This document debates an article in Wired, which announces the death of the Web.
Is It Over for the Web?
In the adolescent phase of the World Wide Web’s development, technology experts believe consumers’ and businesses’ declining usage of the Web will lead to its extinction. Wired Magazine recently published an article written by Chris Anderson and Michael Wolff called “The Web is Dead. Long Live the Internet.” In the article, Anderson and Wolff debate the causes and describe the effects consumers and businesses are having on the Web. Although they have some valid points and credible facts, Anderson and Wolff’s claims that the Web is dead are superficial. The World Wide Web is the one of the greatest technology advances known to mankind, which is not declining, but evolving to meet the high demands of people.
One may be wondering, “What’s the difference between the Internet and the World Wide Web?” The Internet is a worldwide network of computers that can communicate with each other. It was created in the 1970s, but only computer experts (mostly military personnel and scientists) could use it until the introduction of the World Wide Web in 1991. The Web is an easy-to-use system that links information (text, pictures and sound) across the Internet, and it is the primary reason for the Internet’s surge in popularity. Unlike the Internet, the Web owes its creation to a single extraordinary man, Tim Berners-Lee.
Tim Berners – Lee is known as “The Father of The World Wide Web” and has always been fascinated with information and technology. He was born in London, England in 1955, and his childhood hobby was electronics. Berners – Lee is the son of two mathematicians that worked on the first commercially sold computer, the Ferranti Mark I. While attending school at Oxford, Berners – Lee built his first computer out of a M6800 processor and an old television (Hoover). Soon after graduating, he went to work for CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, where the World Wide Web was born. Tim Berners – Lee joined the ranks of influential inventors with his conception and development of the World Wide Web, which revolutionized the computer and Internet, as well as how we communicate.
In 1980, Tim Berners – Lee was 25 years old and working as a computer software consultant, software engineer, and scientist at CERN. While working at CERN, he dealt with numerous clients and an abundance of information and data throughout his daily duties. Berners – Lee soon realized he needed some type of organization system that would keep track information and documents in a “brain-like way” without the memory constraints. He developed and initiated the program, Enquire - short for Enquire Within Upon Everything, which as he put it, would keep "track of all the random associations one comes across in real life and brains are supposed to be so good at remembering but sometimes mine wouldn't" (Quittner 1). Berners – Lee used Enquire and other current software as the foundation for linking words and documents together like a “web,” a place to store and access the data without limitations and a set of rules to recall documents and information or pages. These developments became known as HTML (HyperText Mark-up Language), URL (Universal Resource Locator), and HTTP (HyperText Transfer Protocol). However, Berners – Lee saw a bigger picture. He felt his program would not only be beneficial to him, but others as well. For this reason, Berners – Lee proposed the “wide-open” platform structure of the World Wide Web.
Although Tim Berners – Lee’s great invention, the World Wide Web, has transformed the information technology world and changed our everyday lives, Chris Anderson and Michael Wolff argue that now the Web is on the decline and will soon become obsolete. According to Wired Magazine:
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. Chris Anderson explains how this new paradigm reflects the inevitable course of capitalism. And Michael Wolff explains why the new breed of media titan is forsaking the Web for more promising (and profitable) pastures.
Chris Anderson takes the position that consumers are to blame. Anderson starts his claim, in the article, by describing a typical day of events for the average consumer, all of which revolve around using apps. Consumers are now using apps throughout the day in their everyday lives. Daily tasks, such as: checking email, browsing Facebook, podcast on smartphones, Skype conversions, and viewing movies on Netflix are all app-based activities in which consumers participate. A combination of a declining audience and junk content has slowly taken the Web traffic on a downward spiral. The Web has become bombarded with useless information, spam, and hackers. Browsers have numerous issues that require upgrades, and connections can be a problem. As a result, people seek technology that will allow them to surf the Internet without all the hassle. Apps are increasingly filling that void.
In the article, Anderson states:
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. (Anderson 1)
While Anderson takes his stance on the issue in “The Web is Dead. Long Live the Internet”, Michael Wolff argues that businesses will be the Web’s downfall. Wolff derives his conclusions based on some information published by Compete, a well-known, tech-expert respected company. According to Compete, a Web analytics company, the top 10 Web sites accounted for 31 percent of US page views in 2001, 40 percent in 2006, and about 75 percent in 2010 (Wolff 1).
Wolff, also, states:
The truth is that the Web has always had two faces. On the one hand, the Internet has meant the breakdown of incumbent businesses and traditional power structures. On the other, it’s been a constant power struggle, with many companies banking their strategy on controlling all or large chunks of the TCP/IP [Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol] - fueled universe. (Wolff 2)
Google’s successful domination over the open-platform of the Web has already forced changes in fundamental business structures and created an alternative to the Web architecture. Google is ultimately responsible for the creation of another dominant website, Facebook, a free closed system. In a short amount of time, Facebook has become a parallel world to the Web by offering a full-fledged platform for developers to build games and applications that operate solely on the Facebook platform.
Wolff believes it is Steve Jobs and Apple that may have found a happy medium that will satisfy the audience, content producer, and marketer codependent relationship. Apple controls the user experience by, not only managing the content, but also providing mobile devices for content delivery to consumers. Apps are the premier platform and key to Apple devices and success, not the Web.
Despite a couple of skeptics, there is documentation that proves “The Web is alive and kicking”. Today there are upwards of 80 million websites with many more computers connected to the Internet and hundreds of millions of users. If households nowadays want a computer, it is not to compute, but to go on the Web (CERN). Chris Anderson’s and Michael Wolff’s article, “The Web is Dead. Long Live the Internet.” has caused quite a stir in the technology community with their declarations and dismal outlook on the future of the Web, no matter who is to blame. However, many Web gurus disagree with the statements of the Web becoming extinct. They have knowledge of numerous advancements, present and future, that will keep the Web as a primary Internet technology and information resource. Semantic Web, HTML5, and Widgets (Digital Billboards) are just a few Web-based innovations that ensure a bright future for one of the world’s greatest creations.
Evan Hansen published a rebuttal article, “How the Web Wins“, in Wired immediately following “The Web is Dead. Long Live the Internet.” Publishers have gone down the app road before (Hansen 1). Although apps may offer greater design control and access to some hardware features that browsers cannot, Hansen states, “…the web is far too powerful to be replaced by an alternative that gives away so much of what developers and readers have come to love and expect” (Hansen 1). Consumers drive the market, and apps failed in the battle against the Web in the past.
Moreover, apps have huge disadvantages. They require difficult mobile browsing scripting, of which the average consumer has no knowledge. In addition, apps have limitations that the Web does not. App developers have to recode an application to meet the requirements for each browser. They also require a third party’s approval before being published. On the other hand, Web developers can write a HTML code once that will work on all browsers. Websites do not need a third party’s approval, and have no limitations. The Web makes content very easy to share, link, embed, search, and bookmark, which empowers consumers. Turning consumers into participants and creators in their own right.
Wolff proclaims all companies want to profit from or own the content on the Web. He argues businesses are reaping less profits from the Web because the audience is declining. However, making a profit is the reason most companies are in business, unless it is a non-profit organization. Internet Marketing has become a company standard. A website or webpage is an essential step of new age business strategies, and it is extremely important for them to own their own content.
The key to truly generate revenue on the Web for large corporations, small businesses, or average consumers is web traffic, advertisements, and eCommerce. Widgets, or Digital Billboards, are the answer for successful Web marketing and solving these problems. A widget is a customizable, HTML, web-based technology that is viral, interactive, and can be monetized to sell products and/or content. Simply put, a widget is a digital billboard that can be displayed on any website, sent in emails, and posted on blogs. The main purpose of a widget is to provide content or information and drive traffic back to a landing page with a click of the mouse. Depending upon the customizations, widgets can display videos, sell products and mobile content, or utilized in a monetized web-based contest platform.
Widgets help amplify an individual’s or company’s presence on the Web, while multiplying the website’s traffic and profits for the owner. Tommy Veasley stated in an interview, “The widget market and demand is growing. I’ve seen an increase in clients wanting widgets over the couple of years. And, my clients have seen tremendous increases in their web traffic, product sells, and growth of their company.” He is the C.E.O. of Veasley Group, an Internet Technology consultant, brokerage, and development firm. Their primary focus is widget technology development, implementation, and support for everyone from the average consumers to large businesses. They are currently using their third generation widget and working to develop the fourth based on the needs of some of their clients.
In addition to Widget technology, the most valuable evidence to refute Anderson and Wolff’s jaded outcome of the Web is presented by the “Father of the World Wide Web”, himself, Tim Berners – Lee. The most talked about leading innovations underdevelopment for the Web are the Semantic Web, HTML5, and CCS3. Also another leading innovation being worked on is, connecting TV and the Web for ultimate entertainment. They all work in conjunction with each other to enhance the Web and Internet experience for consumers and businesses. At the head of these discussions is The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).
According to W3C’s website, The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is an international community where member organizations, a full-time staff, and the public work together to develop Web standards. Led by Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee and CEO Jeffrey Jaffe, W3C's mission is to lead the Web to its full potential (WC3). Currently, the coalition is working on some very huge developments for the Web, and The Semantic Web and HTML5 are at the forefront. On November 3, 2010, over 300 experts met at the TPAC 2010 Plenary, a Technical Plenary / Advisory Committee meeting, to discuss present challenges in development and future plans for the Open Web Platform. The WC3 makes the following statement about the Semantic Web:
In addition to the classic “Web of documents” W3C is helping to build a technology stack to support a “Web of data,” the sort of data you find in databases. The ultimate goal of the Web of data is to enable computers to do more useful work and to develop systems that can support trusted interactions over the network. The term “Semantic Web” refers to W3C’s vision of the Web of linked data. Semantic Web technologies enable people to create data stores on the Web, build vocabularies, and write rules for handling data. Linked data are empowered by technologies such as RDF, SPARQL, OWL, and SKOS. (W3C)
The Semantic Web is Web 3.0 and is extremely beneficial to everyone. It allows a machine to connect to any other machine and exchange and process data efficiently based on built-in, universally available semantic information that describes each resource. In effect, the Semantic Web will allow us to access all the information listed above as one huge database. For example, imagine one needs to make reservations for a family vacation or business trip, and you use the Internet from one’s desktop computer. With just a few clicks, Semantic Web agent found and booked your flight, hotel, and car service, then updated accounting system and calendars automatically. The true impact of the Semantic Web will not be known for quite some time, but its potential is staggering. Some Semantic Web proponents have asserted that it will lead to the evolution of human knowledge itself by allowing people – for the first time – to quickly filter and synergize the massive amounts of data that exist in the world in a relevant, productive way (Altova).
In addition to the developments of the Semantic Web, HTML5 is now being implemented on the Web and disproves “The Web is Dead” claim. With an increasing video audience, HTML5 is essential for video content. According to an article published on Switched.com by Terrance O’Brien, “Most likely, you're already taking advantage of it without knowing” (O’Brien). Browsers, such as Safari (mobile and Desktop), Google Chrome, and Firefox 3.6, all support at least some elements of HTML5. Internet Explorer 8 has very limited support for HTML5. And many Google products already use some features of the next-generation protocol (O’Brien). If you're using Safari or Chrome, you can check out an experimental version of YouTube that makes use of HTML5's video features. Gmail and Google Reader have adopted parts of the standard, as well. Additionally, any site listed here as being "iPad ready" is making extensive use of HTML5, including The New York Times, CNN and CBS. The latter of which recently announced it would be phasing out Flash in favor of HTML5 for all video content (O’Brien).
Numerous technology experts and Web designers are embracing HTML5 due to its features and capabilities. Some of the new features in HTML 5 are functions for embedding audio, video, graphics, client-side data storage, and interactive documents. The most important feature of HTML5 is its interoperability. This means the spec goes and specifies even edge cases to try and make sure that all browsers read the markup the same way. HTML 5 improves interoperability and reduces development costs by making precise rules on how to handle all HTML elements, and how to recover from errors (W3Schools). HTML5 will reduce your plug-in needs when writing code for a website. It also includes lots of accessibility, semantic help, and new form features that support placeholder text and several other attributes. In addition, HTML5’s canvas attribute allows drawing 2D and 3D with WebGL shapes like charts or even render games.
“Reports of the death of the Web have been greatly exaggerated,” according to Rod Beckstrom, chief executive of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, “It’s going to be alive and kicking for a long time” (Pfanner). Since the birth of the Web, it has grown from one man’s idea for organizing his computer work files to millions of people searching for information and entertaining themselves. In view of the fact that the Web was developed over 20 years ago, changes to its architecture are to be expected. Some of the advancements have been subtle, and some have been drastic. Most consumers did not even realize they are using Web 2.0, but the next wave of upgrades will not go unnoticed. Part of being a good user and consumer is understanding how technology works, why we use it the way we do, and what that barrage of acronyms and PR jargon means (O’Brien). The World Wide Web is the Internet’s first application and will continue to morph in order to keep up with our high demands. We should all be opportunistic and embrace the changes to the Web to ensure its vivid future.
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