Calacanis: Web 3.0 is whatever I say it is


Humpty Dumpty: “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”

Alice: “The question is, whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

You have to hand it to Jason Calacanis, the diminutive Web entrepreneur behind Mahalo, for completely ignoring all the ink and electrons that have been spilled writing about the concept of Web 3.0 — including conversations like the one I had with Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the guy who invented the Web — and just coming up with his own definition. Not only that, he has the audacity to call it the “official” definition. Official according to whom? Why, to Jason, of course.

Not surprisingly, as Fred Wilson points out in his post, Jason’s definition is also effectively a thumbnail description of Mahalo, the people-powered search/directory service he is trying to build. Web 3.0, he says, is:

“the creation of high-quality content and services produced by gifted individuals using Web 2.0 technology as an enabling platform.”

That’s funny, because every time I’ve heard anyone who actually knows anything describe it, they use terms like “semantic Web,” and talk about adapting the way the Web is built so that information can be aggregated and linked in different ways automatically, as Josh Kopelman describes here. But that kind of definition wouldn’t suit Jason’s purposes, so in effect it doesn’t exist. I think I like the definition Jemima Kiss came up with better.

Further reading:

Brian Solis has some thoughts on what Web 3.0 is at Bubblicious, and so do Alex Iskold at Adaptive Blue, Jeremy Toeman at LiveDigitally, Allan Stern at CenterNetworks, and Eric Berlin at Online Media Cultist.


Jason has said that his post was just linkbait — to which Gabe Rivera gives the best response I’ve seen yet, in a comment on Jason’s blog (thanks to Megan McCarthy at Valleywag for the link). Gabe says:

“Yeah, I suppose you fooled Techmeme about your sincerity. Note that you also fooled Fred Wilson and Josh Kopelman in the process.

Training your readers to doubt you can be risky. Sometimes you want your posts taken at face value, e.g. those insisting your company is succeeding.”

Jason responds that the post was mostly sincere, and just the word “official” was linkbait — but in a comment on the Podtech blog he says the post was “90 per cent linkbait.”

Comments (13)

  1. Jason wrote::

    Note: The semantic web definition was unauthorized and as such invalid. Additionally, your blog post was not pre-approved for double-opt in rebuttal, and as such will be downgraded in the index.

    For more information please check the official, pre-approved response to your unauthorized comments.



    Thursday, October 4, 2007 at 11:07 am #
  2. Mathew wrote::

    Jason, if there’s a top 100 list of linkbait artists out there, you would definitely be in the top 5 :-)

    Thursday, October 4, 2007 at 11:20 am #
  3. eric norlin wrote::

    some comments on the whole “web 3.blecch” mess:


    Thursday, October 4, 2007 at 11:24 am #
  4. Leigh wrote::

    Yeah but I bet Mathew ends up on Techmeme….

    Thursday, October 4, 2007 at 11:43 am #
  5. I haven’t heard “diminutive” used in such a cutting way since the days of Toronto sports reporters writing about “diminutive puckstopper Allan Bester.”

    Thursday, October 4, 2007 at 12:12 pm #
  6. Eric Berlin wrote::

    Are people becoming too concerned with the *semantics* web?

    I understand that Mr. Calacanis excels at drumming up controversy and blogospheric conversations, but I’m surprised at the reactions to this.

    Maybe I’m just more comfortable with throwing loose labels around than others, but I see zero that’s controversial in Jason’s definition, and in fact think it’s right on. Web technology is more or less commoditized today, therefore the best ideas and execution of those ideas will tend to win out over the next few years. That’s my take as well.

    Now, maybe the semantic web (or the “whatever web”) will be Web 3.0 *or* Web 4.0 or whatever, but does that really matter?

    Thursday, October 4, 2007 at 12:37 pm #
  7. Craig wrote::

    semantic web is a useless buzz word that will never make it out of geek speak and academia.

    Thursday, October 4, 2007 at 12:38 pm #
  8. Mathew wrote::

    Eric, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with Jason’s description — it sounds like something worthwhile. And maybe it’s silly to get all caught up in what’s the “official” definition of Web 3.0.

    But at the same time, I think if we’re going to talk about something, we should be clear about what it is we’re trying to talk about.

    As for the term “semantic web,” Craig, you are right that it is a buzz word, and may only be used by geeks and academics. I certainly don’t expect my mother to use it, or even understand it — the same way I don’t expect her to know what HTML is. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t use those terms at all.

    Thursday, October 4, 2007 at 1:32 pm #
  9. Tom wrote::

    I actually agree completely with your post but couldn’t help myself from pointing out one irony. That irony is that you’re essentially endorsing the idea of a semantic web on a blog with a RSS 2.0 feed.

    If people really believe the Semantic Web to be the future than shouldn’t they make a move to support it with their own blogs? And isn’t the first step to doing that having your feed in a format that is strict enough to be used in a semantic scenario (Atom would probably be the best choice but RDF based RSS 1.0 would also work)?

    Anyway, sorry for the off topic mini-rant but I just had to point that out

    Thursday, October 4, 2007 at 3:08 pm #
  10. Fraser wrote::

    “I think if we’re going to talk about something, we should be clear about what it is we’re trying to talk about.” – Couldn’t agree more. If everyone in the discussion is using the same buzz word to convey the same message, often times it makes sense to use buzz words because they can communicate abstract ideas efficiently. Trouble arises when buzz words are solely used free from content or in the presence of those who don’t grasp all that the word defines.

    On that note, it’s probably worth noting that Semantic Web and Implicit Web are two very different things.

    @ Andrew: Bester’s legacy lives on among hardcore leaf fans. He has not one, but two (!) Facebook fan groups.

    Thursday, October 4, 2007 at 3:55 pm #
  11. Dave Zatz wrote::


    Thursday, October 4, 2007 at 9:51 pm #
  12. Jeffrey wrote::

    I was already surprised by Jason’s use of the words “gifted” and “high quality” as being, at worst, naive. Now, thanks to your post, Matthew, I see that thinking it was naive was hardly the correct “at worst” scenario.

    Friday, October 5, 2007 at 12:41 pm #
  13. TDavid wrote::

    When web versioning iterates to web113 I have the dot com already sewn up. It’s had 224 visitors since November 16, 2006, too hehe ;)

    Friday, October 5, 2007 at 2:03 pm #