It seems that the Internet is gearing up for the next experience revolution. We all remember sites from the Web 0.5 era. These sites typically were thrown together as fan pages or small information sites about some topic. Then we moved into Web 1.0 with sites like eBay and Amazon. I believe at that point we could begin referring to web sites as web applications.
After the web matured into a usable beast in the 1.0 era, people began taking time tackling the user experience problem. Sometime during this transition Shockwave and Flash hit the scene. At the time people believed they could use Flash to make rich web applications and, at the time, they failed. There were several issues with the approach including non-familiar controls, load times, and installation of third-party code.
AJAX = DHTML + XmlHttpRequest
AJAX has spawned the Web 2.0 era, and brought us great applications like Flickr and GMail. There are other elements to the Web 2.0 movement, but I think a big portion is the rich experience that the user is getting.
So what is Web 3.0? When I started writing this article, I was going to tell you that common runtimes would take over Web 3.0. I believed this because of the recent introduction of Adobe Flex to make it easier for developers to create and maintain Flash applications. Also the recent interest of many other big players in the common runtime market, namely, Silverlight from Microsoft, JavaFX from Sun, and the open source Open Laszlo.
I do believe that these proprietary common runtimes will play an important part in the future of the web, but I think they will be a subset of applications, and still not the norm. I believe that web standard applications will still dominate the web because of searchability, accessibility, and portability. However, I believe there will be a third player in the next realization of the web: web-aware applications like iTunes. Until now, these applications have been few and far between, but, with new runtimes popping up to allow for traditional web developers to make the switch to desktop applications, I believe you will see more and more web-aware applications. The two runtimes I am aware of are Apollo from Adobe and Slingshot from Joyent.
So what does this all mean? Well I believe sites based on data and the exchange of information will stay in the realm of web standards to encourage cooperation and exchange of data. I believe web applications, like bank software, eBay, and Flickr will go in one of two directions depending on the user experience they want to accomplish. In most cases I believe it will be a combination of the two. For instance Flickr will use some sort of web interface, and also an upload tool written using Apollo, or Slingshot.
To the end-user this means a much better experience, but hopefully not at the cost of the exchange of information, which is really the essence of what makes the Internet great.