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Say Good-bye to the Web Browser

The alarm on my iPod Touch rings me awake just about every morning, so it has become a natural transition to check my e-mail and Facebook messages before I even get out of bed. My morning’s breakfast is usually accompanied by a quick perusal of the New York Times headlines and the top user-submitted stories on Digg, a news aggregation site, again on my iPod.

My day continues much the same. I check up on and contribute to group assignments on Google Docs and prepare last-minute for exams by browsing lecture PowerPoint presentations. In the evening, I respond to emails and check the item-of-the-day before I go to bed.

While this is a rough sketch of my day, I’m guessing my routine isn’t that far off from yours. Of course, many of you probably use your Smart phone for many of the same things.

I’d be beating a dead horse if I were to rant about how the cell phones are now becoming full-fledge computers—that evolution was foreseen when cell phones emerged over 20 years ago.

But today’s Smart phones compared to the ones predicted by technologists of the 1990s are dramatically different. Most thought cell phones would simply become another Web browser-enabled device like those we knew from our desktop and laptop computers.
The truth is that they’re really nothing of the sort. The mobile Web isn’t about browser experience at all. Those three little w’s are no longer required.

Companies like Apple with its iOS operating system (which run on the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad), Google with Andriod, RIM with BlackBerry, and all the rest have taught us: it’s about the apps.

We don’t care if mobile Facebook is just a watered-down version of the “full” Facebook accessed online through a desktop-based browser. Having the ability to post a juicy status on the go is better than waiting to sit down at your laptop.

The truth is that Chrome, Firefox, and all the rest of the browser bunch are becoming increasingly irrelevant. I can already hear the resounding gasps of disbelief from the geekiest of computer users who can’t foresee letting go, but the future change is inevitable.

The mobile marketplaces of Apple, Google, and RIM are busting at the seams with single-function applications that generally cost just $.99 or are free. We’ve finally realized that Web browser tries to be everything for everyone; applications try to do just a few things really well, and that’s incredibly enticing.

This phenomenon has contributed to what some are saying is the death of the traditional Web.

This summer, Wired, a popular tech-centric social culture magazine even published a cover story proudly proclaiming, “The Web Is Dead.” It’s a long-winded essay on how the web as we know it is quickly disappearing. Despite its provocative title (and eye-catching blaze orange magazine cover), the article goes on to make the point that HTML, the code that makes most traditional websites hum along, is only 23 percent of all web traffic. More is shifting to peer-to-peer (23 percent), video (51 percent) and other types of apps that aren’t browser based. I think that’s a fair argument.

Sure, we’ll always have traditional websites accessed through a browser of some sort. As the article points out that even through the age of e-mail, “We still have postcards…don’t we?”

Some people call this phenomenon Web 2.0. I think that’s an understatement of what the new Web embodies. The Web of tomorrow is entirely different than the Web of today.
We’re experiencing the most evolutionary shift since Tim Burners-Lee (no, not Al Gore) created the Web 20 years ago.

The difference between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 is like comparing a Model T to a 2011 Camaro. Sure, they both have the same four wheels and steering wheel, but damn, that Camaro sure is sexier.

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