Death of the web?

It's not even the end of May, and one analyst outfit is already pronouncing the death of the web. Let's be clear about this: Forrester Research isn't saying the World Wide Web is actually toes-up yet, just that its 'days are numbered'.

It's not even the end of May, and one analyst outfit is already pronouncing the death of the web.

Let's be clear about this: Forrester Research isn't saying the World Wide Web is actually toes-up yet, just that its "days are numbered" and "the death of the web is inevitable."

That kind of overheated language might make one suspicious that certain analysts are getting desperate to sell their pricey reports. "Death" is always a great attention-grabber just look at the front page of any supermarket tabloid.

But wait the web isn't just dying; it's dying friendless and alone. "The problem with today's internet is that it's dumb, boring and isolated," writes George Colony, Forrester's chief corpse-kicker. "Now that the novelty has faded, business executives and consumers are going back to reading newspapers and watching TV. Ultimately, the net hasn't truly become a part of our real worlds."

Pretty troubling words, in the wake of all those dead dot-coms, eh? Especially considering how much we've all invested in websites, web servers, web applications and figuring out web commerce.

Funny thing, though: Forrester's vision of the "X internet" (which it says will replace the web catchy, huh?) sounds a lot like stuff we've been hearing about the web for years.

Take "disposable code," for example. Forrester says the X internet will have programs you download to your PC or handheld device, "use once and throw away." If that sounds eerily reminiscent of a 1995 press release for Java applets, well, yeah, it is.

Then there are the net-enabled devices Forrester says will be thick on the X internet. "Nearly every device that runs on electricity will have an internet connection," say Forrester's analysts. Of course, we've had toasters and junk-food vending machines connected to the web for years. How adding hair dryers and Cuisinarts would be an improvement isn't exactly clear.

OK, here's something useful: Forrester predicts that on the X internet, Californians could monitor data from the power company so they could turn down their air conditioners when power demand peaks. But, er, they can do that today on the web too.

Wait, here's a new one: "Imagine a corporate buyer navigating a virtual marketplace with a Doom-like interface buyers could simply shoot the deals they want," says Forrester deep-thinker Carl Howe. "That's a far cry from today's web."

Yes, just imagine corporate purchasers playing a mediocre shoot'em-up game when what they really want is a clean, effective way of doing business. Of course, if it's a really challenging Doom-like game, there's a good chance they'll miss the deals they wanted to do. Yeah, that'll be easy for CIOs to sell to those fun-loving folks in purchasing.

A far cry from today's web, indeed. And if a Forrester analyst can't figure out why, he's a lot more isolated than the web will ever be.

Is today's web fun? Naah not for businesspeople anyhow. For six-year-olds looking for their favorite cartoon characters, sure. For 16-year-olds instant-messaging their friends, of course. For 60-year-olds who get to see their grandkids' drawings, you bet.

But for business? Sure, the web's boring. But being boring won't kill the business web. Boring stuff like sales and productivity are exactly what most businesses even dot-coms are looking for these days. For fun and excitement, they can go to Disneyland.

One hopes Forrester's analysts know that. One hopes their "death of the web" line is just a gimmick to grab some attention and sales heading into this long, hot, budget-squeezed summer. Really, one does hope they're not that clueless.

Because if they are, it's not the web they should be worried about going toes-up.

Hayes, Computerworld US' senior news columnist, has covered IT for more than 20 years. Send email to Frank Hayes. Send letters for publication in Computerworld NZ to Computerworld Letters.

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