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Wired Declares 'The Web Is Dead,' Apps and Mobile Devices to Blame

Wired Web

Wired Magazine editor-in-chief Chris Anderson, like Prince, thinks the Web is dead. Unlike Prince, though, Anderson actually has some facts to back up his claim. In the cover story of the September issue of Wired, both Anderson and Michael Wolff use Internet traffic trends to support the argument that smartphone apps and e-readers have gradually begun to overtake the Web browser as our primary conduit of online consumption. And, according to Anderson, these trends will shape our future.

As he points out, ten years ago, Web-based, HTML-driven traffic comprised about half of all online activity. By 2010, though, that figure, according to Wired, had already dropped to 23-percent, due, in large part, to the rise of peer-to-peer services (23-percent), video (51-percent), and apps that aren't tied to browsers. These statistics lead Anderson to envision "a world Google can't crawl, one where HTML doesn't rule."

BoingBoing's Rob Beschizza, however, re-worked some of Anderson's numbers, to take into account for the increase of Internet traffic over the same time period. According to his admittedly crude reconstruction of the layered graph, with total traffic on the y-axis, the growth of browser traffic hasn't noticeably decreased over time, as one could infer from Wired's representation; it's just had to compete with even more exponential growth from peer-to-peer and video traffic. Regardless of Anderson's angle, though, the underlying message remains the same: that browsers are facing greater competition from new forms of Internet access. And, according to him, there are very real factors behind this trend.

As Anderson argues, consumers are increasingly rejecting the Web in favor of apps or mobile platforms "not because they're rejecting the idea of the Web but because these dedicated platforms often just work better or fit better into their lives (the screen comes to them, they don't have to go to the screen)." Over time, companies have found ways to corner off their own monetized sections of the Internet, creating new ways to meet consumer demand. Anderson argues that this transition is simply part of an inexorable, capitalist evolution. "A technology is invented, it spreads, a thousand flowers bloom, and then someone finds a way to own it, locking out others," he writes. "It happens every time."

The crux of Anderson's thesis, then, seems to be this: the Web isn't "new" anymore. At one point, consumers may have viewed the Web's openness with a sense of excitement or adventure -- and value. Now that the medium has reached "adulthood," though, we've all begun assigning greater value to quality, convenience and reliability. We're more likely to buy a song on iTunes than download it for free, and we're more likely to consume media on our smartphones than at our desktops. Sure, there's still a vast, non-monetized space of the Internet, where people can create things and express themselves. (For reassurance, check out this list of great things about the Web.) As a marketplace, though, the Web is quickly narrowing, and becoming more and more fragmented in an attempt to meet an evolving consumer demand. And, ultimately, that may not be such a bad thing. We do, after all, still enjoy it. [From: Wired and BoingBoing]

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