If Web 2.0 is about interactive online services (and shiny graphics), then it looks like web 3.0 is going to be about massively over-valued Web sites.
First came the news that Google has bought the hip video-sharing site Youtube for US$1.65 billion and now ENN is reporting that MySpace is headed for a market value of US$15 billion.
(Sadly, rumours that Youtube was to be renamed Gootube or Yougle have proven unfounded.)
Both MySpace and, particularly, Youtube are potential legal minefields due to the preponderance of copyrighted material which tends to appear on them.
Buying the sites has made them even more likely targets for copyright infringement lawsuits. Suing a small web site may net you a few million quid, but it could be hard to collect if the site's owner subsequently goes into liquidation. Declaring bankruptcy, however, is a rather less likely outcome for either Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, which owns MySpace, or Google, Youtube's new step-parent. Enter the lawyers...
So, the question is, why were MySpace and Youtube so appetising to these big beasts of the financial jungle?
Money, pure and simple. Money, one must assume, in the form of advertising dollars.
This month has seen on-line advertising revenue surpass magazines in the UK for the first time ever.
Meanwhile, the Internet Advertising Bureau is claiming that the online advertising spend will surpass the TV spend by 2010. OK, hardly an impartial source, but still, all signs are pointing in that direction.
Long a lucrative (and occasionally creative) outlet for graphic design, advertising is a central activity for many excellent designers. Traditionally, the TV spot and press spread have been the pinnacle of advertising - and advertisement design, of course.
A Google AdSense text advert can't compare to a double page spread in, say, Vogue. Unfortunately, many advertisers are flocking to the web, ultimately at the expense of print, not just to surf the web 2.0 zeitgeist that is being stuffed down our throats, but for the simple reason that both "readership" and conversions from views to sales are much easier to track on the internet.
And, yes, Google text ads are hardly representative of the gamut of online ad formats, but they are increasingly popular.
Whither print and television advertising? Despite the buzz around on-line creative, for me at least, it still lags behind a good print art in terms of creativity. Printed magazines aren't going to disappear, but it is entirely possible that the top and bottom ends of the market will weather the coming rate-card storm better than the middle.