Wow, what a stunningly misleading headline and astounding display of a lack of understanding of internet architecture displayed in this Wired article. This conflation of the client with the protocol is a very bizarre thing to see in a supposed techie magazine.
Wired claims that the web is dead, because the growth of “apps” (hate that term, it just means “programs” but with one fewer syllables) is showing that people would prefer purpose-built individual small clients to access data, rather than relying on somewhat clunky and standards-averse browser-based web applications. That hardly means the web is dead. What pool of data do the Wired writers think these apps are accessing? The Facebook client for the iPhone is connecting to the Facebook web site, using the open APIs that Facebook has made available for just that purpose.
Anderson and Wolff make a distinction that doesn’t seem to make sense, from a computer geek standpoint. It’s not as if the same information is not available via web browser as via the purpose-built mini-programs. One example they use is the Netflix streaming service on an iPad. I can get the same or better functionality from any web browser, so how is the web dead? Another example is RSS feeds. What protocol do Anderson and Wolff suppose RSS feeds are served through? Hmmm, looks like HTTP which is serving up these RSS feeds of HTML information to a purpose-built or general-purpose browser equally.
Of course, since Wired predicted that “push” technology was going to kill the browser in 1997, maybe we should assume their prognostication abilities are not all they could be.
I do appreciate that they clarify that the web is not the totality of the internet, something I had the hardest time explaining to people in years past. Since those days, though, the web has become almost the entirety of the internet traffic, minus email and P2P. For those who aren’t running bittorrent clients, the distinction between “internet” and “web” is one without meaning today. As for the rise of the apps, I think they may be a stopgap for some things. For example, the app was necessary to get YouTube videos because Apple hates Flash. If you had an iPhone and wanted to watch YouTube videos, using the Safari browser would make you sad. Now that YouTube is moving toward HTML5 standards-based video, there’s no benefit to the app over accessing the site via a normal browser. The same has been happening with many other video sites – the conversion from proprietary applications to a rich standards-based web may render this predictive column as quaint as the one which said we’d all be running PointCast by 2000.