The Web is Dead … Long Live the Web

According to Wired, the Web is dead.

This has the Internets all abuzz.  Someone noted that Wired was trolling the entire Internet, meaning it’s saying something sensational simply to get a reaction.

As with many thing, there’s probably truth in both camps.

Wired wants traffic (both to their magazine and to their website – which lives on the Web – Irony Alert!).

Having said that, there is something to what Wired is saying.

Now, no one is saying that the Internet is dying.  If you look at this article in response to the Wired article here, you’ll see that actual, total traffic heads up and to the right at a significant clip.  The author does note in an update that just because traffic (think amount of data sent over the Internet) has increased, this does not correspond, necessarily with more people using the Internet more.  And, that’s true, too.

The reason I’m mentioning any of this is because it reminded me of a similar observation I made (to myself) probably a couple years ago.  And this is: The Web is dying.

Now, I’m not claiming to scoop Wired nor am I claiming prescience.  All I’m saying is that this has been coming for some time, where by “this” I mean that the Web is changing fundamentally from one thing in to another thing.  Call it caterpiller to butterfly.  Call it child to adult.  Some transmogrification is taking place.

Here’s what I mean.

Back a decade ago or so it was all the rage (at least amongst a set of techie folk) to go grab a domain and throw up a website.  Some were personal, some were technical, some were combinations of both.

On one of these sites you might find an album of pictures from various trips, you might find a link called “About Me”, you might find a resume or some postings of thoughts on various subjects.

These sites were also playgrounds for folks trying out new web-centric technologies like PHP, HTML, CSS, etc.

But, at their root, they were about folks staking out a chunk of the digital frontier and saying “This is me!  This is mine!  Here I am!”

I did this, too.  It’s right here at http://www.mossor.org.

According to the Internet Wayback Machine, I’ve had my web site up since February of 2001.  Yup, coming up here in less than six months, my site will have been alive for 10 years.

And with that, I’m seriously thinking about either shutting it down or reducing it to some minimal presence.

The driver for that is social networking.  Facebook has, in my opinion, contributed in large part to the death of small web sites.  And it did it by providing a simpler solution for what folks wanted to do in the first place.

Turns out what people wanted was not a place to practice HTML, CSS, PHP and other web arcana.  They simply wanted a way to easily share observations, thoughts or links and easy ways to share photos or other information.  And the killer feature is that instead of sharing it with the entire world, as most web sites do, you’re only sharing it with those folks that you’ve decided should see it.

(There’s an entire separate discussion about the godawful controls that Facebook has for controlling privacy and controlling access, but that’s too off topic for now)

Back in the day (said the old fogey), I would put up albums of pics, maybe from a trip, and it would include pictures of me and my family, including my kids when they were little.  It didn’t really occur to me that I was sharing this with both folks I’d want to see them as well as people I’d probably prefer not look at them.  At the time, there wasn’t a great way to control access easily.  There was some “security through obscurity” and other solutions with scripting and passwords, but it was kind of ugly.

So, time passed.  My interests changed, I wasn’t doing some of the computer animation work that I’d enjoyed for a while, my kids were growing up and I was getting uncomfortable with sharing pics of them without their permission or talking about them in what was essentially a public forum.

Blogging started to take off but I really didn’t have a point of view that I really, really wanted to share on a regular basis.  But, blogging also suffered from the fact that it was designed for an individual to publish content to the entire world (or at least the folks that knew about a given blog).  It wasn’t a good solution if you wanted to share with a smaller audience that you wanted some control over.

And then Facebook came along.  Facebook allows us to create an album of photos and share it only with the folks that we want to.  I can post observations or impressions or things I’m up to and know that it’s only seen by the intended audience.  It’s also allowed reconnecting with some people I haven’t heard from in a number of years, which has been nice.

(On the other hand, I think it also opens us to sharing a false sense of security that we’re just sharing with “Friends” when in reality there are folks that we have “Friended” who are in a different tier of “friendship”.  There already stories of folks getting robbed while away from home when they posted on FB that they were going to be away for an evening – letting more people than they really thought about know that their houses were unattended.)

Let’s come back to where we started: The Web is Dead.  Hyperbole?  Sure, some.  But also some truth.  The Web as it existed a decade ago, serving the audience that it did, is dying.  It’s being replaced by a different set of tools, consumed by a different audience, generated by a different set of creators who are interested in getting their content out there more than coding in arcane web tools.

It’s a natural progression, I suppose.  The pioneers make way for the city folk.  Rutted wagonways make way for the roads to speed traffic.  Buggies give way to the horseless carriages which give way to automobiles and sport cars.  Route 66 is replaced with highways.  That is the nature of progress, after all.

And, as much as I love technology, I’m not interested in keeping up http://www.mossor.org to have it become some stop on what used to be the Web back in the mid-2000s, like folks used to stop at the site of the Largest Ball of String or the World’s Tallest Thermometer.

Perhaps the site will morph in to something else.  You never know.  I still love technology and still love the control that comes with owning my own little corner of the Internet.  But, times change.  And you either change with it or get left behind!