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Web 1.0, Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 Simplified for Nonprofits

January 28, 2010

While there are a good number of tech-savvy hipsters out there that understand terms like “Static Web”, “Dynamic Content”, “User-Generated”, “Cloud Computing”, and “Semantic Web”, the majority of nonprofits don’t talk or understand such tech speak. So, to simply for the nonprofit masses, I present and frame very simple definitions and interpretations of Web 1.0, Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 as follows:

Web 1.0 = Websites, e-mail newsletters and “Donate Now” buttons

Web 1.0 is one person or organization pushing content out to many people via websites and e-mail newsletters. The donation process is not interactive or public. You donate and then receive a “Thank You” email. It’s one-way communication.

Web 2.0 = Blogs, wikis, and social networking sites

At its core, Web 2.0 is the beginning of two-way communication in the online public commons. People can post comments and converse with your organization in public for all to see. It’s one person or organization publishing content to many on social networking sites who then re-publish your content to their friends, fans, followers, connections, etc. Donating is a public experience. Friends, fans, followers, connections, etc. on social networking sites see your giving and fundraising activity through widgets, Apps, and peer-to-peering fundraising tools, like fundraising pages.

Web 3.0 = Mobile Websites, Text Campaigns and Smartphone Apps

Web 3.0 is all of the above except that the Web experience is no longer limited to desktop and laptop computers while stationary in one place. It’s the Internet on the go fueled by mobile phones and tablets. Mobile websites must be designed to be easily read on mobile devices. Group text campaigns function like e-mail newsletters in Web 1.0… to drive traffic to your mobile website. Text-to-Give technology allows quick, easy donations on your mobile phone inspired by urgent calls to actions. Smartphone Apps enable content to be published and shared easily while on the go. Effectively donating via smartphone Apps doesn’t exist yet, but its coming. Very soon.

Web 1.0 + Web 2.0 + Web 3.0 = Integrated Web Communications

What’s important to understand is that all three eras of the Web are complimentary and build and serve one another, rather than replace one another. They can also overlap. You use Web 2.0 tools to drive traffic to your website, to build your e-mail newsletter list, and to increase visits to your Donate Now buttons. You use your Web 2.0 communities to launch your Web 3.0 campaigns. And you use your Web 3.0 tools to grow your communities on social networking sites and to send supporters and donors to mobile versions of your e-mail newsletter “Subscribe” and “Donate Now” pages.

And while many nonprofit communicators are overwhelmed by all these new tools, it’s important to understand that there has been a paradigm shift in web communications. Some supporters and donors still prefer to be engaged by your nonprofit Web 1.0 style. Others think “e-mail is for old people” and consistently get most of their content and inspiration from social networking sites. Web 3.0 will organize the masses in ways never seen before through geolocation, group texting and mobile websites, and much of it will be done via Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and FourSquare smartphone Apps.

Bottom Line: There’s no “One Fits All” communication tool or tool set anymore. Age, class, race, gender and location play huge roles now in how people want to receive information and calls to action from nonprofits. The good news is that all of these tools are now affordable for nonprofits (even mobile marketing tools!). It’s just a matter of keeping up and finding the staff time – and the right person on staff – to master Web 1.0, Web 2.0, and Web 3.0. Those nonprofits that do it best will be the most successful in sharing their mission and programs, creating social change, and securing and maintaining new donors. That’s my take. How about you?

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17 Comments leave one →
  1. January 28, 2010 1:11 pm

    Great summary here, I completely agree that geolocation is the future and that we are ultimately headed towards mobile synchronization of communication.

  2. January 29, 2010 5:02 am

    web 3.0 actually refers to the semantic web, or the ability for search engines to understand what you want rather than searches being defined by keywords.

    mobile applications are just another way of accessing information. While we will be seeing more and more mobile usage, web 3.0 is more about the ability for applications to understand us in a more human way.

    This PCmag article explains it better than I can,2817,2102852,00.asp


    • nonprofitorgs permalink
      January 29, 2010 5:24 am

      Thanks Amil. I know about the Semantic Web, but it doesn’t resonate with 99.9% of nonprofits. I deliberately chose not to use the term. Web 3.0 = The Mobile Web. Web 3.0 = The App Economy. Web 3.0 = The Semantic Web. Opinions all over the place. Kind of amazed how many uber tech males emailed me when I published this post offended and quite rude that I suggested the Mobile Web is 3.0. You were the nicest. 🙂 I really don’t want to get into argument over tech jargon about defining Web 3.0… who knew this would anger so many guys (I have to say… none were women)… none of which work in the nonprofit sector. Nonprofits really need a framework right now to be able conceptualize and manage all these new tools. These definitions really resonate with them whether they are technically correct or not. Anyway… I don’t mean to rude at all and your simple explanation is the most useful, but wow… who knew this was such a touchy subject with Guys Who Tech. THANKS. Have a nice day.

  3. Shyam Kapur permalink
    January 29, 2010 11:07 pm

    This is an excellent post and I like the comments, too. Some early signs of the Future of the Web and Search (3.0 and beyond) can be seen in semantic tools like TipTop.

  4. February 6, 2010 10:28 am

    I’ve just created a mashup of RSS feeds relating to Charity 2.0, nonprofit 2.0, and twitter hashtag charity2.0


    • nonprofitorgs permalink
      February 7, 2010 5:06 am

      Cool. Thanks.

  5. February 9, 2010 12:06 pm

    You hit the nail on the head when you said in your reply to Amil, “Nonprofits really need a framework right now to be able conceptualize and manage all these new tools.” I consult with several nonprofits and most people on the boards are overwhelmed with just understanding it. Embracing and managing social media is not even on their radar. Compound that with it all changing so fast and new tools coming out every day… If we can provide nonprofs with an easier way to understand web 1.0-3.0 they will be more apt to embrace it and use it for positive results. Without a understandable framework in which they conceptualize, they will just look at you like a deer in headlights.

    • December 15, 2010 9:52 am

      Nonprofitsorg and Chris you are both so right.

      Nonprofits and their boards are dealing with so much including limited resources that Web 3.0 is likely the last thing on their agenda.

      I just met with the CEO of — she’s working on an array of issues from trying to build up her chapter board membership to getting her volunteer’s focused on plans for 2011 to setting up meaninful thank you events for major donors to figuring out how to maintain Web 1.0 while continuing to build out Web 2.0 iniatives…

      So framing Web 3.0 in a way that seems manageable, not just the next craze but a benefit, is vital for small to mid size non-profits.

      Amilh thanks for the link to the article! And Allan thanks for the mashup!
      I will check them both out next.

      Judy Seiler
      Passionate about using digital and direct marketing to
      galvanize demand and pull prospects through the sales funnel.

  6. September 7, 2010 5:24 am

    Yeah I agree web 3.0 is all about smartphones

  7. September 8, 2011 4:17 am

    I didnt really understand this before you explained it. Now i am interested to do some css and make my site a 3.0.


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