Apr 4, 2014 · 2 minutes

People have been wondering what "Web 3.0" would look like since, well, people started saying "Web 2.0." Will it be wearable Internet goggles? Connected everything? Ephemeral anonymous dating apps?

Former AOL Chairman and CEO Steve Case (who knows a thing or two about jumpstarting Web movements) said at tonight's PandoMonthly fireside chat that the third wave will involve "integrating the Internet in our everyday lives in ways that feel seamless." That's not terribly shocking -- he's basically describing the layer of web-connected software that's been added to so many of our physical actions, be it hailing a cab, setting a thermostat, or ordering lunch.

What's more fascinating is how Case thinks the new breed of startups will expand this "third wave" beyond simple services of convenience like Uber and Seamless to less trivial fields like education and health-care.

"It requires a different skill set with more partnership, more understanding of government and policy," Case says. "To have a significant impact, you need to understand that government's going to play a role. More than you'd like."

We're already beginning to see this with startups like Airbnb, which this week finally agreed to pay San Francisco's 14 percent hotel tax. This marks a huge change in Airbnb's attitude toward government oversight and taxation. As Pando's Carmel DeAmicis wrote:

This pro-tax serenade is a pretty new tune for Airbnb. It was only two years ago that the company was fighting taxes in San Francisco by sending 120 employees to a city meeting about whether Airbnb should pay the hotel tax. At the time, The New York Times published accusations that newly elected mayor Ed Lee was working to waive hotel taxes for Airbnb because Airbnb investor Ron Conway asked him to.
Working in a field like hotels or taxis where there's a measure of government oversight is one thing. But in world-changing fields like education and health-care, Case says, "Government is not just the principal regulator; it's the principal customer."

That takes a completely different mindset in building a company; one that Silicon Valley isn't historically comfortable with. But that's increasingly changing as we've seen with Uber and its insurance offerings, or Airbnb and tax compliance. It's more than just lobbying -- Case says it takes an "enterprise" approach, targeting decision-makers at school districts and hospitals.

"I wouldn't be surprised to see an evolution in how companies are architected," Case says. "It's not what you do alone, it's what you do in partnership with others."

As long as the "partnership" he's talking about doesn't involve Silicon Valley wage collusion, that sounds like a pretty good new era to enter.


[Illustration by Aleks Sennwald for Pando]