Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Is it really as cliche as Web 3.0?

I have been thinking for the last month about "Connected Commerce" - in my head, I was thinking about it in the context of eCommerce evolved in a world of Web 2.0 (a term I dislike, but get - and it doesn't seem to have wandered too far from its original meaning, but does seem rather broad). When the actual transaction piece of buying something online becomes unbounded by the website - so, available via mobile, or plugged into a social networking site, or even pulled into someone else's blog - then how do you define "eCommerce" in that context? Coming at it from the retailer point of view, I saw that as "Connected Commerce," but find the term lacking something (something even more than just the "e").

Then I encountered Optaros, who approached it more from the Content side of the web. They call it "W3CM" which is a play on Web Content Management, except the C is actually 3 C's: content, commerce, and community. They see a convergence across all three of these dimensions, and see brands and retailers struggling with this convergence - brands, who have content and are trying to figure out how it integrates with community and commerce, and retailers, who have commerce and are trying to figure out content and community.

In some ways, retailers especially have been looking at Optaros' 3 dimensions from a 2-D perspective. Retailers tend to discount content, either because they don't take it seriously enough, or because they tend to view it as an offshoot of products and thus wrapped into eCommerce. And those that do take on content, for example with their own blogs, often do it independently of the commerce function, almost as if they don't want consumers to consider the content to be tainted by introducing a commerce aspect to it.

But just as retailers are living in a plane with dimensions of commerce and community, and Optaros sees the world in three dimensions, with Content being the third, I think there is a fourth dimension at play as well, which is the physical world. The "real" world, which encompasses both product and brand location, as well as an individual's physical relationship to those things at a point in time. Maybe this can be summed up as "physical context."

The natural analogy would be, just as Web 2.0 in many ways freed the "Web" of the constraint of an individual site or even an internet browser, what we're groping towards in retail is a kind of Web 3.0 - where, thanks to increasingly ubiquitous hardware like mobile phones or kiosks, the virtual world and the physical world are continuously co-located. So while we have been thinking about the Web in all of its complexity as a 3-D object, it is an object that exists in relation to a fourth dimension: physical context, in all its glory and complexity. (By the way, TrendWatching just put out a fantastic piece about "Transparency", which touches on this topic and has some great examples.

As much as I dislike the term "Web 3.0" or even the more aspirational "Web Unbound," I cannot for the life of me think of something better. I've tried getting geeky: The Web/Context Continuum (analogous to the Space/Time Continuum). Contextual Commerce? ECommerce Unbound? Blech!

What do I call this thing? The closest I've come to is "Not Your Father's Internet"...

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