It’s heeeere! The third wave of the web is crashing over us. But will you sink or surf?

Huh? What’s the third wave of the web…?

The internet is sucking us into its whirlpool of potential.

I’ve been reading a lot lately about ‘the third wave of the web’, which we’re apparently only just entering. You might have noticed it perhaps, crashing over the publishing world like a tidal wave?! Unstoppable, it’s left behind it a trail of bankrupt bookshops and readers on Twitter/Facebook/online forums endlessly discussing which e-book readers they should buy – an iPad, a Kindle, a Kobo, a Nook or some other brand? I haven’t bought one yet, but I will, because I know I’ll soon have little choice… Steve Tappin and Andrew Cave have told me where we’re heading in their 2010 edition of “The New Secrets of CEOs: 200 Global Chief Executives on Leading”, and I believe them. “In the next decade,” they say, “the business world will change on an unprecedented scale.” Mark Clare, chief executive of Barratt Developments, agrees:

“The next five years will see a faster rate of change in consumer behaviour than ever before. What took 50 years will take 5.”

In Tappin and Cave’s forward-thinking section “Surfing the Third Wave of the Web”, Mark Parker, chief executive of Nike USA (whose website already allows consumers to create their own shoes!), says that ‘the third wave of the web’ will enable:

“a fundamental shift in power that really is giving the power to the consumer to engage, connect, and create and to do so on a scale never seen before. That’s going to have so much ripple effect in ways we don’t know.”

So what exactly is this ‘third wave of the web’, and what were the preceding two waves? According to Tappin and Cave, ‘Wave 1’ consisted of businesses establishing a web presence and opening for e-commerce, it was useful to some of the population, and we used dial-up to access it. ‘Wave 2’ involved optimizing the web as a way of connecting people, it was important to most people’s lives, and we used broadband to access it. But we are now entering ‘Wave 3’, in which users live between the real world, the internet and a wide range of virtual worlds, it is accessible everywhere on mobile devices via wireless broadband, and it’s becoming indispensable.

Hmmm, that fresh new-book scent!

“Tomorrow’s adults,” say Tappin and Cave, “will take the internet and mobile telecoms for granted.” Well, it’s not tomorrow yet and I already do! Australia is a vast country that’s a great distance from anywhere (see my previous post “What Makes Australian Authors Tick?”). So author podcasts, e-books, the ‘community picnic’ that is Twitter, Facebook, GoodReads, StumbleUpon and blogs like this one are a vital way of staying in touch with fans, as well as sharing information with fellow writers. I still splash out on printed books, and I like to sit and read them in natural daylight, but that’s getting to be more of an expensive treat. Plus, the internet can simply offer more – more value, more experiences, more access.

Resistance is futile.

For instance, did you know that there’s an iPad application now that allows you to highlight passages in e-books and comment on them? Your comments will then be visible to those reading the same book. The application is called *openmargin and it was launched in late April 2011 at the “The Next Web Conference” in The Netherlands (watch the demo here). It’s not in the stores yet, but soon it will be transforming the way readers engage with each other, as well as possibly with authors and celebrity readers. What reader will be able to resist?

You're having a heart attack? Wait, I've got an application for that!

Initiatives like J.K. Rowling’s new “Pottermore” website have fans in a flurry of excitement and authors (myself included) thinking about what kind of interactive and e-publishing experiences we might be able to offer fans. Published stories and positive reviews aren’t the end-game anymore. So I have my eye on the shoreline and I’m watching for the next set of waves over which I might need to paddle. Most of you reading this blog are probably right alongside me, engaged in the social media of your choice and waiting to see what the next surge in technological advancement will bring us. But you’ll also have plenty of friends and colleagues who aren’t being as watchful, they might not even have a web presence yet! Is it because they  don’t need one or because they prefer to adapt to progress gradually, in case they back the wrong passing fad?

It took people 15 years to adopt the push-button telephone over the radial dial.

Perhaps they also resisted CDs when they took over from cassettes, DVDs from videocassettes and pen drives from floppy disks? The problem is, if they haven’t even entered ‘Wave 1’ of the web yet (and really should), what’s going happen to them when ‘Wave 4’ begins to swell? Will they be able to catch up, or will they be too close to the break and sink? Perhaps if you tell them about the waves of the internet, and how indispensable the internet is becoming, they can act now, before it crashes over them like an unstoppable tidal wave? Go on, throw them a line.

Zena Shapter

I write from a castle in a flying city hidden by a thundercloud. #Ditmar Award-winning author. Movie buff. Traveller. Wine lover. Story nerd. Book Creator & Mentor. Founder & leader of the award-winning Northern Beaches Writers' Group / ZF Kingbolt.


  1. Yay – throw them a line, Alan! After writing this post, I stumbled across Alan’s ultimate guide to Twitter: “So you don’t understand Twitter”. In it, he guides Twitter-novices through the process of setting up a Twitter profile, what and how to tweet, and what to expect in return. Great post, Alan!

    Have you stumbled across any other guides that might help those still stuck in ‘Wave 1’ or ‘Wave 2’ of the web (or earlier!)? Post a reply if you have, you might just be saving someone from drowning!

  2. Thanks for the plug! You might also be interested in this post, as it’s relevant to some of the comments you made above, regarding the uptake of digital technology by readers, authors and publishers:

    • How funny – I had that open in my browser ready to read (got my email notification of the post this morning)!

      I’m surprised publishers are being so slow to harness the market power a unique digital strategy will give them. Only 15% of publishers have a competitively differentiating digital strategy – really? To date, 26% of publishers have no digital strategy at all – OMGoodness!

      Point to note for anyone looking for a new career – web, web, web! Digital strategy, web design, web developer, producer, etc.

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