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« You need to read Seth Godin's Linchpin. Or be a cog in the machine. Your choice. | Main | Proof the Splinternet is real »

January 26, 2010

The Splinternet means the end of the Web's golden age

by Josh Bernoff

The golden age of the Web is coming to an end. Prepare for the Splinternet.

As we all gird for the launch of the Apple Tablet, take a moment to step back and realize what all these new devices are doing. The whole framework of the Web (and Web marketing) is based around the idea that everything is in a compatible format. Any browser, any computer, any connection, you see pretty much the same thing.

Now with iPhones, Androids, Kindles, Tablets, and TVs connecting to the Web, that's not true. Your site may not work right on these devices, especially if it includes flash or assumes mouse-based navigation. Apps that work on the iPhone don't work on the Android. Widgets for FiOS TV don't work anywhere else.

Meanwhile, more and more of the interesting stuff on the Web is hidden behind a login and password. Take Facebook for example. Not only do its applications not work anywhere else, Google can't see most of it. And News Corp. and the New York Times are talking about putting more and more content behind a login.

Web marketing has grown since 1995, based on the idea that everything is connected. Click-throughs, ad networks, analytics, search-engine optimization -- it all works because the Web is standardized. Google works because the Web is standardized.

Not any more. Each new device has its own ad networks, format, and technology. Each new social site has its login and many hide content from search engines. 

We call this new world the Splinternet (with a nod to Doc Searls and Rich Tehrani, who used the term before us with a somewhat different meaning). It will splinter the Web as a unified system. The golden age has lasted 15 years. Like all golden ages, it lasted so long we thought it would last forever. But the end is in sight.

Here's what not to do: panic and try to unify things again. The shattering cannot be undone.

Here's what to do: choose your devices carefully -- investments in one cannot be transferred easily to others if you make a mistake. Rethink analytics, links, and measurement -- they're just becoming available in the new environments. Promote the new channels, SEO won't help you so much here. Platforms like iPhone apps and Facebook are some of the most exciting new channels out there. Just realize that you're leaving the comfy environment of the Web behind -- along with all the tools you've grown dependent on -- as you embrace the new platforms.

Forrester clients can read our report with more details.

Note added 1/27 after iPad announcement: It appears the iPad, like the iPhone, doesn't support Adobe Flash and runs the same proprietary iPhone apps. Regardless of how successful it becomes, it's another splinter -- an Apple controlled platform in which much of the Web's infrastructure is missing.

See Proof the Splinternet is real, added 1/28,

Splinternet
 

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Comments

Nicole Reitz

Hi Josh,
Do you plan to incorporate platform usage into future versions of the Social Technographics profile? Is there a difference between a "conversationalist" who tweets from a desktop and one who tweets from an iPhone?

Esteban Contreras

Very good post Josh. This topic could become a great follow-up to Groundswell.

Josh Bernoff

Fascinating idea, Nicole.

Aron Ecsedy

The same way you can still use telnet (as guest) on servers that allow it, you'll be able to use the web if you need it.

However, content creation is on these new platforms and the reason why this happens is that these platforms created the added value using their proprietary technology. That's just so. There is no such thing as a free meal. WWW appeared to defy that, but did it? I mean how money average users could code in HTML? Using proprietary tools like Typepad or Facebook, you don't need programming skills to have a page on the web. They are free, too.

I think this is simply a different balance now. Only from the "tech guy's" POV it looks as a step back, since the new status quo empowers the user, not the geek.

Steve Woodruff

Some years back, I might have cringed at this development. Now I welcome it. The time from thought to output to audience engagement is so short now with new media development tools, that it makes sense to create "splintered" media that will more optimally work for different audiences and platforms. The rigid forced compromises of web standards (which always ended up with variables anyway) propelled things forward for a while, but now, they actually can hold back progress.

John McTigue

I agree with you, Steve W., having one venue or medium for content never made any sense. Think about watching TV on one channel or having to use an AT&T telephone for all communication. That's pretty much the way it was only 20 years ago. Options are good, freedom of choice is good. It's hard on publishers, but hey, get off your butts and publish to the channels if you want to be seen.

1day1brand

"Splinternet" - I love it.

May just replace my favourite "Interweb".

@aXle

Dave Culbertson

I'm a bit surprised to read this on your blog. You seem to be confusing the World Wide Web with Internet. For example, The W3C is not an Internet standard - it's a Web standard.

The Web is just one car riding on the Internet's highway of data. To quote Wikipedia:

"Although the two terms are sometimes conflated in popular use, World Wide Web is not synonymous with Internet.[3] The Internet consists of a worldwide collection of computers and sub-networks exchanging data using wires, cables, and radio links, whereas the World Wide Web is a huge set of documents, images, and other 'resources' linked by an abstract 'web' of hypertext links and URLs."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Wide_Web

Granted, the Web is the most commonly used channel on the Internet but it's never been the only one. Email is not the same as the Web. Usenet is not the same as the Web. FTP is not the same as the Web.

So now, new Internet channels are emerging (smart phone apps, Internet-connected home appliances, etc.) and the Web itself is facing some splintering (which I believe will fail unless the companies putting up Google walls find channels to get around Google.)

But the foundation doesn't change - The Internet is still the underlying connection. When a business begins with that understanding, the big picture becomes easier to see.

Promotional Products

Josh,

Interesting post... love the charts, pretty cool!

Lois Ardito

Josh, I only just learned the phrase "standardized technology" now I have to wrap my head around "splinternet"!

Mark Sargent

Find a German translation of the article here: Das Splitternetz kündigt das Ende des goldenen Internet Zeitalters an

Josh Bernoff

Dave -- you're exactly correct of course. The Internet is not splintering, but the Web is.

Basically, my reasoning is:

- Web standards aren't as standard because of devices and sites behind a password.

- Because the Web is the most commercial and visible application on the Internet, this creates a new diversity of Internet applications.

- It may be the Web that is spintering, but Splinternet as a term nicely carries the spirit of what's happening.

Based on the number of people twittering and calling me about this, the meme is spreading -- partly because we used such a compelling (if not technically and rigidly accurate) term to describe it.

Dave Culbertson

Josh,

I won't argue with your term - it does a great job of capturing the challenge / opportunity in a single word. :-)

Chris Moisan

Love the term "SplinterNet" - we @taptu have been conducting extensive research in to the sub-ecosystems that are beginning to evolve specifically for touch screen mobile devices (we've analysed over 100m domains). It's a fascinating area. But let's hope for the sake of developer's this period of fragmentation will be followed by a 2nd Golden period of the web and standardization...the numbers we've observed suggest this is a distinct possibility on mobile in the future.

Larry Port

To me, it seems like you spawned a meme with little might.

Great name in "Splinternet", interesting ideas in your post. I gotta be honest though, I think you're wrong on this one. No offense to you or your meme.

I'm confused about your use of Internet and Web synonymously in your post. They're not the same. Looks like Dave picked up on that one.

What about fully functional mobile browsers? That's the biggest issue I have with your argument. Consumer demand for rich web surfing forces Droid and iPhone offer standards-compliant browsers, and Windows and Blackberry users have options as well (and as any Blackberry owner will confess, they're all jealous of the Safari browser).

And the future? The W3C HTML 5 spec is already being implemented in the major browsers, with offline access there already and advanced rendering on the way. Safari, IE 8, Firefox, Chrome, they're all on board. What HTML 5 will do is force content providers to throw their hands up and say to themselves: who wants to develop a native app when you can build an incredibly rich HTML 5 app that everyone can use on any device? And they don't have to worry about approval or upgrade issues.

But let me be up front, I'm a software engineer doing web apps for the last 10 years, so there's bound to be some bias here. On the other side of the coin, however, I would hope that means I know one or two things about these technologies. No guarantees though. ;)

Just my two cents.

LP

Andy Jorgensen

I heard Josh Bernhoff on Marketplace today and he has got it completely backwards. The web was always intended to be used a variety of devices. In fact, that is EXACTLY what the web was invented for. Before the Web, information was locked up in different machines on different hardware. None of that info could be shared. The web was invented by Tim Berners-Lee to solve that problem. Wow. This guy really could not be more wrong. The web is intended to be platform-independent. There are even aural web browsers for the blind. (um.. flash won't work on that...)

This Bernoff guy is a business analyst. It's obvious to me that he knows very little about technology. He mixes up the web with email and other applications, as if they were all one thing. He could have done some research. Not to mention Marketplace. Do they just give a slot to any Forrester guy with a book?

Summary: It would be so much simpler and cheaper for big companies to make annoying ads if all you pesky people would just only use a giant PC from the 90's with Internet Explorer 4 and Flash to use the web and never ever allow for innovation. You don't really need information in your pocket, do ya?

It's hard to believe that he is serious. Maybe just seriously misinformed. Flash is not a web standard. Web standards are always changing for the better; evolving. Email is not the web. Apps are not the web.

Advertiser's online channels are splintering, yes. Their audience is also increasing. Would you prefer the audience of the 90's? The Web is more standardized and cohesive than it has ever been.

Don't worry your pretty little head. The geeks will solve these problems for you and we'll have ads everywhere. You will still sell your half-ass research to techno-saurs.

Here's your next post: "HTML5 gets many Flash features without requiring a plug-in. Works on iPhone (Safari) and other modern browsers." I'm serious. You can have it for free. I just did your job for you. Your welcome.

Andy Jorgensen

Some other tips for the ad minded:

Apple has officially entered into the advertising business with the purchase of Quattro Wireless, the mobile ad company confirmed

http://www.appleinsider.com/articles/10/01/05/quattro_wireless_confirms_apple_acquisition_ceo_named_apple_vp.html

http://www.appleinsider.com/articles/10/01/05/quattro_purchase_seen_as_defensive_move_for_iphone_offensive_for_tablet.html

Josh Bernoff

It's great to hear from all you HTML 5 lovers. If you're right, some elements of the splintering -- like the uneven support for Flash -- could get solved.

Even if that happens, though, Apple still controls the apps on its platform, Facebook still controls the the experiences on its platform, and the New York Times is still leading the newspaper industry into locking up content. Not to mention the diversity in screen sizes.

This demands a new splintered way of thinking from marketers. Because "The Web" is not one thing any more.

P.S. Andy, anyone who says I have a pretty little head is clearly not fully in touch with reality. ;-)

Daniel Millbank

Reading the article and not all the responses, I don’t see the author making any attempt to separate content, applications or the vehicle that drives much of it today, the Web. I am confused? Do I understand your article correctly? I thought the ‘splinternet’ principle applies to applications on web-enabled devices like iPhones, Blackberry's, iPods and now iPads and not to the websites who are the content bearers and which are dependent on browsers to display its content. It is apparent, to me at least, that successful web-enabled devices on the market today that use the Internet will most likely run a web standards compliant browser.

Again, I think it is important that we underline the differences here: the browser is the application and it interprets the website. If a browser is web standards compliant and a website is built according to web standards, then they'll display just fine... on any device (iPhone, PC, Blackberry, iPad etc.). However, you can't take the application, the browser in this case, and move it from one platform to another, unless you are using Java which supports several platforms. The content itself works everywhere... wasn't that the whole point with XML?

Anyway, that’s my two cents.

Larry Port

Apple doesn't control all the apps on its platform. It only restricts the native apps on its platform.

An app delivered over mobile web is not restricted in any way. In fact, Apple has gone to great lengths to make Safari execute the same Javascript and HTML rendering we enjoy on a desktop machines.

So unless Apple gets all China on us and starts blocking content, anyone can develop a cross platform app for any device.

I think Splinternet is just a great name for a concept based on hunches but not real technological concepts.

Just my two cents.

LP

David Deal

Very interesting post. Hard not to think of the nytimes.com going to a paid-content model as I read it. (Again, a web property deciding you're going to need to work harder and pay something to get at its content.) With regard to the proliferation of incompatible devices, I believe consumers are enduring a transition from a web-based world to a broader digital world that encompasses not only the devices you cite but digital out of home, too. It feels like the early days of the PC when consumers endured a similar time of confusing incompatabilities and technological advances that constantly rendered their devices obsolete. (Today you can't buy a device that plays digital content unless you're prepared to endure a lifetime of firmware updates.) For now, advertisers benefit because they can take advantage of captive audiences interacting with content on proprietary devices. But eventually, a technological winnowing out will bring an end to the transitional period, and the digital world will feel as seamless as the web has been during the golden era Josh describes.

Christopher

The threat of consumers voting with their dollar for "splinternet"-type devices/platforms is real. But the proprietary platforms will be left behind as the collective mind and manpower of the incredibly fruitful open-source community continue to make generational leaps in tech and UI improvement.

I really want a Kindle, but will probably go for the Sony Daily Edition reader because it's more open and plays well with others. I have to keep in mind that my dollars are votes for what I believe in. I hope others out there do that, too.

ReaderX

Cute name, but it won't stick.

There won't be a splinternet.

There've been walled gardens of content behind lock n key for decades. Folks who don't know this are ill-informed and, by definition, newbies. There's no earth shattering change as a result of increase diversity in user agents. And it's openness that will triumph in the end.

I'm glad this issue was raised. I find it interesting that so many so-called experts treat it as a new phenomenon, but that highlights their lack of geek cred.

Don't fear change. Go back a couple decades and listen to the technologists in your own company who've told you all this before.

Philip Goetz

I thought everything would go the way of google mobile ads back in late 2007, but you knwo what? No one ever clicked on my Panasonic HVX200 mobile ad and then one day I got an announcement from google that they just didn't work. I am almost happy to see fences going up...
www.texasmediasystems.com

Andre

This "splinternet" would be the worse thing to happen in years. I think the author forgets why we have standards in the first place. Does anyone can remember the PC world before the web, back when everyone used a different word processor and no one was able to open half the documents they received because they didn't have the required application? This was a disaster and modern computing would never have been possible if we hadn't moved past that.

Even if we did start to slip toward a "splinternet" world, reality would slap everyone in the face real quick.

If content producers and advertisers think that consumers are going to download and/or install whatever is required to view their content, please think again. It will not happen. And even if it did, it will only create an unstable computing environment for users when all these apps start conflicting with one another.

If you think that modern computing and the web can exist in a mainstream fashion without standards, then you obviously do not understand technology works or user behavior.

I think it's also a very bad idea to start talking about loss of standards like it's something that unavoidable, instead of framing it as something we should be working hard to avoid. I don't think anyone will find the plinterNet to be a very user-friendly, productive environment place.

Josh Bernoff

Standards are great, but they can't make an 3-inch iPhone behave like a 12-inch computer.

Marketers are going to be living in many different interactive worlds. Standards will help, but when Apple, Facebook, and Google own platforms, you have to live in their environments if you like the audiences that use those platforms.

New? No. More important than it was last year, and getting to be more of a trend every month? Yup.

Scott Lewis

There has yet to be a golden age of the internet. I'd say we've progressed from infancy thru childhood and are coming to those difficult teenage years. While I agree that the splinternet exists, and has for some time. IMO, the golden years of the net are still a ways off and your ending of them is very premature. ;-)

vanessa Jordan

Just trying to find a good site to learn from, I am just getting into the ground floor of Web Design ,
I am taking a class on
it. I am trying to learn anywhere I can find some great teachers.

Marty M

Google can't get to the Facebook and Apple info? I suspect it's more that they don't have a compelling reason to yet -- they could easily buy access if they thought their growth depended on it.

Katie Hawkey

I heard this story on Marketplace and I haven't yelled so loudly at my car radio since Bush was in office. As Andy J. says above "the geeks will solve these problems for you," and in fact we already are solving them. Look towards content management systems (CMS) and Real Simple Syndication (RSS feeds) if you want to see where the future of the web is headed.

You have to stop thinking of information on the web in terms of layout and look at it in terms of content. You say above "choose your devices carefully -- investments in one cannot be transferred easily to others." This tells me you're thinking about the content on the web like a printed piece that needs to get sent out via direct mail. "Choose your layout carefully - once it's printed as a postcard, it can't be transferred to a brochure format easily."

But it’s not print, it’s web content. You should be thinking of the distribution for web content more as a signal for a radio show. I can listen to you talk to Kai on my car radio, on my transistor radio, home stereo, whatever. Will the sound quality be a little different on each? Yes. Will hearing this story still cause me to yell at my radio? Yes. Why? Because it’s the content that really matters, not the delivery method.

A blog post is a bit of content, a Facebook post is a bit of content, a Tweet is a bit of content, an “about us” paragraph on your website is a bit of content, even an advertisement is a bit of content. If you have your content in the right kind of tool (like a savvy CMS)- it can be published *everywhere* even behind “password protected” barriers. I can already do this across Social Media platforms using FREE services like HootSuite.com - I write one bit of content and I can publish it simultaneously to any Twitter Account, Blog, Facebook Profile or Page I choose. I can even already do this with my website - update my website via my CMS, Webany.net, and the change is made both to the version of the site that shows in regular browsers and in the version of my site that shows up for mobile users. I am not talking about future tech here, this is already happening. And I’m really not an uber-geek - I’m just your run-of-the-mill, sort-of-HTML-savvy, marketing chick.

It wouldn't surprise me to see programs like iWeb give people the option to auto-create mobile friendly versions of their sites within the next year or two. Why? Because the geeks are solving this problem faster than it’s becoming a real issue.

Chris Lorenz

We still have yet to see standards be commonplace on the web, nor have we seen a golden era. The web is still full of work arounds and compromises. Browsers until just recently all rendered differently and required you to get "creative" with your CSS.

Things seemed to be going in the right direction with RESTful API's and open sharing of information between sites. Though a lot of what you say may end up true. It's very possible that we may end up in a "platform based" era.

With HTML5 starting to make an appearance it will be interesting to see where things will go. If HTML5 isn't adopted well, then we may have some serious issues/decisions to work out.

luisfernandes

This theory seems pretty far off.. Think SOA. Think Cloud computing. Think Open Source. A more common example, is automobile iPod integration kits. Even at this simplistic level, it's easy to see how new technology drives innovation in technology. Integration is key. This kind of splintering is another form of stovepiping which doesn't seem logical given the move to open systems and share.

Doug Richards

I completely disagree. In the late 90s we went through the same exercise with WebTV and dear old AOL and then, as is happening now, developers stood their ground against a fractured approach to coding. What you're not accounting for in this article is the separation of the information layer from the application layer.

Brian Hayashi

The Splinternet is a great way to talk about the changes in what we used to call walled gardens. Then, as now, technologists insist on adherence to well-worn Internet concepts like SOA and open source, not realizing how inadequate these old models are in expressing the social and political implications in a world increasingly transformed by social uses of technology.

The current iPad vs Flash discussion is but a minor prelude to larger issues like privacy. Having been around the Internet since there were less than 50 supercomputer installations total, we've always had the benefit of American laws and American governance of the Internet. That all changed last year, and it will be fascinating to see the irresistible force of sovereignty meet the immovable object we call privacy.

Paul

Absolutely ridiculous.


Never before has the web been more integrated, more standards-based, more universal than it is now. Devices like the iPhone have gone a long way towards that. The iPhone was the first device that gave us a desktop browser on a mobile device, and finally sounded the death knell for the mobile-only web conceived over a decade ago.

To address your poorly thought out grid:
Technology standards:
Apple's browser is W3C compliant, unlike what's been in every device and every MSWindows system until recently. With Microsoft finally starting to get on board with W3C standards, devices and browsers are so much more standards oriented than they've ever been. As a web developer, it's wonderful.

Screen format: What exactly do you think "PC-screen" sized is? Do you mean the 640x480 screen that internet content was originally produced for, the 800x600 which still dominates many markets because it's more readable, or the new widescreen 1080p-range screens that make up the majority of new monitor sales? HTML itself was designed to deal with wide-ranging screen types, and only with the recent large high-resolution screens have been able to count on fixed layout renderings. This site itself relies on variable-width formatting.

Interactive applications: Flash itself has never worked properly on Linux or MacOS, and has been a thorn in the side of every administrator trying to keep up with the new version requirements for each new iteration. Java has had a bad rap for this and more. AJAX etc. which are championed by these new devices are the standard-bearers for standards here too, much deployed on the desktop.

Permitted applications: Once again, this is an area where things have greatly improved. It so nice to finally see the death of "Best viewed with" and "MSIE-only". iPad and brethren render all sites the same as desktops.

Searchability: Flash is the least searchable of technologies. This item is a complete red-herring, though, having nothing to do with the discussion.

I won't go through the second table, since this comment is too long already. But you seem to be woefully behind on desktop-based advertising technology trends, and changes here are not really being driven by devices.

You seem to have missed the first decade of the web entirely.

Scottish Wildcat

FUD alert. In no way is Flash "much of the Web's infrastructure".

Flash itself is a divisive technology that is in no way part of any web standards, so the sooner Apple and anyone else can flush it into oblivion, the better.

Mike Spear

Splinternet?
We don't need more made-up words to spawn a new rush to the next big thing.
Indeed, don't panic and definitely take that step back. Make it a much bigger step. Try 20 years?
Before you were really cruising around the web, there we all sorts of independent systems behind point-to-point dial-up, logins, and passwords with not a lot to link them together. Think CompuServe, AOL, Delphi, or The Well. There was also a group who saw Web 2 as a place to put all the commerical services we saw coming, to leave the original web as a place for social good. Clearly the services and ideas died, but they laid the goundwork for what came next.
Social media or Web X dot whatever didn't appear fully formed out of some primordial ooze of bits and bytes. What we have today is built on the experience, the users, and the technology that came before it.
So Facebook or Twitter is behind a password? I couldn't even post this comment if I didn't cough up some identifying information and I don't see how this somehow splinters things.
Remember the Apple Newton, destined to change the nature of how we work?
Or maybe the Lisa which was heralded as the future of graphical interfaces.
Gone, and maybe forgotten, but with an important place in what came next.
Chasing the next big thing is a mug's game, not to mention a neat way to keep selling books and blog posts.
As for the golden age of the Web coming to an end?! This is 2010 and the impact of the web is arguably only 15 years or so old. Golden age? What on earth will you write about 10 years from now.
I do at least agree that you should choose your devices and platforms carefully but then I would offer the same advice to anyone going out to by a car in the splinterized auto industry.
As for the next step, I would write the word out 50 times on a piece of paper to symbolize hype and overkill, crumple it up into a ball and chuck it in the garbage.

Josh Bernoff

I'd like to thank Katie for a substantive contribution here.

All the standards lovers commenting here are missing the point I'm making. Standards can't create a standard experience. Web experiences are going to vary a lot by device. This is a challenge for businesses concerned about those experiences. And for marketers.

Katie points the way to the solution -- technologies flexible enough to deliver in these different formats. But these will take a lot of thought on the part of sites -- the decision on how reformat content for different devices is not something that a machine can figure out.

It seems somehow difficult for there to be agreement here. Here is one thing I think we can agree on. Fragmented experiences are a problem. Technologists need to work on solutions for it, so businesses can take advantage of those solutions.

I look forward to the solutions you're all promising. But please don't trivialize the problem.

RSCarey

Great article but then i get to 'what not to do: panic and try to unify things again.'
The reason for this splintering is solely that standards have not kept pace with mobile, TV, tablet form factors. Standard committees fell behind and misjudged the requirements.

Josh - when you say 'Standards can't create a standard experience. Web experiences are going to vary a lot by device.' I think you are wrong: iPhone, Windows Mobile, Palm WebOS, etc - all are moving to similar screen size and user interface. Same with TVs and tablets. May seem like infinite form factors - but we're really just talking about the evolution of a few categories. In other words: if there was W3C standard for mobile web that defined the user interface as gesture/multi-touch for mobile devices, and remote-control-esque UI for TV then none of this would be happening. It would need to go further: no launching the browser and enter URL - the way this mobile web navigation should work should be more like the app store. In any event, the only reason why this splintering is inevitable is that the w3c is too slow and narrowly focused to adapt. The w3c bet the farm on CSS as the way to simply reformat content for different devices - a mistake. Thats it. But given a better standard for mobile web people would choose that instead of 'installing' an app like facebook - an old crusty concept. Don't believe me? Where is your desktop Windows or Mac facebook app? And if you think TV, Mobile, etc are fundamentally different to the point that standards are impossible then you have a very narrow idea (your preconception is based on desktop computer web experience) of what a standard is capable of. It might very well be - unfortunately - inevitable - but we shouldn't want this. It is not a new paradigm - it is a return to an old one (but in a different context) because the ball was dropped.

Josh Bernoff

@RSCarey Good analysis. Still at least three form factors -- mobile, TV, and PC. And when will the mobile sites actually standardize?

Mark K/

This has been around long before social media sites entered the internet. I think of it as a public internet and a private internet. There are things you want to be be aware of or share and then there are circumstances where you don't want to share, except to a few people (group) or keep it completely private.

You create the "Splinternet", but companies and services help define where you put your public and personal information on the internet.

Luis Colorado

Josh,

If I had to write a blog every day or every week with new insights about the future of technologies, my brain would start to dry up and it would come up with cute, FUDdy, spinny, and wrong ideas like 'Splinternet'.

But that's okay, we are all humans, imperfect, and embrace (or invent) ideas that make no sense (like the Bush WMDs in Iraq, or the economists -some even with Nobel prizes- who destroy economies of whole countries, the spin on the "death panels", and so on).

I'm glad you clarified the concept of Splinternet. However, the idea is a fallacy full of holes.

Growth of diversity is good. Of courrse, at the beginning it is as painful as working on the Babel tower, because you just can't communicate, or you would be able to understand a few folks.

The good news about this "end of a golden age" is that eventually, just by a natural selection, the most convenient memes will become the de facto standard. For example, the IBM PC, the MS Word format, etc.

I would not be surprised if some companies and geeks are already working on developing technologies that can deliver the promise of writing a mobile application once, and running it everywhere.

Eventually, by natural selection, a platform will eventually become the dominant de facto standard.

There's nothing new under the sun. This cycle has happenned many, many times in human history, and it will happen again. Is this a disaster? No, this is the engine that moves progress forward.

Anyhoo.... keep that ideas machine working. Some ideas might be less than great, some may be just brilliant.

Take care,

Luis

Ed Alexander

Splinternet, schminternet.

Already, we are working on apps that can run on any form factor. Web standards can catch up.

This is great news for the already-rebelling consumer who detests having their choice of (inferior) data carrier dictated by some boutique eye candy peddling specialty manufacturer (ryhmes with "Grapple").

I can, and will, have it my way....not yours. I am the consumer, and it's my dollar.

Glenn Gruber

Josh, I agree with a lot of what you said with respect to the Splinternet and specifically the way that pages are rendered on different devices. However, I don't think that you can say that having content behind a login contributes to that. It's a business model decision that the WSJ, NYTimes...and yes, analyst firms like Forrester, have adopted to maximize the revenue they get from their high quality content. Mark Cuban has made a point about this many, many times. But I do not believe having content behind a login does not necessitate that the content is not searchable by Google or others. But in any case searchability is a different issue than page rendering and platform fragmentation that the different smartphone, e-Readers and cable systems are introducing.

chris marentis

Back in 2007 we called this the "distributed web"...the atomization of the web into pieces. We created a technology platform for creating apps once and being able to distribute them and measure them across platforms that did not have compatible formats and tech. I do not see why tech distribution platforms like this will not continue to emerge to help solve these issues for content creators. I also think Google and others will get smart at indexing all kinds of contents...helped by the companies that run the new platforms. Why? Because if it can't be measured and optimized, it's tough to create a business model around it.

Very thoughtful piece. Thanks.

jean

Golden age of the web? Huh? I've working on the web since 1994 and - I'm sorry - haven't experienced any golden age during the 15+ years I've been working on this pain-in-ass medium.

pablo

Does this mean that in time Google will be charging us to do complete searches - including that info behind login's in Facebook and the likes - so a type of cable search channel with no ads?

Mab

Note: I decided to write this post in my own language, for those that can't understand or read spanish I recommend google language tools.

Me desempeño como profesional y especialista en Marketing en Mercados de Latinoamérica. Parte de mi trabajo consiste en recomendar estrategias de posicionamiento on line para las marcas que me consultan. He leido el libro y los posts, realmente me interesaría saber como el autor va a resolver este problema. En este Blog claramente la calidad del producto o solucion de Forrester asociado con Groundswell ha sido puesto en tela de juicio, esta siendo seriamente cuestionada la capacidad de un analista sr. para elaborar conceptos acerca de tecnologías y estrategias de negocios en internet, por lectores que en su discurso demuestran conocer de tecnologías y aplicaciones web. Me gustaría saber o ver como aplicaría alguno de los autores, en la práctica, sus propias recomendaciones acerca de "jujitsu" o que estrategias de "listening to ..." se estan utilizando en esta situación. Hay un aspecto a evaluar antes de entrar en estas arenas, creo que ha quedado demostrado que no solamente tus consumidores van a opinar sobre tu producto.

Ersin Akinci

You raise some valid points, but I respectfully disagree with the reasons behind your argument because in all of your examples, it's clear that the neither the content nor the methods used to access it are being atomized but rather the tools used to view them, which doesn't matter from an interoperability point of view. The entire web is moving toward a Model-View-Controller access scheme where the data models are hidden and the views are constantly changing, but the controllers that bind the two are being rigorously standardized. The mindnumbingly slow evolution of web standards like HTML5, which are intrinsically tied to views, when compared with the proliferation of controller protocols and technologies like RSS and XML supports the idea that the days when you could do your data, formatting, and the logic between the two in one fell swoop are definitely past us. In their place, we now have a balkanized but much more enterprise-ready environment where the standardization of the middle controller layer is the only thing that counts. That's really what companies like Google (and Forrester) want, and that's what they're getting.

Now, as to your larger point, that balkanization process might very well be the end of the golden age of the Web when hardy digital homesteaders could put their "stuff" up and have some kind of meaningful identity. Sadly, I think that most people welcome the demise of that vision, as probably most people would have cheered the collapse of Geocities and all its blink tag glory had they cared enough. There simply isn't any space for true amateurs on the Internet anymore, and even though we might have all the open source CMS solutions and open web technologies and free website e-cart make-your-own-digital-lemonade-stand template creation services in the world, it will never be the same as when a man could raise his cursor and build a house with one HTML file and a couple of GIF's from cooltext.com. Something similar happened in the 90's with hardware when home routers and NAT became prevalent, which broke the democratic ideal of one IP address per machine, and I remember some rants written against it. Today, the idea of one IP address per machine seems ridiculous (well, with IPv4, at least), and yet without it the era of the amateur webhost also came to an end, which itself was a vestige of home dial-in telnets and BBS's when one phone number meant one machine. The iPhone, FiOS widgets, and the like aren't the death knell for data mining, they're the symptom of data mining's ascendancy, and unfortunately they're the end of a different kind of web that was born somewhere nestled far away in the Alps in some guy's office.

Terence Chan

Agreed that the web as we see it today is getting extremely diverse in its form, accessibility, and functionality as it continues to mature. But I would have thought that companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter are bringing back a monopolistic state to the 3Ws the likes we have never seen? And lets not even begin to start debating on the unifying intents of W3C, HTML 5 and the Semantic Web....

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