Friday, March 20, 2009

Destination Free Web

Where are we headed?

For a variety of reasons the web is changing from a set of interconnected sites to one of almost a free flowing of information. Back in 2007 I wrote a piece for Chief Marketer entitled "What's Still Missing from Web 2.0?" A lot has changed since then, so I thought I'd update some thinking.

The basic premise is that the history of any product or technology will give you clues to its future and trajectory. Using the story from Genesis, the article outlines what happened in each of the last six decades and concludes that the sole purpose of the Internet is to connect different bits of information where they are held. The browser and search succeeded because they assisted in moving people from place to place. It ended with the speculation that the model of moving from place to place was not what people really want. We want to have content served the way we like it. There are simply too many destinations to remember, bookmark of otherwise keep track of. It concluded with the following:
The marketer with a lot of content has a choice – entice people to come to their site which is an ever increasing expense, or relax the assumption about destination and focus on the distribution [of content].

So what's changed?

First, social activities on the Internet have gone from niche to mainstream. In the aggregate these tools account for more activity than email and rank only behind search. It is well established that display advertising fails to effectively redirect people away from where they're comfortable.

Second, technologies are advancing quickly to support the transfer of data as opposed to the maintenance of a connection. Broadband and streaming are becoming mainstream as well.

Driven in a large part by the social media sphere there have been numerous examples of the implications of these changes.
  • Contact forms will move from a site to social profiles as noted on Web Strategist. This also suggests that lead form and landing pages will go the way of the carrier pigeon.
  • Twitter is built on a variety of technical backbones making it nearly completely portable with more than 50% of the activity happening on non-Internet sites. The fact that it doesn't require content to work (like Google) makes it extremely flexible.
  • Web 3.0, semantic web, etc. is loosely defined as finding and consuming the content not the container. Like any food we aren't interested in the wrapper, just the content.
  • The source of information may no longer be known as a 'site' as tools like Apture continue to push the edge of content mixing.
  • Company news is being converted to consumable and findable chunks by the social media news rooms like pitchengine or newscactus.
It seems we are on a trajectory for a 'destination free web'.

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