The Technologies Behind Social Media

So while everyone is posting comments and photos, or advertising goods and services on Social Media, what is actually going on behind the scenes and how did we get here?


While many people use the words ‘Internet and ‘World Wide Web’ (or just the Web) interchangeably, they are actually two different things.

The internet is a huge collection of networks that carry information.

The Web is the means of accessing that information from web sites, which are collections of pages. The internet also carries emails and instant messages outside of the Web ( Webopedia).

Another way of looking at it is to think of the Internet as a huge road network and the Web as all the vehicles using the roads to transport information.

Since Tim Berners-Lee developed the first website in 1990, the Web has been continually developing and changing. This continuous evolution has, what I would call bookmarks, that divide it into versions. There is however no actual point where it can be said ‘we’re now changing to the next version’, as with, for example, an operating system.

Web 1.0

This was the first version and was a collection of websites with static content for delivering information to end users.

It was really only useful for searching and reading, with minimal interactivity. Companies could provide information about themselves and there were basic shopping carts available for online shopping.

Source: Techlife2016

Web 2.0

By 2004 the Web had evolved to allow much more collaboration and interactive content and became known as Web 2.0. 

Technologies were developed that allowed much more interaction between websites and end users. This in turn allowed the burgeoning of social media sites, as well as other types of online collaboration.


The introduction of AJAX (Asynchronous Javascript and XML) into web pages allowed a much richer user experience, including faster loading of web pages. At the same time web browsers were modernised to allow for easier use as well.

Websites like Wikipedia, that allows anyone to make contributions, and travel review sites like Trip Advisor have become huge world wide websites accessible to millions of people.

Web 3.0

The next iteration takes us further into the realm of science fiction and things that would have seemed impossible in the not-so-distant past! Web 3.0 is also known as the semantic web and is all about a greater interaction between people and machines.

In Web 2.0, searches on the Web were not intuitive and simply compared key words. Web 3.0 is smarter and can give results based on context. This can already be seen in Google searches that make suggestions based on your previous search history. This goes further and connects your searches and website visits to social media. For example, go onto a shopping website and then go onto Facebook and you are very likely to see an advert for the shopping website.


So Web 3.0 is intuitive and has elements of Artificial Intelligence, meaning it understands context. Tied into this are mobile technologies, the connection between TV and internet as well as voice and gesture interfaces.

A lot of these features are all around us now – Smart phones use location-based technologies to make suggestions about hotels, restaurants and local attractions, based on GPS co-ordinates. There are also voice-activated technologies, for example, you can have a system in your house that allows you to turn lights or heating on and off by speaking instructions.

The Internet of Things

All these technologies can be joined together in a network to form the Internet of Things (IoT). This allows control across networks and so the functions of Web 3.0 are tied into the IoT. More information can be found on Wikipedia

Information Architecture

Also important to any of these technologies working together is the Information Architecture behind them. There needs to be consistent design across shared information environments so that search and navigation is easy. Morville and Rosenfeld use the analogy of a building to describe Information Architecture – if a building doesn’t follow standards it will fall down or the roof will leak. Read their article here.

The Future

So where to from here? What will further iterations look like? Web 4.0 is the symbiotic web where man and machine interact closely and lines become blurred. There are already features of Web 4.0 available, such as remote security systems which can be controlled with smart phones and facial recognition software that unlocks your front door as you get close to it.

There are endless possibilities and the only limit is imagination.


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