The End of the Web as We Know It

Less than 60 percent of the households in the United States, the world’s most wired country, have Internet access, but already the CEO of Forrester Research is predicting the death of the World Wide Web and the dawn of a new, application-based Internet.

No one doubts that Internet usage has boomed, but most of the access to this point has been through email and Web browsers. But Forrester predicts the Web’s days are numbered as the Internet will move to a second round of expansion beyond the browser. Two new waves of innovation — which Forrester calls the “X Internet” — will eclipse the Web: an executable Net that greatly improves the online experience, and an extended Net that connects the real world.

“The problem with today’s Internet is that it’s dumb, boring and isolated,” said George F. Colony, CEO and chairman of Forrester. “News, sports and weather imparted on static Web pages offer essentially the same content presented on paper, which makes the online experience more like reading in a dusty library than participating in a new medium. Now that the novelty has faded, business executives and consumers are going back to reading newspapers and watching TV. Ultimately, the Net hasn’t truly become a part of our real worlds.”

The first stage of Forrester’s X Internet is an executable Net, which will allow users to get real-time, interactive experiences over the Net through disposable code — programs they use once and throw away — downloaded to their PCs and handheld devices. These quick downloads will allow users to carry on extended conversations with Net services, a stark contrast to today’s transactional Web services.

“Today, users are trapped in Web-only thinking,” said Carl D. Howe, research director and principal analyst at Forrester. “It’s a little like the early days of television when programming was just radio with pictures of announcers. But executable applications will give users tools to experience the Net in more entertaining and engaging ways. For example, imagine a corporate buyer navigating a virtual marketplace with a Doom-like user interface — buyers could simply shoot the deals they want. That’s a far cry from today’s Web.”

Forrester also foresees an extended Internet emerging through online devices and applications that sense, analyze and control the real world. Thanks to inexpensive chips and a worldwide Internet backbone, nearly every device that runs on electricity will have an Internet connection, using both wired and wireless networks. By 2010, Forrester predicts the number of Internet devices will boom from today’s 100 million to more than 14 billion.

“The extended Internet will reshape technology’s role in business,” Howe said. “Most firms struggle to understand and act upon what is happening in their business now — they’re lucky if they know what happened last week or last month. Extended Internet devices will provide real-time information about what is going on and provide knobs and levers for companies to control their businesses. A data center business in California might combine real-time data from both the power company and customers to reduce the power consumption of their air conditioners when power demand peaks — all through extended Internet devices.”

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