2010: The State of the Web

Jan 29, 2010 | Skip to comments » | Share

It's that time of year when you're done assessing what's happened and you look forward to what needs to be done.

In the past eight years, Merge has seen a lot of change in the web industry. We've seen Front Page come and go (thank goodness), Inktomi was the hot search engine back in and around 2000, Yahoo! was serving up results by Google! (their original logo had an exclamation point), companies like Pet.com and WebVan.com promised the world and then left us empty-handed. The web eight years ago was a trial and error era--we were figuring it out as we went along.

With the crash of the dotcom days and the reality of unrealistic expectations, the over-exuberance of the web was self-corrected and for an 18 month period, the web was relatively quite and the world was resigned to having some convenient electronic brochure sites living on the internet. Then Web 2.0 came along. Big fonts and snazzy interactions. A new philosophy was attached and buzz words flew: "User-Generated Content" and "Social Networks" soon became the rage. Companies that couldn't spell their own name started popping up, like Flickr and Del.icio.us arrived on the scene. Myspace.com, known only to bands and teens at the time was building momentum, and a little company called Facebook.com, then restricted only to colleges was making its own headway. Blogging became mainstream, and in the election of 2004 "bloggers" began to get some traction and notoriety.

It seemed the web wasn't dead after all.

Soon, Murdock buys Myspace.com for $500 Million, Zuckerburg was reportedly offered $2 Billion for Facebook by Yahoo! and soon thereafter Newsweek plastered a picture of a web entrepreneur with a preposterous valuation. Were we back to craziness? Maybe.

Web 2.0, User Generated Content and Social Networks converged into what we call Social Media today. In 2008, Social Media started raising eye-brows. By the end of 2008, everybody had to have them some Social Media. In 2009 the momentum kept up, and Social Media experts arrived on the scene. What was once  incomprehensible and we left alone millions of teenagers to MySpace, Facebook opens up and is no longer restricted to colleges, soon finds its highest growing demographic to be....grandmothers.

In the meantime, corporate America silently was investing and plugging away at the web. Amazon, once a dotcom joke for operating for so long in the red turns out to be a darling of the time and a case study for ecommerce. Companies like Lowes and Home Depot, who, for a long time wouldn't even offer their goods for sale over the web, have become respectable destinations themselves.

The past eight years we've seen big industries begin to crumble under the practicality of the web. Sites like Wikipedia, Craigslist.org and Pandora.com brought amazing value to the consumer, and helped change entire industries. The adoption of smart phones and especially the introduction of the iPhone put the web in your pocket, enabling one to take photos, interact with their networks, find places--and even make a phone call here and there--accelarated the dependence of the web.

And that's where we are in 2010. The web was once a great hope. It moved to being highly skeptical to a mere convenience. In 2010 and beyond, we will see the web as indispensable. Corporations are using the web to run their phone systems. Web sites for some, have replaced their entire operation. For others, it offers a significant percentage of sales and turning back is not an option. While yet others, with the benefits of cloud computing, are moving key systems and processes to a bunch of web servers that are just--out there.

Consumers too are more dependent than ever on the web. From email, to GPS, to the trend of media being delivered over the web (Netflix, ebooks, iTunes, etc.).

2010 and beyond, we will continue to see an evolving web. A web that is accessed from everywhere. Within the next five years, we will probably have forgotten Facebook, and newspapers and television will no longer be provided by a paperboy or the cable company. The web will be the vehicle. The web (and technology) itself will be a major driver in creating and providing value by companies to society. Also, society will continue to provide value to culture itself via the web.

In summary, I'm not espousing that the web is the great end all and let's all worship the web. However, I think it offers so much value that as consumers, we will continue to demand more and more is moved to and provided via the web. We'll demand devices work well with the web. And we'll expect the companies we deal with--whether it's the bank, grocery store, video store, pharmacy, doctor--you name it--provide convenience through the web. It can be done. The market will continue to work so it will be done.

Bottom Line: We not only rely on the web, but we are now dependent on the web. The web will continue to evolve to be a more integrated part of our lives and it will also provide a significant platform for innovation, adding value and growth to our economy for years to come.



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