While the FDA Considers Web 2.0 Regulation, Web 3.0 is on the Way

 As Scott Hensley wrote on the NPR Blog – "Just in time for Web 3.0, the Food and Drug Administration has set a date this fall for a hearing on how to deal with Web 2.0."  Well said, and more importantly, true.  As we move closer to Web 3.0, however, we have to ask ourselves – what is it, why is it, and what are the forces that are shaping the media and communications environment?

Web 1.0 represented a piece of owned media – it was media that an individual or company could produce and control and own.  The driving force shaping the environment was simple – people wanted news and information.  Other people provided it.  The people wanting the information came and read or watched it.  Outside of the Internet, owned media included brochures, annual reports and materials like that – things you produce, things you own.  Your Web site used to be Web 1.0 – static and there to display content that you hoped others would link to and come and see.  It was a simple, straight-forward exchange.  

Web 2.0 is a marked a sea change, however.  Web 2.0 is about shared media, not owned media.  Web 2.0 is the manifestation of several new characteristics.  First, as the very existence of Google evidences, information wants to be free.  People do not want to pay for content anymore, and won't – whatever Rupert Murdoch says.  The other defining characteristic of Web 2.0 is the fact that people no longer want large institutions to package news for them and broadcast it.  Rather, people want to pick news they want to get from sources they have come to trust and to be able to pass it along to others they know.  These two characteristics are the forces that are shaping the current environment and they form not only Web 2.0 – but media 2.0.  These two characteristics are why newspapers and broadcast are losing dollars and eyeballs, and why cable and the Internet are gaining.  People want far more control over their consumption of information than they had under Web 1.0.  The balance of power has shifted from the producers of content to the consumers of content.  A failure to grasp that is why the FDA waited so long to even begin taking the Internet seriously as a different animal from print or broadcast.   Today, consumers of information can set up systems to capture information (RSS feeds, e.g.), sort it, digest it and for consumers to package it and send it on to others.  In Web 2.0, consumers not only read information, they became the editors.  

What, then, is Web 3.0?  Web 3.0 will be characterized by two primary characteristics that will shape the environment.  First – the integration of systems.  YouTube is connected to blogs.  Blogs are connected to Twitter.  Google Wave allows you to pull in all sorts of media into an interactive sort of Wiki.  Web 3.0 is transformative.  Communications systems will integrate and coalesce – just look at your phone.  In fact, this characteristic is dramatically demonstrated by the fact that  the advent of Sidewiki converts a Web 1.0 property like a Web site, into a Web 2.0 facility by taking it from static status to that of shared status – a Sidewiki makes a Web site into social media.  But secondly, Web 3.0 will be characterized by a new level of participation by the consumers of news – they will  not only be editors, they will be active participants in the news.  Consider, for example, a new effort by a Chicago Tribune free paper called RedEye did something very innovative and began a Google Wave for the public.  In the Wave each day, the editors choose a topic and pose a question and let the public participate in the discussion about it.  That may, or may not, catch on as a big new change – but it does represent the on-going shift occurring among the news consuming public.  The comments that we left on blogs from Web 2.0 which represented our participation in the news, take on a new dimension beyond a static comment to interactive communication.  The RedEye experiment paints a very different picture of the future of journalism, public relations, public affairs and even advertising.  (Many large chains twittered their Black Friday special sales, e.g.).

Web 3.0 – in one form or another, is coming and it is important to consider now the strategic and practical implications of what is happening and the driving forces that are shaping the new media environment – especially for highly regulated industries like the pharmaceutical industry.  

Hey FDA – hold a special Part 15 meeting about that – don't make your learning curve any steeper than it already is.  Better yet, start a Google Wave about it to collect input from the public.  Forget Web 2.o – you missed the boat entirely on that one.  Start thinking ahead this time.

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