Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

As the Web 2.0 bandwagon gets bigger and faster, more and more people seem to be blogging about it. I am increasingly confronted by people who ask me what it is. Just like I don't like "blogging" and "blogosphere", I don't like the word. However, I think it's going to end up sticking. I don't like it because it coincides with another bubbly swell in consumer Internet (the "web") and it sounds like "buzz 2.0". I think all of the cool things that are going on right now shouldn't be swept into some name that sounds like a new software version number for a re-written presentation by venture captitalists to their investors from the last bubble.

What's going on right now is about open standards, open source, free culture, small pieces loosely joined, innovation on the edges and all of the good things that WE FORGOT when we got greedy during the last bubble. These good Internet principles are easily corrupted when you bring back "the money". (As a VC, I realize I'm being a bit hypocritical here.) On the other hand, I think/hope Web 2.0 will be a bit better than Web 1.0. Both Tiger and GTalk use Jabber, an open standard, instead of the insanity of MSN Messenger, AOL IM and Yahoo IM using proprietary standards that didn't interoperate. At least Apple and Google are TRYING to look open and good.

I think blogging, web services, content syndication, AJAX, open source, wikis, and all of the cool new things that are going on shouldn't be clumped together into something that sounds like a Microsoft product name. On the other hand, I don't have a better solution. Web 2.0 is probably a pretty good name for a conference and probably an easy way to explain why we're so excited to someone who doesn't really care.

While we're at labeling the web x.0. Philip Torrone jokingly mentioned to me the other day (inside Second Life) that 3D was Web 3.0. I agree. 3D and VR have been around for a long time and there is a lot of great work going on, but I think we're finally getting to the phase where it's integrated with the web and widely used. I think the first step for me was to see World of Warcraft (WoW) with its 4M users and the extensible client. The only machine I have where I can turn on all of the video features is my duel CPU G5. On my powerbook I have to limit my video features and can't concurrently use other applications while playing. Clearly there is a hardware limit which is a good sign since hardware getting faster is a development we can count on.

Second Life (SL) is sort of the next step in development. Instead of trying to control all real-money and real-world relationship with things in the game like Blizzard does with WoW, SL encourages it. SL is less about gaming and more about building and collaboration. However, SL is not open source and is a venture capital backed for-profit company that owns the platform. I love it, but I think there's one more step.

Croquet, which I've been waiting for for a long time appears to be in the final phases of a real release. Croquet, if it takes off should let you build things like SL but in a distributed and open source way. It is basically a 3D collaborative operating system. If it takes off, it should allow us to take our learning from WoW and SL and do to them what "Web 2.0" is doing to traditional consumer Internet services.

However, don't hold your breath. WoW blows away SL in terms of snappy graphics and response time and has a well designed addictive and highly-tuned gaming environment. Croquet is still in development and is still way behind SL in terms of being easy to use. It will take time for the more open platforms to catch up to the closed ones, but I think they're coming.

Web 3.0 is on its way! Actually, lets not call it Web 3.0.


really? 3d? is there real benefit to 3d for users for non-gaming?

Antoin. Yes. I think there are. I've gone back and forth on this, but having immersed myself in 3D the last few weeks, I'm convinced that it makes a lot of sense. SL and WoW are organized in my mind in 3D and it's MUCH easier to think of information in terms of space sometimes. I'm very much a command-line sort of person, but once you are immersed, the richness of interaction increases and I think our minds are made to think better in 3D. I'd like to hear some thought from people who have done real research in this, but I can feel a difference in my own interaction with information in these worlds.

/me applauds! (for several reasons)
This makes me very happy. (for several reasons :)

Web 3.0 is on its way! Actually, lets not call it Web 3.0.

Should we call it "Web++" instead? Or "Web-NG"? Or "Web XP"? Or is that all too retro-style, now?

Is it completely insane to think of a SL/3D OS in the future? When directories and file structure are organized in some kind of 3D space rather than folders?

i suspect at one time people asked "is there any real benefit to computers besides just calculations". we're just scratching the surface, barely, on 3d worlds.

user created 3d worlds with an economy, culture, ownership and more is just another another way the lines between "real" and "virtual" are going to get blurred.

as far as naming, it doesn't matter, metaverse has been tossed around.

it's not a great analogy, but at one time, i went to work and home, now i have a "3rd space" it's a coffee shop with wireless. perhaps we'll have the web, the real world and something else, the metaverse, a second life, a something that for now seems weird, but one day will be common as the act of going to the cafe.


are you familar with SVS?

seems to be connected.

"Social Versioning System (SVS) is a framework for supporting such collaborative projects that combine coding with other media, and allows programmers and non-programmers to work together. It is initially being developed for the spring_alpha project. spring_alpha is a multiplayer simulation-game, which uses the idea of game design as a vehicle for social enquiry. The game itself exposes the mechanisms of game creation in the way it is played: game content can be publicly edited through web-based level editors, and during gameplay the code that runs the game can be accessed and recoded."

Basically Spring Alpha can be modded by non-players inside the game.
might add it's open source and rather fun.


You have nice typo in this posting: "duel CPU G5"

Andrew: Thanks. I'll check it out.

Tony: Funny. I'll leave it there. ;-)


Well, we tried this 3D thing some time ago. It was called VRML and was highly hyped.

We can classify its failures as technical, social and interface based, but mainly the problem was we were trying to do a 3D web.

Technically, there was not enough 3d cards in the market and no 3d API standard for windows systems. The machines were not powerful enough for the needs of the designers. The 3d definition files were huge, and it took too much time to start the plug in, download the definition file and start the world. Also, inter operation problems were plenty (kinda SVG today)

Socially, the users did not need it. The information set the user was getting from the web did not require 3D visualizing tools, so 3D was used only for ads... and the users disliked waiting 30 seconds to "fly around" a Nokia 7110.

And the user interface... well, the big issue. There is no "standard" for UI in 3d worlds. Everybody knows and understands a windows based system (Windows, Windows, Mac...) but there is no previous knowledge of navigating in a 3D world.
In a 3D game with a multi-day play time the user will invest 2/4 hours learning how to play. In a 3D web based environment they will invest 2 minutes, and this is not enough for the 3d world.

So I think doing a 3d web is a mistake. If we want to exploit the 3d environment we need to give the users something they cannot get in the current web world.

The web is built primarily around the page metaphor, because people find it easist to read that way. There is very little to be gained by putting a page inside a 3D space.

I tried Second Life and got bored because the interface was too unrealistic and slow. WoW maybe better, but realistically the total number of people on these games is very small compared with the total number of web users.

As for Web 2.0 , I think it is really good to give a name to these technologies so that we can try to define them, and present them to interested parties such as investors and the public. Here's my (not groundbreaking) try. Web 1.0 was primarily about transmission of static data from a central source to the individual. It gave us the explosion of static home pages, news and magazine media on the web and Yahoo and Google (Actually, I think Google is much more of a Web 1.0 company that Yahoo - Yahoo understands humans better). Web 2.0 is about giving the user some control over the direction of information flow, either back to the centre using blogs and messageboards, or between users using social networks, wikis and tagging. I do not think it is about Open Source at all -- Web 2.0 products can be proprietary.

To be glib: If the the Web is about communication, Web 1.0 was about machines. Web 2.0 is about people.

My 8-year old kid has been using gmail, flickr via Firefox on my iBook. He is good at it. For my son's generation, Web 2.0 means some easy-to-use web-based tool that they use everyday.

I am thinking about kids in developing regions...they are about to learn to appreciate the common wisdom of the World Wide Web and to enjoy whatever version of Web that they read or create. I hope Web 2.0 helps those kids to see the world--at least they get a good chance to see it this time.

I also hope that my son appreciates what he has enjoyed so much via the Web 2.0 world and he would learn to care about / help out the real world 0.2!

Web C3P0?

Web 3.0? No
W9 is the way. (www^3)
Nice post though. Good to see you are back posting again.

I was around for vrml and a lot of the problem was the sheer lack of power. As I said, WoW even taxes my G5 so we're just hitting the point where 3D can be widely used. It will not replace the web and the current web might be the wrong metaphor for it, but I think there are things that happen in 3D that are useful broadly. I do think that parts of our brain are wired in 3D and we don't use them when we're in 2D mode. For instance, one way of remembering things is to place them in a 3D space that you are familiar with and remember them that way. This is the way many some people are able to remember a huge number of things or a complicated series. WoW has an immense map with locations that have distinct color, music and style. It's very easy to remember that certain quests are given to us by Goblins in the area that has that weird steel guitar and is south. Social interactions are also very different. One of the reasons I decided to play WoW a bit was because I had been there/done that with 3D but I figured there must be something to WoW with 4M users and I think there is. The UI uses a sophisticated mix of 2D and 3D but uses 3D locations and distances well. Again, I'm not saying that we port everything to 3D, but that there's more to 3D than just gaming and the tools and hardware are finally coming.

And saying that 3D won't work because vrml didn't work is like saying the html wouldn't work because sgml didn't get widely adopted.


Unfortunately for me this seems like a KoolAid post. As rog already pointed out, 3D is pretty much useless for people without a specialized need. As for numbering the Web, that just seems like marketology, some kind of MSN/AOL walled garden sort of thing rather than any loosely connected smart edges.

It is somewhat KoolAidy, but I drank the KoolAid and I like it. ;-) I think 3D immersive environments have a broader appeal than people give it credit for. I remember when people said that http wasn't necessary because you could do everything you needed in Gopher and ftp. Some people really like 3D environments and my position is to try it for awhile before you knock it and that it's finally getting usable.

As pointed out, the biggest history we have for 3D environments is in videogames. When the UI is done right (Mario 64 comes to mind), its nice, but for the most part the UIs are confusing (all the Resident Evil/Biohazard games). Of course this is a completely subjective opinion, but that very fact points out the very low likelyhood of one UI to rule them all. In any case, do you have some idea about how 3D might be useful for something besides games? I've heard tell of 3D desktop type things before but that idea seems awfully annoying to me.

I'm not sure I'd want my whole desktop 3D. I think that 3D+2D is important. I think 3D works well for collaborative environments where you have a lot of people working on stuff. Also, as pt points out, I think mapping real world stuff into spaces is also interesting.

Maybe I'm just old fashioned and like plain text. The idea of trying to navigate a 3D map of Shinjuku just to find the phone number and store hours of some small record shop rather than punching the name of the store into google just sounds maddening. Then again, maybe I'm wrong...

but... is the gap so big from web 1.0 to 2.0?

I'm in a strange position: I was at the edge of innovation as a user and developer in the (now called) web 1.0 era. Lately I've been working on business side (non-tech related) without relationship with web 2.0 as a product developer, but highly involved as a user, so I don't know how knowledgeable are the big companies about this 'new technologies'.

I try not to be a cynic, but this web 2.0 seems to be the old dot com game of 'get the money and run'. I mean, all this blogs & wikis, social networks & tagging are really technical evolutions, not social evolutions.

Let's get real, we have wikis since 95 and social networks since phpbb. Firefox is mature software and the big companies are still unable to understand web 1.0...

I admit (with great pleasure) Google has showed us what can be done with a browser. Tagging is godsend ( and flickr are revolutionary). And blogs are the truly social *and cultural* revolution (think about it? children writing! for fun!!)

So well, maybe there is a revolution around the corner. After re-reading the first draft of this post I think maybe we have a revolution, but not an user driven revolution...

Do you know where I think is the revolution? In the glue... the web APIs: from eBay virtual shops to Yahoo's Term Extraction Documentation, Google Maps and Reuters rss feeds... and quick integration with lightweight server scripting and greasemonkey on the client. This is like the old n^2 networking effect, but with the APIs: the value of the network is going to be the square of the services offered like APIs to the developers...

Is there a place in this revolution for 3D? computer generated 3D, as joi cleverly states has some advantages over computer 2D (mainly spacial identification), but I need to think more about its uselfuness. Not all the semantics of the 3d world are useful/applicable in 3D computer media. Navigating and looking around is really awkward in a 3D world, classification in 3D is still a problem and no 3D interface has a clear system for switching from 3D to 2D and back.

Uhhmmmm... I think I'm writing faster than thinking, I need to think about this, maybe it's time to go back to product development.

Joi > "Croquet, if it takes off should let you build things like SL but in a distributed and open source way. It is basically a 3D collaborative operating system. If it takes off, it should allow us to take our learning from WoW and SL and do to them what "Web 2.0" is doing to traditional consumer Internet services."

This year we had David Smith of Croquet and Philip Rosedale of Second Life on a panel called Building The Metaverse at Accelerating Change. We'll stream video of that session into Second Life shortly as a Second Life Future Salon meeting. SL is growing like wild fire and has plans to go open source and P2P in the future. It's great to read posts like this one as we really need more people inside and outside the traditional gamey, narrowly focused, and non-networked virtual world spaces talking seriously about how this Metaverse thing is going to happen and who will be involved in making it happen. Maybe there's a way for SL and Croquet to work together on that in places where it makes sense ... *nudge* *nudge* :-)

The ideas are getting out there. Just this weekend we had the first Second Life Community Convention at the New York Law School, co-located with the State of Play conference on law, video games, and virtual worlds. SoP vids are already online and SLCC vids will be up shortly after having been streamed live into Second Life. Here's a pic of someone watching the stream on their laptop in SL and here's an exterior pic of the virtual New York Law School used as part of SoP and SLCC. So cool.

> Web 3.0 is on its way! Actually, lets not call it Web 3.0.

Whether a good term or not, it's great to hear "Web 3.0" come out in independent circulation =). My friends and I have been using this term between ourselves for a while now. And besides Snow Crash and the idea of the Metaverse, a complimentary source and idea to check out is Mirror Worlds, coined by David Gelernter in his book, Mirror Worlds: Or the Day Software Puts the Universe in a Shoebox: How It Will Happen and What It Will Mean. Gelernter goes into the geo-spatial Web and graphical environments that track and interact with the real world in real time. I would say Google Earth is a Mirror World platform on a crash-course with Metaverse platforms like Second Life. Look at this early step towards interactive 3D mapping in SL. The user-created Google Map of SL isn't very far away, and as Google Earth goes 3D we just have to be able to drop our avatars onto the streets of real world cities, don't we!?

Anyone interested in the combination of Metaverse and Mirror Worlds can check out slide pics of the brief Brave New Virtual Worlds presentation I gave at AC. I think they're pretty fun and a good sketch and conversation starter for some things going on in this space.

> It is somewhat KoolAidy, but I drank the KoolAid and I like it. ;-)

Ha, totally, but in a good way. It's a blast watching this stuff happen and it's early enough that the course is still being set from the ground up and the ability to participate in it's facilitation is sitting there waiting. Philip noted at AC and SLCC that it's kind of feeling like it may be 1994 on some of this stuff (comparing it to the Internet's developmental timeframe). We'll see, but let's not just see, let's push a little bit and see what moves. OK, let's just push *a lot* and *make* it move :-D. Very much looking forward to these ideas reaching more people, developers, companies, etc. and watching what unfolds. Thanks for the post, Joi.

Chris : That would be stupid use case for 3D. In Warcraft and other interfaces, all of the lookup type of stuff happens in fairly sophisticated semi-transparent windows over the 3D world.

For example, it's much easier to keep track of half a dozen people around you with 3D sound and audio. People standing around in a 3D world are easier to keep track of than in 1D. It's hard to jump up and down in a 2D world, but in 3D I can see that in my peripheral vision while I'm talking to someone else. I can see the emotes of several dozen people at the same time and understand it in one chuck. On a big display playing warcraft I can take in tons of information. When I enter the forge for instance, I can quickly scan how many people are hanging out by the forge, notice that the fruit seller is running across the area to to the North, see that there is a stream of gryphs flying out with high level characters headed off to some raid, and tell from the sound that the forge is a big hall. The music reminds me I'm in Dwarf territory and the lighting coming in from the outside reminds me that it's daytime... We're used to picking up certain cues in 3D with sound and I think we can process much more in a 3D metaphor than we can in text or 2D. The repetitive stuff is better optimized into macros or 2D, but you can do this to augment the 3D world.


You just counter pointed my non game example with a game example. Frankly as far as the social aspects, that sounds like the old "chat room with avatars" thing from the mid 90s. Of course 3D is good in that kind of gaming situation, but please tell me how it can be good for non game interfaces (please dont reference SL or some other non kiddy game). Not trying to be a jerk, just trying to understand.


Your post made me realize why I'm suspicious of all this stuff. Its not just because of the net.hype factor, its because this sounds too much like 3G mobile telephony, over investment in search of justification and technical "solutions" in search of problems.


Incremental evolution indeed. The House of Google does seem to be fulfilling the old promise of Netscape to deliver services thru a browser. Its neato, but not "life changing" for most users. As for the oringal promise of the Web not yet being fulfilled, I could not agree more. As things stand now I find a wealth of general information about certain interests, but a dearth of specifics. Apple for example can't manage to clearly explain the differences between "Express" and "Pro" versions of their software, and far too many sites seem to focus more on trying to look pretty or prevent access to information by putting it into some crazy format that the user cant copy/paste/print for later use. Whats the point of racing towards the next big thing when the basics are so often done wrong?

Chris > Your post made me realize why I'm suspicious of all this stuff. Its not just because of the net.hype factor, its because this sounds too much like 3G mobile telephony, over investment in search of justification and technical "solutions" in search of problems.

Hi Chris. Always glad to be involved in a good realization of suspicion :-), but I must say I can't think of anything that's been over-invested in this area yet, and if you talk to a power user, entrepreneur, or builder in a 3D world like Second Life, the technical solutions being worked towards definitely have real problems to solve o'plenty. What kind of things are you thinking? I know this has been a very general discussion so I'm trying to find your page and understand what you think the biggest problems are.


I dont actively maintain any text based sites and my photo site linked from here is down till I can get home and fix it.

The thing is none of this recently hyped stuff "fixes" anything for me personally. I see some good in some of the individual technologies, especially the API based stuff, but my basic problems with the Web in general have more to do with the lack of dicipline of site maintainers (incomplete, outdated or incorrect information) or the sheer stupidity of designers (any UI that dont work in lynx, as in requires a GUI interpreter like flash or is overly javascript reliant for no real reason other than making things blinky). These problems wont be solved by slathering another layer of technolard on top, they are just likely to make things worse. My needs however are not those of most, I dont fall into the elite who build new things, or the smiley encrusted masses, my needs are however primarily centered around text, and text works just fine.

As for over investment, well I'd say that the recent rounds of aquisitions look a bit frothy to me. I cant see how [voip,CMS-lite{blogs},podcasts,etc] are worth the prices they have been commanding, but then again, I'm not a sales guy or an entrepreneur, so maybe I dont know nothin.

I'm really glad that joi is pointing this out. opensource p2p (or otherwise federated) 3d environments with good upgrade paths are a crucial part of the puzzle. there's no point in us developping all of this web-ecology stuff if 80% of computer usage ends up being done through whoever wins the SL/WOW/other players war.

And I'm with you - 3d environments are far from hype. Ask any gamer.

and in response to Antoine:
"really? 3d? is there real benefit to 3d for users for non-gaming?"

I think the lessons learnt in the last 5 years on the web (meaning web technology and technologies furthered by collaboration over the web) are starting to be applied to the Immersive field (let's not call it 3D; 3D is a reference to the technical nature of it and too tightly coupled inthe popular culture with "video games" and cheesy sci-fi movies from the 80's. And let's please not call it Web 3.0 either! How about Immersive Web? ImmComm? whatever).

Open source, open standards (very very very important!), distributed with "localized" (and I do not mean real world geo. think topics, labels, tags, "clans" if you must!) federation... The hardware is just starting to be able to handle this, at least on the Mac side of things (and for anyone who scoffs at this, I say much "Web 2.0" would not have happened without Mac OS X).

Back to nursing cold. :p

Web 3.0 is not 3D. Even when our computers do get some "2.5D" capabilities, they will be used for window management and OS functions, not re-visualizing the web.

No, Web 3.0, IMHO, is when we figure out that the only true freedom we can have on the Internet comes with decentralized, open, P2P-based services. Web 3.0 will be the point where we cast off the shackles of centralized, corporate-sponsored online communities and using P2P for something more than warez and MP3s.

No, Web 3.0 is when my dream of having the Internet let me spend *LESS* time on my computer... making my *MEATSPACE* life more efficient and pleasurable... is actually realized.

And yes, I realize posting this as a comment is a bit ironic.

I'm not sure I'd want my whole desktop 3D. I think that 3D+2D is important. I think 3D works well for collaborative environments where you have a lot of people working on stuff. Also, as pt points out, I think mapping real world stuff into spaces is also interesting.

You'll probably like This Spartan Life:

it's a talk show hosted inside an online game.

It's a good thing though it should have had a better name.

I wonder what all this Social Software buzz is about. So called Social Software is as social as Live Cams where live 10 years ago. Remeber? A new image every 10 minutes. If you want social Social Software then check out LLuna. It is about real people on Web sites. The Jabber Virtual Presence Project does not call it Social Software, but it is. It makes the Web come alive by showing people on pages while they are there. Yes this sounds like an advertisement, but I am really tired of Social Software where I end up reading Web pages. Go for the real people:

3D may be "web 3.0", but may advice for SL and Croque would be to stay small for the next time. The world is not ready yet.

The Terminal is mostly 1D, Web is 2D, so 3D seems to be the next step, but i think it is much too complicated right now. Perhaps we need better devices first, like we needed the mouse for 2D.

My prediction is a renaissance of Web Apps like Javas JNLP tried and failed (which language wants to try next? get famous, anyone?). Browser Apps will hit a wall the next years and Desktop Apps will stay. So the mixture could be Software which is run over the web. Grid computing and similar technology, will play a big role as well, i suppose.

But this is far future talk, lets enjoy web 2.0 or the web as it was meant to be, as Paul Graham said.

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