Understanding the Future of “Le Internet” (as the French say)

Forrester CEO George Colony gave a great presentation at Le Web last week. Ironically, he predicts the death of the “le web”. Because the web was the first widely adopted way for people to use the Internet, it’s easy to forget that the web and the Internet are not the same thing. As Colony reminds us, “The web is a software architecture that we all decided to put on the Internet 20 years ago.” Maybe we didn’t clear that confusion up in 2002, but it’s vital to understand it today.

Colony makes a compelling case for “App Internet” as the next dominant software architecture to replace the web, and we’ve already seen trends toward this with the popularity of iOS, Android and recently Amazon. What makes Internet-connected apps better than the web? Colony says “Faster, simpler, more immersive – a better experience.” Bingo. It will be many, many years before it’s possible to create web experiences that offer the same quality of expereince as Internet-connected apps. Why? Again, Colony explains:

Storage is getting cheaper – twice as much space for the same amount price – every 12 months. Processor power is doubling a bit slow, every 18 months (Moore’s Law). Networks are improving at an even slower pace, probably doubling in speed every two years or more. (To see this illustrated, see the chart at 3:22 of Colony’s presentation.) This means that an architecture built only around the network (like the web) wastes all this progress and improvement in processor power and storage. Remember that 95% of web executable is at the server, not at your PC – you’re wasting all the power of the computer in your hands by relying on the least powerful and slowest component of the technology we all have in our hands: the network. (paraphrased from the video)

This is why Apple, and subsequently Google and Amazon, are investing so heavily in apps. Apps allow us to use the extremely powerful and fast-improving processing power and storage of the devices in our hands, while still tapping into the Internet network when needed. The web is the opposite. The web forces us to use the relatively low power network, enabling us tap into the extremely powerful local device very little. This is why Forrester is predicting the app market will grow at about 85% next year from the $2.2B market it is today.

So far, this all makes sense. Apps provide users with a better experience than the web because they leverage local power, which is faster and cheaper than network power.  But Colony predicts the death of the web because of this.

I disagree, mostly because the web has two things app platforms can’t offer:

  • Openness (all modern platforms support it and can access it)
  • Linking (it’s easy to direct users between different pieces of content)

These are two extremely important pieces that the fragmented app Internet platforms can’t support.  The short-term future does belong to apps because of the power benefits Colony discussed.  But the long-term future belongs to a web that can better leverage local power.

*partial credit for the title to Brendon Mason
**video brought to my attention by Fred Wilson

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