John Markoff's New York Times article discusses the term "Web 3.0" and equates it with the next evolution of the Web, in which he predicts a move towards more intelligent applications.
First of all I want to say that I hope the use of the term "Web 3.0" in the article doesn't distract from the real story here. Because there is actually a story -- the Web is gradually evolving into a more intelligent medium. One of the key enabling technologies that will make this possible is the emerging Semantic Web.
I agree with Markoff that the Web is moving towards a new era of more intelligent apps. I also think that this intelligence will be enabled by adding more semantics to the data. But does this evolution qualify for a new name like Web 3.0? For that matter, what does the term Web 2.0 refer to, while we're on the subject?
If you believe that the term Web 2.0 refers to something distinct
from the Web we already had before that term was originated, then yes,
the Semantic Web is Web 3.0. But from another perspective, Web 2.0, Web
3.0 or Web 12.0 will not be separate from the Web we already have (Web
1.0) -- it's all just one big Web. All this technology is connected to
the same network.
I think Web 2.0 has taken on a certain meaning over time -- focused around application interoperability on the Web using mashups, APIs and widgets, and perhaps also social features like tagging. But I remember when the term Web 2.0 first came out -- people thought it was unnecessary and railed against it in fact. Today it has become an industry standard term. So you never know, maybe the term Web 3.0 will catch on.
Web 3.0 is about making all this technology and content smarter -- by adding semantics to the data (using the Semantic Web and microformats, etc.) and by adding more smarts to applications so that they can do a better job of helping humans (natural language search, semantic search, recommendation agents, etc.).
So while we probably don't need another label -- I would at least say that "Web 3.0" is less intimidating than the term "Semantic Web" to many. On the other hand, I can see a potential confusion arising from terms like Web X.0 as well.
Regardless of what we call it however, I'm just interested in bringing more semantics to the Web. This is a long-effort -- it's a marthon not a sprint -- and it is already happening, and will continue to happen. It's a technological evolution that must happen in fact. Because the only other alternative to making the Web smarter would be to have computers that are a million times faster than those we have today. Rather than waiting for that to happen, we can just add a little more semantics to today's data and applications to get big benefits. Those of us working with RDF and the Semantic Web have seen the proof of this. In time, so will broader sets of users and developers.