Guessing the web of 2016

Note – this was written in 2011 and now seems very dated!

Will we stop using mice and keyboards and instead rely on voice and movement of of eyes.  Will we browse the web via glasses and contact lenses rather than traditional PC screens?  Will the world be totally integrated with the web, an omnipresent web.  Will you no longer think of going “on the web” as everything is part of the connected information network?  Will the traditional web browser interface become a nostalgic novelty?

Will we see the old PC based world wide web as a museum feature?

Will we see the old PC based world wide web as a museum feature?

Every year there is the predictions of what will be the next big thing on the web – there have been waves (and Wave!), Web 2.0, Online video, the rise of devices such as smartphones and tablets as things that have been the headline for previous years.  This is  ideas for 5 years from now, then in 5 years time if I still have a blog I can either laugh at them or see just how unambitious they were.   My impression is that the web is shifting again and exciting times are ahead.  Web 2.0 felt like a change, but it was still within the same browser window as the previous web.  What we could be on the edge of is a true web meets world, where you might not think of something being the “web” any more, it’s just how things are.

So, my guess is that we will see changes in the technology that we browse the data, and the interfaces in which we browse it.

Changes to Technology –
The web may move to every device and the processing power could move to the cloud.

  • Devices possibilities will increase
    What we’re seeing now is the web leaving the desktop and being used on Smartphones and tablets – particularly smartphones, sit on any commuter train and you are surrounded by them.  What I think has kept the web on the desktop is the restriction of technology and as technology becomes more affordable, smaller and powerful the restriction goes.  I’ll come on to a direct example of the interfaces section.  As an analogy think of clocks – you used to tell the time via a sundial that relied on the sun, now there are watches, clocks, digital time on PCs, cookers, DVD machines, speaking clock, church bells, time is in effect everywhere and the same could happen to the web – technology advancements in the last century  allowed the time to be displayed on any device .  The web could be next.
  • Will processing enter the “cloud”?
    There’s also another factor here, the much used word “the cloud” – at the moment if your ability to run certain apps or interfaces is restricted by the power of your unit, what if you unit became a bit more dumb and just used the power of your space the cloud.  Processing power in the future could become a commodity like electricity and you just pay for what you use and for the time you use it rather than requiring redundant power.  So in effect the web could then be integrated on every device at a cheap cost making it more available to everyone.  I use the word “cloud” to just mean out-there, i.e. not on your desk on your own server room.
  • Will you view your web or app portfolio on any device?
    If the actual processing of your web browsing is no longer on a single device that opens up opportunities for you to take your portfolio of apps around with you – at the moment you run an app on one device (say your smartphone), if your smartphone becomes your ability to access the app rather than holding the code the app can then travel round with you wherever you go.
  • More devices contributing – More devices feeding the web
    Web 2.0 allowed the collective work of all of us to be published online very quickly.  The idea of web squared is more the collective intelligence of everything – and every device is able to contribute information back to the web.  So the web feeds itself – the GPS in your phone keeps the web up to date with where you are, say you’re at a concert, maybe content direct from a band at the gig can be targeted at your online profile.

Changes to Interfaces
The traditional website interface that we’re used to might be replaced with ones that don’t involve us staring at screens and thumping keypads.  Instead will we just speak and look?

  • Will keyboard no longer be the primary input device?
    2010 saw the rise of applications for smartphones and tablets.  These slightly changed some of the goal posts to what we’d known about the web – apps took you straight to the content (the actual content however may still be delivered from the web), you didn’t go via a browser or search engine to get there, you may have even paid to have the app on your device, and thought it was acceptable to pay.  The interface used on these devices was different, rather than having a keyboard the screen would be a touch screen and the optimum interface would not require you to type, just select options.
  • Will voice entry become mainstream?
    The Google app on iPhones shows how sophisticated voice recognition now is.  Why would we type in the future when it’s possible to speak?  And maybe wave our hands for the editing!
  • Will the devices we browse on change?
    Improvements in technology could result in us seeing the web move to entirely different types of interfaces, there is an amazing short video here on visual directed browsing, viewing the web via glasses that detect your eye movement.Will the interface be contact lenses?  There’s talk of GPS systems being projected onto your windscreen.  Maybe Minority report is the best way to look at the future –
  • Will there be more separation of content and interface?
    Social web put the individual in control of the content and design of how the content was presented – you didn’t need to know how to use CSS or HTML to make an attractive site on many of the platforms available, but these were all geared around the set interfaces and the standard PC sized screen.  What we might see in the future is more of a separation where your create the data and the user selects their own interface (and potentially designs their interface) – we’re seeing this already with some of the aggregators already out there.  Those who create the interfaces will create them for the style of device being used (and also in the language of the users chosing), those who create data will create them in formats that can then be aggregated – so marked up correctly.
    We’re seeing examples of data opening up already at the Guardian and where the user does something neat with the data, not the author, we could see more of that happening.

So what does this all mean?

I think we might need to rethink many ways that we currently work, create content, sell content and market content.  Lots of great opportunity and potentially lots of change.  Lots of change in fact, below are just a few random points that come to mind straight away.

  • Will we have to rethink marketing of content – search engine optimisation could change if it becomes more data optimisation, do we target the individual based on information connected to them.
  • In the future will we go to work, or will we just do work?  Will our work exist in a virtual space that we can do anywhere?  If we go to work to use a PC, and the PC interface becomes us what will be in our workplaces?
  • How will more real time automated information affect what we enter on to the web, what will be done for us, what decisions will the web make for us before we know we need to make them?
  • Will crime be removed as almost every action becomes recorded – will sentences for crimes be-able to be passed automatically (I’m sure something like that was once in Red Dwarf).
  • For publishers how will access to content be controlled – the reliance on the IP subscription model could prove problematic.
  • How will the web pay for itself, if data is taken out of the traditional site interface then models for revenue that include advertising could change.
  • What will the opportunities be for education – imagine if affordable devices could be distributed rather than exercise books, and then the entire curriculum could be delivered via the device.  The curriculum changes, this becomes no problem a new one is delivered.  No more expensive piles of out of date text books.
  • And more, please comment if you have ideas!

There could be lots of change and potential disruption coming up.  One thing we need to sort though is unique identification.  For a complete web meets world I think we need a true unique identifier for everything.  That means all of us and everything.  So i become number “6868345”, or is that my twitter account, or my mobile phone ID?  Something that uniquely can tag up me.  And then everything else too.  A challenge that you have when you search google, or many music online stores for a band name is that the name is a common word used by other bands, and in other album titles.

Whatever lies in store – and this is just ideas – I think an exciting ride is coming up.  If we rewind back to 2007 would we have believed that the web would have moved to smartphones and augmented reality as it is today?  It all makes me think of the scene in the movie Demolition Man where he gets fined for swearing, I wonder if that is coming up too –
(warning, bad language) –


2 thoughts on “Guessing the web of 2016

  1. Lots of potential disruption indeed! The web-OS, like Chrome, Jolicloud and others maeans that the whole expereince can be device agnostic: so phone, desktop, mobile… it won’t matter as Apps and data will be elsewhere. That’s already here with Chrome for me. I’m not sure about processing, but the data that drives our experience already lives elsewhere…. whether that’s the best and safest place I don;t know. I see a difference between personal and professional data here.

    I agreea about voice commands, and see this going one step further, extending webcam-style technology with RFID indoors so that system know who you are and what you are doing – gestures, or even speaking at a point of focus for a device as if we were interacting with the computer (Zen and Slave in your living room if you watched Blake’s Seven). So you might be in a friends house havng dinner and with a gesture and RFID, get immediate access to your own systems.

    In addition to the “how” will the “what” change… photos, music, contacts, communication are all well established. I can’t see the demand for thsio changing. However, Facebook style interaction with a selected group, in a more sophisticated way that will manage your experience as you ‘personal assistant’ is one way the “what” might extend. Systems like, but more feature-packed. The control of people’s personal data here I imagine will become a big issue over the next 10 years. We are pretty trusting and niave at the omment. I went to a photography exhibition at the weekend (street photography over past 130 years) and it was interesting to learn that people on the street have only recently become uncomfortable with having their photo’s taken by strangers (when they used to love it and come flocking). Will there be another round of this sort of behaviour as we come to realise how little privacy we really have?

    • Thanks Graham, great set of comments! I’m not so sure I like this world that could be right around the corner – particulary not the web cam technology watching your every move and the system knowing that you’ve had that extra slice of cake!

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