“Why are you using Google instead of the App Store?” If that question doesn’t immediately make sense to you, don’t feel bad: it took some explaining for me as well.

An iPad-using colleague of mine heard that question the other day, from someone who was urging him to search the App Store—not the great big unfocused Web—for the answer to a question. Heck of an idea.

The label of “Web 2.0” has taken so much flak that no one’s really swung at the ball of “Web 3.0,” despite Marc Benioff’s pitch two years ago – but that label has some real utility, I believe, to describe the powerful and appealing trend toward offering an app that defines a context—as well as the content—of an answer to someone’s question.

Consider the success of technology waves, not in terms of what they offer, but rather in terms of what they hide. Web 1.0, defined by the simple browser, took all the nuisance of finding and making connections and buried it behind the metaphor of hyperlinks in pages. Web 2.0, the interactive Web page, took the next step by burying the mechanisms of editing web-page content into the abstractions of Wikis and blogs.

If there’s a Web 3.0, and I believe there is, it’s found in the burial of application deployment and delivery into the abstractions of the App Store and the salesforce.com AppExchange. Find it. Research it. Try it. Buy it. That’s the abstraction on the demand side, and the supply-side abstraction is like unto it: Conceive it. Design it. Create it. Sell it.

Barrier to market entry? What’s that?

We kicked this around the other day in the context of a mildly controversial Wired article, “The Web is Dead. Long Live the Internet.” Plenty of things are wrong with that article, mainly the focus on bandwidth consumed – rather than number of interactions accomplished, or number of answers found. Even so, there’s the germ of an important opportunity in noting that people increasingly spend hours every day using the Internet, without ever leaving the frame of reference of a handful of applications.

The article’s opening makes the point concisely:

You’ve spent the day on the Internet — but not on the Web… Over the past few years, one of the most important shifts in the digital world has been the move from the wide-open Web to semiclosed platforms that use the Internet for transport but not the browser for display.

I’d correct that last sentence to say, “but not the Web-page metaphor for display”: Facebook, after all, is called up by many people using a browser, but once they’re in Facebook the browser is merely the invisible and ignored container of their next few hours’ experience.

Nor is this a new idea. At Microsoft’s Professional Developer Conference in 2003, as I reported at that time, Microsoft offered developers the prospect of powerful application authoring aids on The Platform Then Known as Longhorn. Keynote guests from Amazon.com—despite that company’s being a Linux shop—enthusiastically demonstrated a rich, thick-client immersive retail experience that looked like walking through a store rather than reading a Web page. If Microsoft had delivered the product ultimately labeled Vista a few years sooner and a whole lot better, PDC’10 might still need the Los Angeles Convention Center to hold it, instead of being tucked (for the first time ever) into a corner of the Microsoft campus.

It’s looking as if other channels will deliver where thick-client devices and platforms could not. Developers will do well to think in these terms and exploit these opportunities.

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