With the World Wide Web twenty years old today, this post takes a cursory glance at how online tools have evolved over the past two decades.
The internet was brand new and shiny in the early 1990s, but I’m not sure anyone really knew quite how dramatically it would change the world. Nowadays, almost every company or organisation has a web presence. Everyone from my local Indian takeaway shop to the museum down the road has a comprehensive homepage. These were, no doubt, contracted out to professional web developer companies or freelancers.
There is, however, a shift towards a more DIY ethos. @drewb alluded to this shift the other day by drawing attention to Cyclonix – a consultancy that moved its entire website over to Pinterest. This is an example of technological progress – Pinterest is easy to use and encourages interactivity – usurping what was once considered the height of technological innovation – an internet webpage.
Another, slightly different, example of progress usurping progress can be seen in the demise of Google Reader. When Google announced it was ending its RSS service, there were incandescent howls of protest. What would we do without our beloved content aggregator? Move elsewhere, to Feedly or Reeder, perhaps?
Well for some, Google Reader’s replacement is the very thing it could have once claimed to have buried – the e-newsletter. Email round-ups from sources such as Newsle follow the old tried and tested e-newsletter formula. They are just much better at it now compared to a few years back. The e-newsletter is also useful since the emails can be archived in your inbox if you wish to revisit specific items at a later time. Furthermore, the fact that e-newsletters direct traffic to websites is beneficial to companies in terms of ad revenues. The RSS model, as Google have known for a long time, is simply unsustainable in pure business terms.
The progress usurping progress theory has, of course, been over-egged in the past. Cast your mind back a couple of years and there was a lot of talk about new-fangled micro-blogging sites i.e. Twitter and Tumblr replacing the mighty blog – a medium itself once viewed with suspicion by written print columnists and traditional journalists.
The point remains, nevertheless, that many innovations made online in the past two decades, once viewed as revolutionary, dangerous even, are now themselves beginning to be usurped. The World Wide Web is past adolescence and is now entering its twenties. Exciting times.
*image courtesy of @perconstantine