Based on 23 years of on-line presence, from a 128 bps modem browsing a set of bulletin board services with text only up to a high speed Internet access. Being there when trends went up and watching them crashing down noisily (and quietly – depend on the era). Amit Mendelsohn releases his analysis of the web future.

The Internet has been through many changes since the first time I logged in using a “powerful” modem running on 128bps (thats Bytes Per Seconds for you !! – or Baud as we used to say then). It wasn't really useful then, but it was also very simple and used only by experts. There were no gurus, no Dvoraks to give you stupid/obvious advices. It was just you with couple of thousand of computer fans. We made use of this network, we developed programs together we discussed stuff we communicated, however in order to send files from one place to another we used diskettes and the snail mail service.

Today the web is about to close the first billion users, I am using an Internet connection of 28mbps downstream, and I use the snail mail service once or twice a year.

I use the web to communicate, to watch TV, to listen to music, to read my favorite newspapers 3000 km away from home, and to talk to my parents free with a high sound quality anytime we like.

The web changed and so does we, once we used to pay for it according to the usage, today most of us pay flat fee and does not bother to disconnect the machine, from a text based system the web became full of graphics, then sounds and finally videos and applications. We have been through the age of the bubble where Internet companies expected to make money out of advertising and when it didn't come they collapsed, those that waited few more years can see this business model blossoming. The users became content hungry, however the web cannot provide it all, so they turned to the users to provide it. Which proves that everybody has an ear to whisper into, that every content has a reader, listener or viewer, no matter how stupid it is.

The web went completely out of control for governments and has its own laws especially when it comes to the copyrights laws. Yes, the record companies crashed Nepstar at court, no they didn't gain anything out of is as people keep on uploading and downloading breached copyrights music. Movies and TV series are being uploaded and then removed just to be re-uploaded in a less known websites.

The chase has always been after visitors however when in the past, websites needed their money today their presence is enough, and in the near future you would have to pay them, or at least to share the profit with them, this is not really a prediction its already happening.

Social and business networks are available everywhere, this concept is not an invitation and in many countries knowing someone that know someone was always very useful for business and the more contacts you have the better your life has been. This model has been copied to the Internet and worked, for a while. It made several entrepreneurs very rich but will take down many others that tries to copy the model without bothering to change or add anything to it. Every service on the web today has a complete industry and additional services around it (for example: The blog phenomenon created technorati and digg). Every service created hundreds of competitive similar services (youtube, metacafe, revver, jumpcut etc…..). The Google became the Microsoft of the web. However unlike Microsoft that has a complete control over the market, the Google guys are aware of the speed the web changes, and purchasing anything that may seems to be a success, they don't do it always smartly and they always over paying, but they move on. The Google has also became the first real Internet bank ! The company has a firm control over the web advertising market and share it with sites owners all over the world while their competitors Yahoo! And MSN are way behind and are not even capable of providing a complete service not to mention an international one. The Google becomes the reason why is is worth building a website, and it keeps a complete industry, not necessarily made of big companies, running and actually making some money out of it.

The race after a good search engine is still going on, and nobody seems to comes up with the right formula, and that includes the Google (the most widely used search engine) that is not capable of providing an exact and reasonable search result due to a very limited search algorithm, The others are are not much better. A worth mentioning search engine is the Clusty, it may not be the best, but at least it bothers to categorize the results (even though not really in the best possible way). Programmers all over the world are dedicating their time for years to find a solution for this. But apparently with limited success. The search engine is actually the oldest on line application and It is a completely out dated one, and it gets worse when the time passes. The whole SEO industry that responsible for most of my junk mail, is based on this limited algorithm which is actually very simple and very user dependent. As long as no automatic robot will be created, A robot smart enough to live without the users submission, and capable of analyzing the content of the page and not only the meta tags, as long as this kind of robot will not be available we are doomed to have a useless search engines.

Shopping on line that used to be the domain of the braves alone become common and even Amazon started making money, its not that the level of security has been increased, its just that the responsibility has been heavily laid on the business owners. Amazon became number one retailer online and moved from books to CDs and became a department store on line. E-bay became a flea market and just like any flea market plenty of illegal deals are being conducted there, actually it became the biggest market for stolen properties in the world. Pay-Pal is the by product of the business on line, a bank in the old meaning of the word, and it allows transferring money within the web, with ease and less (not proved yet) risks.

The result of the flourishing business and on line stores has created a new generation of thieves, hackers that are chasing after companies credit cards database. Any success release several millions active credit card numbers to the market and causes little bureaucratic problem for their owners but possible collapse to the businesses that accepted them. Of course this niche has been filled by the insurance companies and plenty of data security companies.

Technologies that came to early died. The VRML (Virtual Reality Modeling Language) and the QTVR (Quick Time VR) that required bandwidth to function well has arrived too early and died just before the promised bandwidth was available, and somehow nobody will succeed to revive the corpse.

The young generation is actually leading the web to a different place. They grew up with the computer, they have no idea how it works but they can work on it perfectly. They are capable of handling complicated tasks, though they cannot grasp the meaning of their actions, they are the perfect users and feed plenty of technicians all over the world as they are completely the opposite then the older generation, that was (and still is) afraid of pressing the button.

The Internet made things closer, you can gamble in Las Vegas from your chair, watch TV from China, read newspapers from Israel, and buy wine from France.

So ? What will be the future of all this ?

Despite the many discussions about web2.0 and many idiots already started talking about web3.0 . The technology behind the web didn't change much, dynamic pages that are generated in the most sophisticated websites are still HTML. The only real thing that changes is the users: younger much easier to handle technology (not to understand it though) much faster in solving problems (and in creating them in the first place). The Dynamic sites just provided them tools to create their site in a simplest way (and to understand much less then they used to). Web2.0 does not represent anything new, it represent a concept. But under the surface everything is just the same as it has always been, but easier and suit amateurs and not only professionals.

People talks about a web based operating system, I doubt if me or any of the professionals will ever use this solution. We need the processing power, complete control over our application, and to know we have our files available. A web based operating system is a perfect receipt to a disaster for people like us. Knowing the users, I suspect they will not give their freedom also, seeing the direction of companies like Google, I guess its possible, but it is bound to fail in the most important test, The users. Application already exist online and people are using them. However they are free now and will cost later, and nobody want to be depended on the mood and the financial situation of a company one don't know.

VOIP is alive and kicking but still very limited, the reason is quite simple, all VOIP companies that provide such services are either acting like the telecoms (and nobody like telecoms) or like a cellular companies (that are even less popular). What I actually means is that the VOIP companies may have great solutions however they always failed to explain how it really works, how are they charging and why and especially how much. It all looks rather tricky, exactly as the cellular telephony providers.

With Wi-Fi everywhere there is no reason we would not have free telephony over the Internet, however when a company comes up with a Wi-Fi phone it costs a fortune. The truth is that it shouldn't be this way, after all any pocket PC with Wi-Fi connection can run Skype, MSN and others and can easily use it as a mobile phone. I believe that with political pressure of the different telephony companies, open Wi-fi networks around the world will be blocked. This type of pressure will make many people criminals and eliminate the complete concept of the Spanish company FON, the sells Wi-Fi access point for cents just to enable more and more open communication points.

IPTV is here to stay, however, its not as simple as it looks, the web may have broadband in the down stream, but the up stream is still very expensive, the result is that setting up a broadcasting server is still an expensive mission, especially when a single server can handle a limited amount of users, and 10,000 users network suit a neighborhood rather then a city and certainly not a country, and combining servers and backbones for this purpose is an expensive task not to mention open to plenty of technical problems.

The web itself will stay very much as it is however the major different will be that companies will start chasing the users. They will understand very fast that they cannot charge for content (some already did). Actually they cannot even provide enough content, thats why they went to the users begging them to share their content. So the user will become a king, and only content sites that will understand this will live longer. They will either have to pay for content or for leads and maybe add some features that will make the user benefit from their service. Youtube is bound to die (Google that spent so much money on it is going to suffer these losses quietly) it simply has nothing special to offer, they have a simple video hosting service, it is strong and at the same time vulnerable and the recent law suits are the proof. Their system was not designed to control content and can barely handle requests to remove copyrighted content, due to the size of their system. However their competitor Veoh and Metacafe has done their smart moves. Metacafe offers money for successful videos, and in order not to pay that much they have a very strict and rigid set of rules, the result is that people are both uploading content to Metacafe but also strangely, when comparing views of similar video on Youtube and Metacafe, Metacafe has much more viewers. Veoh took a different direction, their downloader is an excellent addition and a real value that has been added to their service.

The social networks have became a monster, so many of them exist and nobody is safe from receiving several invitations a day. That starting to frighten people away, not to mention having to fill up hundreds of forms, to remember passwords and to hold many e-mail addresses (to receive the backfire i.e the junk mail). The only networks that will survive is the neatly organized network, that will either simplify their registration system or will remove it completely, that will share their revenue with their users and that will be able to have a control over the content that passing by. MySpace is not one of them, and its bound to collapse like many other trends in the past (this blow will make Google really unstable) MySpace was a great success due to the fact it was the first and caught fast, but all the followers has much more sophisticated systems, which not only offer more but offer is in a simplest way.

Generally the web is beginning to look more and more like registerland and many websites that has completely no reason to require registration still do so. Most of them trade the registered users e-mail addresses and this is one of the results why the Spamming phenomenon is just growing despite all the attempts of the ISP to block users mail systems, knowing very well that they either block the wrong people (spammers has their own SMTP) or the wrong side (Easier to block outgoing users mail then incoming rubbish).

The cellular phones companies are trying (and failing) to take part in the video celebration and they fail because one is not interested in destroying ones eyes trying to watch a movie on this little screen, making it larger is a complete different development direction (they kept reducing them) that they will never take and by right. Another problem is the cost of these services, cellular usage is already far too expensive and doesn't seems to go down, the charges for 3G video are huge.

Actually this whole celebration is not much different then the Kazza, Emule, and Napstaer phenomenon and the users are not really creating their own content, they copy, convert and upload available material. Creating their own content is still a far more complicated technically and time consuming task.

A unique project is the “Second Life”, which is a 3D online Sim game that attract many fans. This is a beautiful project however very unique and quite hard to duplicate it, and in times where the website creation goes toward the simple, banal and unattractive, why work hard ?

So the leading concept of the future websites are:

  • Free

  • Revenue sharing with the user

  • Additional application or tool (unconditioned)

I really don't believe people are looking forward to contribute content. Some certainly does, but most doesn't. I know very well how annoying can the registration to all these websites could be, so there will be times where the registration will not be required (there are plenty of other ways to gather information about your users.

I know very well that the more I invite my friends to join this network or the other, the less friends i have, so social networking hasn't got a very promising future either.

If I was an investor where would I invest ?

  1. In a web system that offers all the above mentioned element, with enough flexibility to add, subtract or spin easily.

  2. Website directory with an automatic robot that will not require submissions from the users.

  3. Search engines that will be smart enough to cluster the results, remove duplication and will not be depended on the users meta tags but the content itself.

  4. A solid group of websites with a leading site that will provide the traffic.