Let me preface this post by saying I dislike the versioning of the web, especially the “Web2.0” term, however I do feel the web has gone through evolutionary stages. Also for all intents and purposes, this historical analysis starts in 1995.  This post is inspired by a chat that Alex and I had last fall, and which was brought back up a few days ago

So where did it all start?

The first iteration of the web was all about the connecting of documents to each other. This was the basis of the hyperlink. Hyperlinks were designed to interlink files and documents by specifying their locations.  Think Yahoo directories, and Netscape 1.0.

So now we’re building things
The second iteration or evolution of the web was all about building tools for people to create these documents. One could argue that started with geocities, tripod, angelfire, and all the other personal homepage tools of the mid nineties.  This is the user generated phase of the web. This is what I think of when I think of “Web2.0.”

But how do we socialize?
The third generation/iteration/evolution was less about creating content, but more about linking the content creators together (previous generations tools were by now commoditized to the point they were functions, not the focus). So this was the social network phase if you like.  Users were now being connected directly to each other, and the finding/discovery of new content was shifted from a machine controlled aspect to a social function.

They’re my friends, not yours
The fourth stage is where we see the tools to let us create our own links between people and take these links wherever we choose.  This is the advent of portable social networks and personal social networks.  Of all the “graphs” we have interconnecting us today, email is quite possibly the easiest system of connections we have to port.  This is a big huge play on the parts of Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo, the three kings of email.

So what does this all mean?
Well in a nutshell, it means that we’ll be seeing a number of players adopt or propose their own standards for data portability. Either true data portability, email portability, ID portability, or something else will get a likely boost in the near future.  The prize it seems is in controlling the creation of these networks and tracking them all (think observing how swarms of insects or schools of fish behave).