Where The Web Is Headed

Every now and then, it is fun to take a step back from everyday business life to look at the bigger picture.   Having worked in the web since the late 90’s, I have seen it take on many different shapes.  As I think about where the web is headed – I see two webs which are both useful, popular, and entirely different.

I define the two webs as the traditional web and the entertainment web.  These two webs are so distinct that I think they should be classified as such.  I do not believe that one web is mutually exclusive of the other, each will continue to grow and strive at the same time without cannibalising the other.

The traditional web is based on text.  While a ton of options exist for us to consume content, for a variety of reasons, text continues to be the most useful format.  The traditional web doesn’t need flash, video, or apps; it needs to be simple. I’m the President of an internet company and I don’t have speakers on my work computer.  When I want to enjoy the entertainment web, I turn on my iPad, and I am immediately captivated.  However, when I have information to research, HTML code to implement, emails to respond to, or an article to write – the traditional web serves me well.  In an office setting, I don’t need video as it could be a distraction to my co-workers.  When my friend is trying to discretely read up on his favourite sports team at work, he doesn’t want to watch a video which others can hear and see, instead he wants to read about it quietly on the traditional web.

When classrooms are equipped with computers in schools, the traditional web suits well.  If everyone had videos – it would be distracting to others.  The traditional web provides the speed, simplicity, and commonality for everyone to learn together in one room through their own computer.

We also have to keep in mind that internet usage continues to climb in developing nations. In 2010, the internet had over 226 million new internet users.  72% of these new internet users came from developing nations which may not have access to high speed internet connections.  When internet users come online for the very first time, the traditional web will correlate with their internet experience, computing power, and connection speed.  While there are always savvy, early adopters of a new technology, there are also many others whom are either content with the traditional format or entirely new to the game. 

The traditional web is not going anywhere.  It has its place on the web, and if you are reading this text based article in an office setting from a desktop computer, you too continue to be a part of the traditional web.

The entertainment web involves video, apps, peer to peer calling, movies, live events, etc…  This web can be enjoyed on a variety of different devices including smart phones, tablet computers, netbooks, and even  televisions.  This web allows someone to enjoy the programming, features, games, or information when they want and how they want.

The iPad’s meteoric rise is fuelled by users interest in the entertainment web.  The iPad is not a device that many people do business on, as corporate tasks are better handled by the traditional web.  The entertainment web, however, takes advantage of new technologies to innovate and offer new and exciting products and services to internet users.  On the entertainment web there is an added importance on speed, video and sound quality, graphics, and the overall wow factor.

As mentioned before, I don’t see the growth of the entertainment web overtaking the traditional web.  If we look at iPad sales, a study showed that nearly 90 per cent of initial iPad Sales are incremental and not cannibalising the PC Market.  The entertainment web is for lounging around after work or school to watch movies or Skype with a friend – its not going to replace the need for a PC.

If you run an internet business, I think it is important to identify and understand which of the two webs you fit into.  Each web has different user interests, technologies, opportunities, and monetization models; so it is important to focus on one web.  Those that try and make an impact on both webs run the risk of spreading themselves too thin.  After all, with the low barriers to entry that often exist within a given internet sector, it makes it even more important to focus on doing one thing great.

In summary, I believe these are exciting times because the web that we have always known is alive and well.  At the same time, we have a new web which is here to captivate and entertain us.