goldstein who first coined it.

Enough about jargon, the explicit implicit web is all about the value that will accrue to an Internet user when their every action is tracked, recorded, and used to provide value back to that user. There is also a second order play when that clickstream activity is shared with the user’s permission with everyone else.

My favorite example, which I used in that original myware post, is last.fm. I give last.fm the permission to capture all my iTunes listens. I publish that data on my blog (left sidebar) and the data is also published on my last.fm profile page. I can go back and look at the what I listened to most last week, month, year, etc. But more importantly, I can use the data about what I am listening to currently to surface new recommendations via musical neighbors. And because I share all that data with the entire network, my listens inform others in their search for new music.

This concept can be used in almost any activity you do on the web. Take shopping for example. Amazon does a decent job of capturing the activity in our account and recommending new stuff for us. But we use an aggregated account at Amazon, so the Gotham Gal’s books, Jessica’s music, my gadgets all get lumped into one profile. What if I had a profile of all my web activity and I could express it to any web store the minute I arrived? Amazon could do a much better job of recommending stuff for me. So could eBay. So could Netflix. But take it one step further, connect me to other people who are looking at and buying stuff just like me. Let me see what they are buying and where and why. That’s social shopping in my book.

What about paying bills? Now I am sure that this example is going to give some of you the creeps. But what if you could pay all your bills via a free web service that aggregated what you were buying and paying for and recommended ways to get those services for less? What if that service aggregated the buying power of all of its users and negotiated for better prices from vendors where it had significant market power?

You can take this concept and apply it to most any activity you can do on the web. The idea has been around for a while but privacy concerns have held everyone back. But people are starting to get used to profiling themselves and using it to add value to their Internet experience. They are starting to trust certain web services and let them profile them. That change in user behavior is a big deal. And as a result, the implicit web is going to start taking off in 2007.