The Web is Dead

Posted: October 7, 2010 in technology

Wired magazine recently featured one simple yet compelling sentence on the cover of it’s September issue: “The web is dead.”  Chris Anderson begins,

“You wake up and check your email on your bedside iPad — that’s one app. During breakfast you browse Facebook, Twitter, and The New York Times — three more apps. On the way to the office, you listen to a podcast on your smartphone. Another app. At work, you scroll through RSS feeds in a reader and have Skype and IM conversations. More apps. At the end of the day, you come home, make dinner while listening to Pandora, play some games on Xbox Live, and watch a movie on Netflix’s streaming service.

You’ve spent the day on the Internet — but not on the Web.”

As I began to read, I was fascinated by subtle shift away from the open and flexible “web,” most often accessed through a web browser (i.e. Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer), to more streamlined, efficient, single-purpose mediums of information transfer, seen perhaps most clearly in the rise of the omnipotent “app.”  Anderson writes,

“Today the content you see in your browser … accounts for less than a quarter of the traffic on the Internet … and it’s shrinking. The applications that account for more of the Internet’s traffic include peer-to-peer file transfers, email, company VPNs, the machine-to-machine communications of APIs, Skype calls, World of Warcraft and other online games, Xbox Live, iTunes, voice-over-IP phones, iChat, and Netflix movie streaming. Many of the newer Net applications are closed, often proprietary, networks.”

The jury is still out in my book, but it does seem like society’s access to the internet is becoming more and more focused as mobile technology develops.  The ubiquitous nature of the internet, enabling us to be “connected” at all times, has also driven us to be more frugal with the time that we spend on the internet.  We don’t want to waste precious seconds opening up a browser on our phone (the small size of the screen is enough to discourage this), navigating to our web-based email client, logging in, opening a message, etc.  Rather, we want to be notified by a beep, push one button on our phone, and then read the email in a dedicated (and therefore highly efficient and reliable) “app.”  Easy.  Fast.  Reliable.  It seems we want to be connected, but only in the things that really matter to us.  The “openness” of the world-wide-web is no longer the primary value of the internet.

“Much as we love freedom and choice, we also love things that just work, reliably and seamlessly. And if we have to pay for what we love, well, that increasingly seems OK. Have you looked at your cell phone or cable bill lately?”

Or your iTunes App Store bill?

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