I’m not sure if it will be quite this drastic. As much as media people and tech enthusiasts make a big deal about Web 2.0, I don’t think it’s ever really caught on with mainstream culture. Sure, there are lots of people driving 2.0 engines like Digg but the average person is still not involved in social media on any meaningful level. In most community programs I’ve been involved in, 7% of the people create 95% of the content. Converting the passive is not going to happen in just a couple years no matter how catchy your buzz words are.
Over at Converation Agent (quickly becoming my favorite blog), Valeria Maltoni paints a picture of a Web 3.0 world where “pull technology will replace push completely.” She cites some recent developments, like Mozilla’s use of Microformats to draw links between smart tagging and AI systems, that will potentially replace the people that are currently acting as “connection brokers.” Think about your role in your organization or industry. If you can be described as a connection broker, which I believe all people in PR can, this is probably an important evolution to pay attention to.
What I see as the real Web 3.0, and this isn’t too far removed from what Valeria is saying about “pull vs push,” is that mainstream culture will become much more comfortable acting as mass aggregators. People are already getting a taste of this with their DVRs (recording a series is like subscribing to a feed) but RSS is barrier for many people due to the way the technology is positioned to them. Web 3.0 will find that sweet spot where people can very intuitively filter in all their media the way they want it, regardless of whether it’s a Facebook feed, personal email or their favorite section of the New York Times.
In terms of widespread adoption of AI as media filters, I’m not so convinced consumers will want this. Sure TiVo and NetFlix have won many people over with how their AI finds more content that their customers may enjoy but peer recommendations will always trump recommendation engines.
Likewise, consumers love spam filters but they will rarely allow the filters to automatically delete emails without allowing them to quickly scan them. Why is this? It’s probably because email has become somewhat of a broadcast channel and consumers don’t want to miss content or correspondence that they’re not even sure they want in advance. For this reason, I never see pull technology completely replacing push.
What does this mean for the connection brokers? Since, in even a predominantly “pull” culture, advertising won’t stand much of a chance, peer-to-peer trust will not only be the most important asset to marketer but it will be the only effective channel to influence aggregation habits. Also, if brands aren’t creating content that their enthusiasts want, they will slowly become invisible. Once consumers start trusting the AI engines more than their own social networks, then the connection brokers will truly become irrelevant.