Web 1.0, Web 2.0, Web 3.0... when will it end?

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Just when you get your head around Web 2.0, the bothersome term 'Web 3.0' appears.

For me, who started her journalism career in the final days of The Industry Standard and felt world-and-dot-com-weary after only three months of 'ambulance chasing' flailing firms (our company T-shirts read: 'Never met a bubble we couldn't burst'), the term smacks of trouble.

Web 2.0 is a bit like dot-com days revisited - masses of start-ups and big scale investors. If I was to be really cynical, I'd say the biggest difference is that instead of the "e-" prefix (eToys, esure, eBay) we have the "-r" suffix (Flickr, Boldr, Frappr).

Of course, there are some subtle but important differences, which this SF Gate article illustrates (in short below).

* Start-ups now tend to sell out to big firms, rather than have an overly hyped initial public offering on the stock market.

* It's cheaper for entrepreneurs to start a business, as technology has improved, so there are less venture (at the Standard, we used to call them "vulture") capitalists preying on start-up firms and looking for big gains.

* The emphasis is on 'user-generated' and 'social networking', rather than e-commerce.

* Big media companies that sued to stop or slow technology the first time around (think of the recording industry versus Napster) are now signing new content deals for new revenue opportunities with giants like Apple's iTunes Store and YouTube.

So, yes, we are in a bubble, but the burst might not be quite so spectacular.

That still leaves the question of Web 3.0. As Nicholas Carr wrote in his blog in November last year: "Web 3.0 promises to be much more useful than 2.0 (not to mention 1.0) and to render today's search engines more or less obsolete. But there's also a creepy side to 3.0 ... While it will be easy for you to mine meaning about vacations and other stuff, it will also be easy for others to mine meaning about you."

OK, so online privacy is dead. But, where's my Aeron chair?

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