Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sorry Wired, the Web isn’t dead, just your integrity

I have a friend who's fond of saying that things are "dead to him".  It's become a sort of catch phrase between the two of us-- a bit of over-dramatic silliness-- to represent something that we've grown tired with.  For example, the Chicago White Sox, after losing 2 games to Kansas City this weekend, are most definitely "dead to me".  At least until tomorrow.

So I've come to be pretty skeptical whenever I hear that something is dead, and that's the attitude I took into Wired's cover story this month: The Web Is Dead. Long Live the Internet.

I sighed when I saw that headline.  The basic premise of the article is okay: that more and more people are accessing the internet through smart phone and iPad apps, watching video through Netflix on their Xbox's, or sucking up bandwidth with peer to peer applications.  In other words, using a closed application instead of a web browser to get information over the internet.  Fair enough.  But to say that the web is dead, or even in decline, is just not accurate.  Check out this chart that Wired provides:

(Since the web is dead, I assume Wired won't mind me posting this on my web site)

See that, web use is going down!  Well, not really.  Here's the problem with that chart: The left and right sides aren't actually equal.  Or even remotely equal.  We're talking about the dial up internet circa 1990 vs the broadband internet of 2010.  The graph should actually look something like this:


Also, note how video is grabbing a larger percentage in both versions.  What's not mentioned by Wired is the fact that video is inherently a bandwidth heavy operation.  Streaming an HD video is simply a lot more data than loading someone's Blogger or Flickr page, or even a decent sized e-commerce site.  So it's neither surprising nor very interesting that video is taking up a growing percentage of internet traffic.  Internet traffic doesn't mean "more personal time spent", it just means more data consumed.

In the end, all of this seems like much ado about nothing.  Just as anyone who overheard me claiming the White Sox were "dead" might question my sanity, Wired looks silly here.  @Wired: you were supposed to use your inside voice with that headline, not put it on the front page!  Sure, smart phones are exploding in popularity, and with them people will access the internet in a wider variety of ways.  But we're still going to have computers at home and in our offices, and barring some mass apocalypse where giant robots take over the planet, that's not going to change any time soon.  The web isn't dead, it's just settling in for the long haul.

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