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The Web is Dead

May 30, 2024

What if I told you that the web is dead, but we just haven’t realized it yet? With its many shortcomings, would we even be sad to see it go? Before you go any further, no, this isn’t about blockchain, and yes, it is an AI thread. Consider yourself warned.

So, why do we even have the web? Well, the Internet is great. It is a set of fundamental protocols that connect computers and allow them to share data. But the Internet lacks a seamless way to present the content those computers share with the people using the computers. Enter the World Wide Web.

The World Wide Web provides a standard for sharing content across all these newly networked computers. This means a website can be written to show and capture content, and it can run on any Internet-connected computer (through a browser, of course).

The web was neat at first, but soon, its flaws became apparent. First and foremost, the content is disorganized and spread everywhere (enter Google). Second, it created a way to share information without ensuring its authenticity (and no, a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate doesn’t fix this). I could go on, but there are plenty of lists outlining what’s wrong with the web—Google it.

As mobile devices rose in popularity, much of what was happening on the web shifted into an app paradigm. This solved some problems (more organized data) but created new ones (less portable and interoperable content, and decreased visibility and discoverability).

And here we are, with a mix of content spread across apps and the web. Both platforms have launched some of the biggest companies of our time and, in some cases, entirely new business models (hello, SaaS).

Now, enter generative AI (GenAI). You may ask yourself, what does GenAI have to do with the web and mobile apps? Well, GenAI is likely the technology that eliminates the need for a standards-based approach to capturing, sharing, and viewing content using Internet-connected devices.

Remember why we invented the web? Imagine a scenario where content (and data) is stored in places with standard protocols and interfaces accessible to any GenAI system. The AI can then determine how to present that content based on the user’s device and the contextual need for data.

Google has shown us that the operating systems for mobile devices will likely become nothing more than a GenAI engine. One capable of accessing, presenting, and creating content on demand. Microsoft has done the same thing with laptops.

If our computing device runs on a GenAI engine, it just needs access to content and it can present that information in real-time, with an interface also generated in real time (or maybe cached – whatever works).

Imagine taking a picture of a beautiful sunset with your phone and saying, “Share that pic with my friends.” Your phone can store it in cloud-based standards-compatible storage. Then, it uses protocols like SMS to notify your friends’ GenAI devices that something has been shared. No need to interrupt your friends with a notification – their GenAI device will know when it’s appropriate to notify them about your beautiful picture.

Now, imagine your friend asks their GenAI device to “Show me all the pictures my friends have shared in the past 24 hours.” The GenAI can do that on demand—no app required (maybe in the short term an app will be required but this post isn’t about the how). The way the photos are presented depends on the context and device. It may vary each time, and that’s okay. GenAI makes the presentation layer ephemeral and just in time.

Here’s another example: “Immediately notify my friend Kevin of my arrival time.” Kevin gets a message in his headphones while playing Call of Duty (and not doing very well) that you’ll be arriving in 25 minutes.

The same applies to business applications. You don’t need Salesforce. You need a place to store everything related to a customer and a GenAI-powered device to surface the content for you.

Just ask— “Hey Siri (or Gemin, or Fred—whatever), what deals set to close this week are at risk?” Instantly, you receive a summary of deals at risk, why, who the key players are, and recommendations to mitigate the risk. Fancy. Poor Salesforce.

In short, the Internet, new open content storage protocols, deterministic identification mechanisms, and GenAI-powered devices will replace the web, apps as we know them, and a whole lot of companies.

Are there technical challenges? Yes. Are there risks? Sure, but we’ll overcome them. Will someone turn this into a thread about blockchain? Absolutely. But this is our trajectory—a protocol for communication between computing devices (the Internet), a protocol for content sharing (TBD), standardized ways to identify content and things, standard ways to identify people and organizations, and GenAI-powered devices to present and capture content.

The new big companies will be the GenAI companies, the device manufacturers, the infrastructure companies for the internet, the content creation companies, companies providing infrastructure for deterministic identification of things and people (hello, digital watermarking), and the open data storage and sharing platforms. I won’t delve into it, but this profoundly impacts the future of cloud computing platforms that currently serve as the backend for web and mobile apps—they won’t be necessary in this future.

The future of computing will seamlessly blend into our lives, fulfilling a quest that started with the advent of the Internet. GenAI devices will come in all shapes and forms, some with visual interfaces, some without. They’ll be in our glasses, cars, communication devices, appliances, probably even our scales.

When will this happen? Do you know the difference between a futurist and a billionaire? A futurist knows what is going to happen; a billionaire knows when. I’m not a billionaire.

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