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Web 2.0 What’s next?

An interesting post here from Mike Walsh who writes The Digital Future that’s definitely worth a read if like me, you’re wondering where to next…

So what’s next for the Web?

[Mike’s post starts here]

Another 'interesting snippet' from Google's Insights Manager Lynette
Another 'interesting snippet' from Google's Insights Manager Lynette

It was the unspoken question of many who gathered at the Web2.0 Summit in San Francisco this week. For Kevin Kelly, founder of Wired magazine, it all came down to a number – 6,527. Or, the exact number of days until now since Tim Berners Lee made the first webpage. All the innovation, the new wealth, disruptions in traditional media and the millions of Wikipedia entries – a seemingly impossible scale of human endeavor – had been created in that relatively short span. So, what are we likely to see in the next 6500 days?

For a start, it’s becoming clear that 2008 will be an inflection point for the industry. In her annual high altitude scan of the new media landscape, Morgan Stanley internet analyst Mary Meeker pointed out that relative amount of time that consumers spent on websites has changed dramatically. When you look at the metric of global minutes, over the last two years YouTube and Facebook have gained over 500 basis points of relative share, at the expense of traditional portal incumbents Yahoo! and MSN.

Behind this statistic are two underlying trends. Firstly, Facebook has become the Outlook and webmail client for an increasing number of people, especially kids. And in just the same way that free webmail anchored consumer loyalty to MSN and Yahoo in the early days of the Web, Facebook is building a new loyal base of socially networked fanatics. In his interview at the conference, Mark Zuckerburg revealed that 50% of Facebook users use the site daily. That’s serious addiction.

The second trend is even more unexpected. In the last year, YouTube has become the second most popular search tool for consumers. By August of this year, search queries on YouTube reached 9.2 billion (a 123% increase year on year), surpassing Yahoo! sites which had 8.5 billion queries. When I asked John Battelle, author of ‘The Search’ and CEO of Federated Media about this he said that YouTube’s growth was consistent with the trend of search being the navigational interface to information. For Battelle, Google’s original innovation was allowing people to search for things using natural language phrases. The next interface evolution we can expect will be all kinds of inherent searches, whether it be through content recommendations or mobile phones allowing real time product comparisons.

And in a way, that’s exactly what Kelly envisages as the Web’s Hollywood sequel. Or as he puts it – the World Wide Web as World Wide Database. Rather than simply sharing links to documents, the next generation web will be about accessing the implicit data. In Kelly’s view, every object we manufacture will have a sliver of intelligence in it. The entire world and everything in it will go into a globally connected database of things, that is then shared and linked. We won’t worry about how different devices operate or access content. They will all be windows into the same universal network.

Ironically enough, it was a hardware guy that pointed out how this vision could impact on consumer lifestyles. Intel has been aggressively developing and releasing new types of low cost, mobile chipsets designed to power ubiquitous computing devices. Intel’s CEO, Paul Otellini, demonstrated a device capable of augmented reality applications such as translating Chinese street signs in real time or showing you an animated overlay to a product in a toy store. It was, he admitted, a sleight of hand. A couple of giant computers under the couch were doing the heavy lifting for the demo. But, he said, by 2011 you could expect that a low cost chip as powerful as a current desktop PC would be available for your mobile device. Moore’s Law, naturally. And, as Otellini pointed out wryly, no CEO of Intel wants to be the first to break it.

Cloud computing, massive scale driven platforms, semantic webs, ubiquitous mobile devices, augmented reality – its a tall order – even for 6500 days. And if you find all of that a hard cocktail to envision, don’t be surprised. As Kelly himself acknowledged, when he started Wired magazine in the nineties he expected the Web to be TV, just better. This time he’s sure of one thing. Whatever comes next won’t be the Web, only better.

It will be something completely different.

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