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Internet and social media consultant Sarah Austin says businesses should make sure their Web sites are compatible with mobile devices and consider launching smart phone apps.
Internet and social media consultant Sarah Austin says businesses should make sure their Web sites are compatible with mobile devices and consider launching smart phone apps.

Defining Web 3.0

Posted online
Imagine getting ready for work in the morning and watching your favorite local morning news program streamed from the Internet into the bathroom mirror.

It may sound a little futuristic or far-fetched, but some local technology industry representatives think that’s where the next phase of Internet communication – dubbed by some as Web 3.0 – will lead.  

“That’s one of the components of Web 3.0,” said Charlie Rosenbury, senior developer with Web development company 40Digits LLC. “We will be increasing  (the) Web presence in our lives outside of the computer.”

Another component of Web 3.0 may entail giving search engines the ability not just to understand the name of a business, but also understanding what type of business it is, which will potentially allow users to access higher volumes of data more quickly.

And while entirely bridging the gap between computers and daily living may not happen for a few more years, Rosenbury and other industry sources agree that the Internet era of Web 3.0 already has begun – even if it’s unclear exactly what it will look like.

“Right now, Web 3.0 is still a very vague term,” Rosenbury said. “Its simple definition is that it is the next generation of how we use the Internet and right now, that is the use of phones and tablets.”

Web era breakdown
Local author Heather Mansfield simplifies the concept further in her book, “Social Media for Social Good,” defining what’s happening in Web 3.0 as the mobile Web.

Mansfield, a frequent tech blogger, explained that Web 1.0 was when Web sites were designed for 12-inch to 18-inch screens and were meant to be read as online brochures with little to no interaction. The Web 2.0 era, she said, brought the introduction of social media such as blogs, Facebook and Twitter, with businesses having conversations with their customers – friends or fans – via these platforms.

“With Web 3.0, it’s all of that combined into a mobile format,” Mansfield said. “Instead of having a Web site designed only for a large screen, they are also designed for smaller screens. Customers expect businesses to have a mobile Web site.”

That expectation will hit home particularly for those companies that participate in e-commerce. According to the latest industry statistics released by IBM for the 2011 shopping season, online sales increased 7.5 percent compared to 2010 sales, and of those, 14.6 percent of online transactions were made with mobile devices, compared to 5.6 percent in 2010.

“Shopping almost changed overnight,” Mansfield said. “Online shopping means mobile shopping and that’s what businesses should be thinking about now for the 2012 holiday season.”

Forward thinking
According to Digby, a mobile app company that tracks industry data, roughly half of all Americans own smart phones, and 65 percent of mobile users say they use their devices to locate businesses, which suggests that ignoring the rapid changes in the way people use the web to find businesses and use products or services could be detrimental to the bottom line.

“What’s happening now is very consumer-driven,” Mansfield said. “Consumers are already using the technology, and businesses are just trying to catch up.”

The main thing businesses need to do right now is make sure their Web sites are compatible with mobile devices, said Sarah Austin, an Internet and social media consultant in Springfield.

“Businesses should start now getting their Web sites mobile- and tablet-friendly,” she said, noting that companies also should explore ways to make their Web sites as friendly as possible to search engine crawlers.

Not including development, Mansfield said mobile-compatible Web sites can be launched for as little as $8.

Austin also said business leaders should think about smart phone apps and how those can help their companies.

“Businesspeople should use their imaginations,” Austin said. “If a real estate agent thinks, for example, there is a better way to look for houses, they should talk to a developer and see if they can have an app developed. App developers are always looking for good ideas.”

Quick response or QR codes – 2-D, traditionally black-and-white square barcodes that can be scanned for smartphone users to direct them to special deals or a company’s Web site – are seeing high levels of interest right now, but these local experts aren’t sure whether they’ll maintain that interest for the long term.

“We haven’t seen the critical mass adopting them,” Austin said.

Mansfield said other Web 3.0 elements to explore include the ability to text coupons to customer lists, and for retailers, considering  Google Wallet, which allows retailers to scan phones for payment, rather than customers using cash or credit cards for purchases. Mansfield said hardware for Google Wallet runs about $100.

There’s also Square, which is free to get started and allows service companies to accept credit card payments through smart phones on-site with clients.

“If a plumber has been in business 25 years, but they’re not up on the latest payment methods, they may lose their business to the 25-year-old plumber who is up on the technology,” Mansfield said.[[In-content Ad]]

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