Digital Illiteracy: A Global Issue (Part 3)

The Creation of Web and Digital Literacy

The expectations of digital literacy as a catalyst for digital illiteracy are constantly changing in response to new technologies. UNESCO in 2018 redefined digital literacy to reflect the contemporary state of changes in technology. Leu and Forzani, in an opening statement of an article discussing new literacies, emphasise that, with new and emergent technologies, the concept of literacy rapidly and continually changes; “literacy is not just new today; it becomes new every day” (2012, p.75). This creates a constant challenge for remaining digitally literate and most of us would experience various degrees of digital illiteracy at times in our lives. Case in point would be the evolution of generations of Web.

Versions of the Web

There are currently four versions of Web discussed, labelled from 1.0 to 4.0. Definitions and timelines are debated (Nations 2018, Spivack 2018, Techopedia 2018), but they are convenient for understanding transitions in use of the Web.

The development stage, pre public and commercial use, is viewed as Web 0.0 or phase 0 with the technology paradigm being named Internet in 1989 (Fleerackers 2018, Flat World Business c.2011).


The Internet and the Web are not the same thing. The Internet is a system of connected computers. The Web is a way of transferring media over the Internet. Each Web generation does not disappear, but instead becomes integrated into next generations. Each generation of Web, through its form, makes literacy demands on the digitally connected user.

Web 1.0


The first categorised stage of Web is known as the ‘read-only’ (Flat World Business c.2011) or ‘static’ (Website Builders 2018) Web. Pages offered no interactive features based on user behaviour and were largely informational; the Web did not utilise database storage of information; and user-submitted information occurred through pop-up email (Nath and Iswary 2015, Website Builders 2018). Web 1.0 also saw the introduction of online shopping with website retailers providing methods for purchasing products online (Flat World Business c.2011).

Web 2.0


In 1999 the Web began its evolution to a ‘read-write-publish’ entity (Flat World Business c.2011) and is referred to as the ‘social’ Web. The differences between 1.0 and 2.0 are the emergence of user-generated content, the use of databases to store content, and the birth and growth of social media (Nath and Iswary 2015, Rouse 2015, Website Builders 2018, Thomson 2018). Interactivity and collaboration, including mobile affordances, characterise digital connectivity in this space.

Web 3.0


Known as the ‘semantic’ Web (Nath and Iswary 2015, Rouse 2015, Website Builders 2018, Flat World Business c.2011) the third evolution focuses on the machine and data sharing framework of the Internet. It is a combination of semantics between computerised applications and web service enabling of computer-to-computer interaction; the language of, and the physical capacity for, computers cooperating. Web 3.0 is also characterised by emerging technologies of artificial intelligence and the ever-present connectivity (Website Builders 2018). As a user-Web it targets connected simplicity and usability.

Web 4.0


The ‘symbiotic’ Web ((Nath and Iswary 2015, Letts n.d.) is still very conceptual and has a goal of organised metadata scaffolding a paradigm of machine and human symbiotic activity. General artificial intelligence (AGI) describes the utopian state of artificial intelligence (AI) that is equally as smart and capable as humans (Mills 2018). Web 4.0 promotes personalised agency through smart applications (Nath and Iswary 2015) supported by natural language understanding (NLU) evolving AI comprehension of user intent.

In summary, Web 2.0 is about people to people connections, Web 3.0 is about machine to machine connections, and the new technologies of Web 4.0 are about people to machine connections. These different paradigms require a scope of digital literacies and as each Web version still exists and is evolving, overcoming digital illiteracy is a life-long learning challenge.




Flat World Business c.2011, Web 1.0 vs Web 2.0 vs Web 3.0 vs Web 4.0 vs Web 5.0 – A bird’s eye on the evolution and definition, retrieved 18 September 2018,

Fleerackers, T 2018, Digital Evolution – Developing The Internet (Phase 0), YouTube, retrieved 18 September 2018,

Letts, S. (n.d.). What is Web 4.0?, retrieved 18 September 2018,

Leu, D J and Forzani, E 2012, ‘New Literacies in a Web 2.0, 3.0, 4.0, …∞ World’, Research in the Schools, vol. 19, no. 1, pp.75-81.

Mills, T 2018, AI Vs AGI: What’s The Difference?, retrieved 18 September 2018,

Nath, K and Iswary, R 2015, ‘What Comes after Web 3.0? Web 4.0 and the Future’, International Conference on Computing and Communication Systems, retrieved 18 September 2018,

Nations, D. (2018). Is Web 3.0 Really a Thing?, retrieved 18 September 2018,

Rouse, M 2015, Web 2.0, retrieved 18 September 2018,

Spivack, N. (2018). Web 3.0: The Third Generation Web is Coming. retrieved 18 September 2018,

Techopedia. (2018). What is Web 1.0. retrieved 18 September 2018,

Thomson, H. (2018). Wikis, Blogs & Web 2.0 technology. retrieved 18 September 2018

UNESCO 2018, A global framework of reference on digital literacy skills for indicator 4.4.2: Percentage of youth/adults who have achieved at least a minimum level of proficiency in digital literacy skills, retrieved 11 September 2018,



Title image: A Daughter Divided by Alyssa L. Miller (CC BY 2.0); binary-code-woman-face-view-1327492 by Geralt (CC0)

2 Computers: internet by Fernando Shoiti Schatzmann (CC BY 2.0)

Dial-up: dial-up connection by Christiaan Colen (CC BY 2.0)

Social: mobile-phone-smartphone-keyboard-1917737 by Geralt (CC0)

Binary: binary-code-binary-binary-system-475664 by Geralt (CC0)

Robot learning: Artificial Intelligence & AI & Machine Learning by Mike MacKenzie (CC BY 2.0)

Never Stop Learning: learn-student-laptop-internet-3653430 by Geralt (CC0)




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