I have no idea what the future of the web is and I don’t think anyone does

May 12th, 2011

I remember when Windows 95 was installed on the computers at my high school and every computer that was connected to the school’s network could access the Internet, it was the first time I was really able to surf the web. Of course, at that time most of the websites were someone’s collection of pony pictures or corporate sites where no one really knew what the site should have, just that the web was cool and you needed a site. I remember one teacher telling me we’d be shopping on the web and it would cause stores to close and another teacher telling me we’d be lucky if we could listen to music on the web anytime soon.

Looking back on the web then, it’s amazing how much it’s changed but also how much it hasn’t. Websites are still mainly text. Sites are a bit wider, they look better. Flash and JavaScript make them more fun to interact with. Database driven sites make updating easier and massive sites like Amazon possible. But really, is it that much different? I don’t think so. It’s been at least fifteen years since I first heard someone say that the web was going to kill TV. Video online has come a long way, but I think I spend most of my time on Youtube watching Pepsi commercials from the 80’s and Saturday Night Live Digital Shorts. Sure you can download shows now and you can watch some online. But I have a HD TV and I want to watch the shows I like on there, not on my 14” laptop.

In a lot of ways, I think the web we have now is a lot like television in the 1960’s. Shows in the 50’s were pretty much just plays or stage shows that someone put a camera in front of, but TV in the 60’s was when you could tell they had figured out what TV was all about. And that’s what the web is like right now. We’ve figured out how to sell things on the web, how to use it to communicate and use it to learn. I remember TV commercials saying you could go to university online and while that did happen, I don’t think people can go to Harvard from the comfort of they’re couch like the commercial promised.

That’s all cool, but aren’t I supposed to be talking about the future of the web? Well, if you think about the fact that the basics of the web haven’t changed that much in say, 15 years, then why is it suddenly going to change drastically over the next few years? I’ve done zero research on this, but when I think of all the different opinions of the web’s future I’ve read, I’m pretty sure no one knows what the web’s going to look like 15 years from now. I’ve heard people say the future is the mobile web, but do we really want a future of 4” screens? Or the future is apps. Why would we want to download things and worry about hard drive space, if the same stuff can be done online? The browser has been declared dead before, but the thing that was supposed to kill it, RSS feeds, are being killed by sites like Twitter and Facebook.

Like I said, I don’t know where the web is going and I really don’t believe anyone else does. Are we all going to have whatever the evolution of the smartphone is? Or is Google TV going to take off and computers and TVs merge? Or will we have both, surfing the web on our TV with our phone as the keyboard? As cool as that would be, it won’t happen if you can only use you Samsung phone on a Samsung TV, because nobody wants a Sony phone (or maybe a Sony TV for that matter). Honestly, I hope Google prefects voice recognition, because I would love to be able to ask my phone a question and have it surf the web for the answers.

But whatever the future holds, I’m sure there’s a couple of technologies that haven’t even been thought of yet that will be huge influences on it. I can remember a world before Google and how hard it was to find what you were looking for, now we can’t live without it. I will say this, even if I don’t know what’s coming, I’m excited to find out. And, hopefully, I come up with one of those new technologies.

One Response to I have no idea what the future of the web is and I don’t think anyone does

  1. Tom Bran says:

    I agree. I think the content that makes up the web has reached its level — i.e. the level at which it is most useful, most accessible — and right now it’s about making the structure of websites as flexible as possible, to accommodate the huge range of devices we can access the web with today.

    the ‘open-ness’ genie is out of the bottle now, too: this means that any future interactive solutions need to be cross-platform to truly become mass-market (Samsung & Sony beware).

    As for the future… it’s always fun to guess :) I reckon everyone will become hugely reliant on web-based services (as reliant as we all are now on mobile phones) – but beyond that, it all depends on the devices that’re yet to be invented…

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