How the web is changing and why business needs to change with it
By Adam Zoltowski
This month, Wired ran a story that proclaimed the death of the web as we know it. A bold statement to be sure, that remains to be seen. However, even if it is true, the internet is alive and well. The evidence to support the death of the web provides evidence for the former, that the use of the internet isn’t going anywhere, but how we use it is going to change, and is changing, drastically.
The major driver behind the shift is the spike in popularity of applications for smart phones and tablet devices such as the iPad as well as the increasing use of the internet for file sharing. This tells us a number of things. First, we can glean that users want interactivity with a purpose. Applications are designed to do very specific things, and their existence makes our lives easier (think of the ease at which we can now locate places to eat and show times for movies). Second, applications allow for more purposeful surfing. Surfing the web was an amazing experience when the internet hit the mainstream, but perhaps aimless browsing has passed its zenith, and users want more purposeful meandering online. Sites like stumble upon already offer this, but applications a user can explore ad nauseaum offer this even more. They also offer reliable, quality experiences as opposed to the unpredictable often times mediocre experience of the web browser. If I have an application, most likely it does exactly what I want it to do each time I use it.
Third, businesses will continue to change to adapt to the new internet. The problem with the web from its inception was that its ascendancy was not organized. It has always been a free-for-all and its use has put several industries, namely publishing, at great risk. As newspapers gave away their content online, their physical distribution dropped drastically. Businesses are waking up to this and recognizing that creating custom applications that can be obtained for a fee is a better model than a providing free content on a website. In addition to apps content that can be obtained for ‘premium’ subscription costs does not need to be accessed via websites thanks to RSS feeds, email updates and other delivery systems.
Businesses are going to continue to move towards closed systems online. There is more money in it for them and the more control, the better the content delivered to the end user. One of the closing arguments in the Wired article said it best ‘Blame human nature. As much as we intellectually appreciate openness, at the end of the day we favor the easiest path. We’ll pay for convenience and reliability.’
Yet, as Wired also said, just because the web is dead doesn’t mean the internet is going anywhere. It’s not going anywhere, but will simply be used differently and most likely will be less accessible. This forces us to ask which is a better: an open unreliable system or a closed reliable one. I’m not sure which side I come down on yet, but I know where things are headed and will prepare for the likelihood of a more closed system in the future. Businesses need to adapt this possibility and adjust their strategies accordingly.
As strong as it seems that this statement might be true, it’s too early to tell for sure. The article from wired.com features divergent opinions on the matter, and its likely that the full scope of the future of the internet won’t be 100% clear for some time. But one thing is clear: the internet is up for grabs; websites no longer 100% own the tubes on which they run and we are likely to see a strong period of innovation in a competition to gain ownership of what is left to be gained.