In December 2006, we were working on an e-commerce portal aimed for the B2C segment. It was supposed to rival Amazon in terms of features, experience, technology … a very ambitious project. When doing market research for that project, we tried out many Indian e-commerce sites, actually shopped on some of them, and literally choose from the best of them the features we want to build. That was the first time I came across Futurebazaar. I bought a book, (Shantaram) from the site, the book was delivered in a week or so. I soon forgot about the site, little did I know that I was one of the first customers on the portal. Within a month or so, I got a mail from them saying so and also an invitation to their public media launch. Wow! My first media launch invitation!! Wheee!!

I look at the site now, almost 40 months later, and I can see how well they have evolved. No more the tacky-looking nested menus, distinct spaces which map onto their physical presences, interesting sales promotions (Lucky Wheel thingy), only products which they stock in their physical stores, support offered through their physical stores, etc. The way they have evolved their business from being a pure play online shop to a click and brick model is to be applauded.

Kudos to you Futurebazaar!!

Web 4.0: The Enabling Web

Forgive me, this post is going to be a long one.

In the brief span of its existence, the web has evolved at such an alarming rate, that it outstrips evolution of any living organism. Even as Indian web users and web development companies are creating (and using) Web 2.0 platforms, the more developed nations are already talking about Web 3.0, the semantic web.


Not so surprisingly, I have found to my chagrin that 80% or more of the Indian populace associate Web 2.0 with client side technologies instead of a collaborative technology. People associate it with all the wrong ideas … I do not blame them. Awareness has always been the bane of comprehension. Having said that, I decided that it would do some good if we can somehow capture the evolution of the internet in these already popular phrases, and somehow manage to extrapolate what the next stage could be – so that we are prepared when it comes ;-)

Or even better, a host of Indian companies could bring in the era of Web 4.0: The Enabling Web. So what are these evolutionary milestones?

Web 1.0: The Information Superhighway

This is the internet of yore. Those were the days when people would make separate HTML pages and upload it on the net. Content was written within these pages and uploaded. It was authoritative in nature, since most of these sites were a one way communication stream. People came to different sites with the sole aim of gathering information – hence the name, the Information Superhighway.

Web 2.0: A Collaborative Medium

This is the internet that we see around us these days. The web is more social now, its a place to meet interesting people – to collaboratively create content. Content is not written within pages, content is created by the users themselves. The more the users, the more the content. What the developers create is a platform which enables this co-creation between the users. A great example of this is Wikipedia or IMDB.




Web 3.0: A sense making layer

The new era of internet is coming, this can somehow make sense out of the user’s inputs and act accordingly. So when I say “Show me a blue lotus”, the internet should show me the image of a blue car instead of a blue flower. How does it do this? It already has my preferences for cars over flowers somewhere. This is where collaborative filtering mechanisms and business intelligence algorithms are used to correctly profile the user. The internet is capable of understanding what the user is speaking. It differentiates a Gandhi from a Hitler. Some examples of this would be WolframAlpha or Amazon.

Web 4.0: The Enabling Web

So what happens when the web begins the “understand” the user. The sole question is – “What’s the point?”. If it can understand the user, it can also understand the purpose with which the user is driven to visit a particular web application. And, if that can be done, then it won’t be too difficult to understand and provide what other resources would help the user reach his outcome. The web suddenly becomes a more intertwined place with each web application talking to others, so as to provide the best experience to its user. Not only experience, but to ensure that the user is enabled with the right set of resources to get his job done. The purpose of the user is kept at the center. That’s my vision for web 4.0 akin to a more evolved Ubiquity extension of Firefox.