Forrester CEO George Colony turned a lot of heads at this year’s Le Web conference in Paris with his talk about the so-called death of the Web. Reminiscent of a popular Wired magazine cover story from 2010 ("The Web is Dead. Long Live the Internet."), Colony’s predictions buttress an app-centric strategy, rendering the network/browser model obsolete. But wait-- before you spend money on flowers, let’s put away the mortality talk and examine what’s really going on here.
The dialogues from Wired and Colony are both informed by a notion I think most of us can agree with: These days tech change happens unexpectedly, not gradually. And the rate of that change is getting faster and faster.
For example, consider some recent research from IEEE. The organization found that the power behind the iPad 2 is equivalent to a 1986 Cray-2 supercomputer, which in its day was the fastest computer in the world. That means that if the iPad 2 had existed in 1993, it would have been considered one of the 30 fastest computers in the world. With that in mind, what kind of power do you think we’ll hold in our hands 5 years from now?
The App Internet
Computing has largely happened one of two ways: via personal computers powered by people or the Web model, in which most of the work happens on remote servers. They’ve both been good to us, but to say we’re outgrowing our storage options and local processors would be a major understatement.
Application economies are killer because of their ability to tap both processing power and the cloud. Personal devices (mobile ones in particular) can run applications from any location, taking full advantage of Web/Cloud resources.
"Within five years, Morgan Stanley projects, the number of users accessing the Net from mobile devices will surpass the number who access it from PCs," writes Chris Anderson. "Because the screens are smaller, such mobile traffic tends to be driven by specialty software, mostly apps, designed for a single purpose. For the sake of the optimized experience on mobile devices, users forgo the general-purpose browser. They use the Net, but not the Web. Fast beats flexible."
Colony himself calls this new and shiny model the "App Internet." If you want to see it in action, just go and check out iPhone and Android application markets.
You Can't Teach an Old Web New Tricks
Back to the whole death thing. What’s actually meant by that is the Web is no longer the dominant software architecture of the Internet; however, a complete change probably won't be as immediate as the headlines suggest.
Because the information within the App Internet is still difficult to search, Colony believes Google the Web giant still has a good amount of time left, while Microsoft's device-centric Office is mapping out a beeline to disaster. Meanwhile, Apple is right at the App Internet sweet spot. He also believes Facebook and Facebook-like platforms are much too Web-centric, making all the more room for players that seamlessly re-purpose Web content into the App Internet world (see Flipboard).
What's in a Name?
Obviously, whether the slaughter happens fast or slow remains to be seen, but changes are definitely in the works.
"I get what George is saying and claiming the death of anything gets headlines, but really what this will likely come down to is user experience vs. sustainability and scale," writes David Armano
of Edelman. "What’s more probable is that the Web as we know it doesn’t die—but loses dominance in the consumer area specifically. For businesses specifically, the demand will be formed around what model scales and can be sustained globally over time."
And let's be real, most ordinary consumers don't really care what their online-y stuff is called or where it comes from. Instead all that really matters is googling, facebooking, and using smartphones or other mobile devices.
So no, don't go out and buy flowers. Instead, let's focus on change management and what we can do to make the process as easy and efficient as possible. Suggestions? Drop them in the comments section below.