Now and then, I love to try to imagine where the Internet is going to take us next. So let’s consider how the web might look a year or two from now. Of course, I wouldn’t dream of peering further into the future; after all, just the year before it came into being, I would never have been able to imagine the World Wide Web. So with this disclaimer in place, let me try to sketch out what my crystal ball is showing me…
First, let’s get used to the idea that every consumer will soon have his or her own web site. And when I say every, I mean every. In Europe and the U.S., we all have a personal identity number every one of us. This will soon be the same on the Net. But it doesn’t stop there. I also believe that every product, everything we buy, is bound to have its own web site. It follows that my next guess is that the 2.5 billion web pages that currently exist will easily increase to more than seven billion pages very quickly.
Let’s take one product as an example: cars. Every car will some day soon have its own web site. I mean every vehicle, not just every make or model every single car in the world.
Some years ago, I developed this site concept for Mercedes-Benz, but it never became a reality because of a lack of financial support. The idea was that each car’s entire history would be stored for its lifetime on the web site. The car’s license plate would stay the same and would become the key for anyone wishing to examine the car’s past investigate any damage it had sustained, note its previous owners, discover whether it had been stolen at some point and gain access to an ordering service to purchase the car directly from the dealer.
To take the concept to its pragmatic extreme, you would be able, by using the license plate reference, to use the web to check out any car you’d seen on the street. So if you spotted some vehicle you just loved, you could track down the owner and make him an offer he couldn’t resist.
Every web site would have layers of information allowing various levels of access to the vehicle’s most intimate details.
The police might have access to all layers; the dealer and auto repair vendors might have access to another layer; the insurance company to another; the owner to yet another; and the general public to the most superficial layer of information. Such a system would spell the end of stolen cars being sold, debt-encumbered vehicles being passed on to unwitting buyers, and cars with engines subjected to unusual wear and tear being sold to the unwary.
Such sites would also allow you direct access to manufacturers and the facility from which to order vehicles manufactured to your specifications.
It’s rumored that Volvo.com will soon release the world’s first car to have been built and configured via the Internet. The site offers buyers the opportunity to choose their car’s color from 1,304,000 combinations and of setting up specific options. Imagine lending your car to your son and being able to set the vehicle’s maximum speed, one which Junior couldn’t exceed while he was behind the wheel. You could also limit the distance the car is able to drive from a given point, say home.
Next week we’ll continue our examination of the future as we consider what the picture will look like for us as human beings. If you were spooked by “1984,” you might want to proceed with care. Stay tuned.