The world is changing and the web is changing too!

In a recent article in Wired Magazine, Chris Anderson and Michael Wolff made this quite remarkable claim…

Two decades after its birth, the World Wide Web is in decline, as simpler, sleeker services – think apps -are less about the searching and more about the getting.

Their rationale was based on this scenario…

You wake up and checkyour 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. 

Their argument is based around how internet traffic is being consumed. Their assertion is that the traditional way of accessing the internet via a web browser was being challenged by device native applications running on new types of ‘any time, any place, anywhere’ devices such as smart phones.

They go on to say:

This is not a trivial distinction. Over the past few years, one of the most important shifts in the digital world has been the move from the wide-open Web to semiclosed platforms that use the Internet for transport but not the browser for display. It’s driven primarily by the rise of the iPhone model of mobile computing, and it’s a world Google can’t crawl, one where HTML doesn’t rule. And it’s the world that consumers are increasingly choosing, not because they’re rejecting the idea of the Web but because these dedicated platforms often just work better or fit better into their lives (the screen comes to them, they don’t have to go to the screen). The fact that it’s easier for companies to make money on these platforms only cements the trend. Producers and consumers agree: The Web is not the culmination of the digital revolution.

I agree that we are not at the end of the digital revolution, in fact we are only at the beginning. I don’t see the web dying at all and we don’t live in a one size fits all world and there is enough room for both to succeed. I’m sure that we will continue to see many more innovative web native applications for many years to come. However, what I do see is an emergence of the ‘any device’ solution, driven by consumer choice combined with a proliferation of affordable and effective smart devices.

We have finally seen the introduction of the long awaited tablet PC. Apple has changed the world with the iPhone and iPad. Google are following suit with Android and Research In Motion – Blackberry are hot on their heels in the business world.  I feel there are many scenarios for device native applications that fully optimise the experience, by fully integrating the application with the characteristics of the device, as opposed to living with the limitations of a web browser running on the device.

So the web is definitely changing, and the world is changing too…

Around the same time I was inspired by a blog post from Gary Turner titled “My beautiful polychronous workstyle”. In his post Gary compares working life today with a time not really that long ago… he writes:

We take our technology enabled working lives for granted these days but anyone over the age of thirty five will recognize that the typical working day has changed quite profoundly in the last twenty years.

Compared with what I remember being a typical working day in 1990; before the mobile phone, internet, email or social media, and when in order to do any work at all you needed to be physically located with your all your co-workers, at a desk and near a landline telephone – the comparison is pretty stark.

In 1990 you would submerge into the office at 9am, essentially isolated from your personal lives unless there was some family emergency, sit with your co-workers and focus 100% to compress everything you needed to do into generally unbroken blocks of time. You’d then come up for air at 1pm – at the same time as everyone else to regulate the downtime efficiently – which was your only chance to visit the bank to pay personal bills (no internet or telephone banking then) or run any errands.You’d finish up around 5pm and if you ever took work home with you then you were considered either a workaholic or sucking up big-time for a promotion.

In 2010 you’re only totally off the grid when you are asleep.

You’re handling email 30 seconds after you’re awake, handling personal bills or ordering flowers for your wife between calls, dropping out for three minutes to wish a friend ‘happy birthday’ on FaceBook, dealing with email while waiting to pick your kids up from school or pushing a shopping cart around on a Saturday afternoon.

But it’s probably fair to say that if productivity could be charted, it would be several magnitudes greater than in 1990.

Whilst I’m not sure if Gary supports the Chris Anderson post, I do feel there is synergy between the two. Gary brilliantly paints a picture that clearly articulates the pace of social change, and when you marry this up with the technology change highlighted by Chris Anderson, it’s a very powerful message indeed..

The problem is though, and only those old enough to have lived with technology through the 90’s will get this. The millennium generation don’t have a clue what things were like in the 90’s. They think everything has always been the way it is today….. 

If you try to tell them how it used to be 20 years ago they simply don’t believe you!

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  1. #1 by Dan on October 11, 2010 - 10:40 am

    I’m a little undecided by the apps argument (I read the Wired article too); some services seem to be moving from desktop to browser, and others undeniably towards apps. But if I’m searching for something, it’s always vis Google, in the browser. Of course, this too could change soon …

    Re the working day, a great summary. I’d like to hope I’m more productive (though I’m not sure!). It’s certainly more stressful continually jumping all these streams and channels.

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