Is the Web dead?

In the latest issue of its magazine, Wired (US version) pronounces that the Web is dead.  It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that there has been reaction to this on the Web itself from many people who did not realise that the world-changing platform on which they communicate in so many ways has expired after approx 7300 days.

I do not believe the Web is dead.  The interface that people use to access the Web may change, and the browser application will fade away until it is invisible, but as long as people want to express themselves in words and pictures (at least) to a world-wide audience in a format that is easily shared (the magic of links) then the Web will play a role.  Chris Anderson says “The Web is not the culmination of the digital revolution” – I hope not.  I’d be disappointed if this was as good as it gets.

The thing is that the content typically found on the Web requires less internet traffic to transfer and display, especially in relation to the heavy lifting required for newer services.  This is only going to become more pronounced once everyone has an Internet-enabled TV, global warming means that you will video conference rather than fly to a meeting  and sensors on just about everything (the “Internet of Things”) are regulating anything from the temperature of your house or office to the traffic congestion you come up against in your car.  That does not devalue the continued importance of the written word – it’s just that you can do a lot of text on a screen with very little bandwidth.  Same thing for SMS – that’s why 740 billion text messages are sent annually (in the US alone.)  Of course the Web will go down as a proportion of overall internet traffic when, say, in 10 years’ time three billion people are all watching the World Cup final in real time in 4k HD in 3D or some virtual world, with all the data pushed to your mobile device on a 5G wireless network.

As for native apps on your mobile device platform of choice (Android, Apple’s iOS etc) undermining the Web… I wouldn’t put it that way.  They have a right to exist.  The apps serve a purpose – they allow you to access a service or specific information of your choosing (eg news from a particular source) quickly and in a nice user interface – but you install these out of choice.  For the things that you don’t know, then there’s always the sum total of the world’s knowledge available on the Web.

Also, the Web will live on in some form or another – it may evolve over time into something new, but the ancestry will always be there, leading back to the web we know today.  It is very rare that a technology dies:

With very few exceptions, technologies don’t die. In this way they differ from biological species, which in the long-term inevitably do go extinct. Technologies are idea-based, and culture is their memory. They can be resurrected if forgotten, and can be recorded (by increasingly better means) so that they won’t be overlooked. Technologies are forever.

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