I saw a new term used the other day: Splinternet. It was used to criticize what Josh Bernoff referred to in AdAge as “a web in which content on devices other than PCs, or hidden behind passwords, makes it harder for site developers and marketers to create a unified experience”.
And I think we just saw the future. What Mr. Bernoff views as “splintered” is actually the new development that solves the primary problem with the net.
The internet’s strength is that it offers an entire world of content through one pipe. But as my account director observed, we quickly limit our use to a small set of sites we understand. Because it’s really too overwhelming to consider wading through a world of content everytime you want to browse.
How common of a problem is this? The tech savvy have been surprised to learn that the majority of searches on any search engine are for terms like “excite.com”. But the reality is, unless your DNA includes all of the techie gene’s, even the young at heart prefer to have Google find things for them. (Besides, Google will spell correct it for you, too.)
In other words, people are avoiding direct interaction with the web as much as they can. And they’ve been doing so since the beginning of the net. Here’s how others have tried to solve it.
AOL offered one solution (walled garden). It failed because it handcuffed users so they didn’t get the value of the internet.
WebTV tried to offer another solution. But the internet is essentially private and we don’t really want to check our email in front of the family.
In 1999, the Netpliance iOpener came close to offering something similar to the iPad. On this device they created what was called, at the time, a partially-walled garden approach which offered users good places to start, but easy ways to get to the entire world. (The iOpener could have been brought to success had it not been a dotbomb financial fiasco.)
The Presto HP internet printer offers a partial solution – delivering email and selected web services for those who couldn’t succeed with a computer.
And now, we have Apps. And we have the internet seen through Facebook. Both are wildly successful. In fact, I love having apps on my iPhone and iPad to take the browser out of the equation. I don’t need many apps (5 to 10) to reduce 90% of my time in a browser.
And this raises an interesting question: While many suggest TV will disappear, is it possible the truth is that the internet pipeline as seen through the browser is what will disappear for the majority of consumers?
Who knows. In the meantime, let me get back to using apps to consume content without the hassle of a browser. (Authored on an iPad using the WordPress app.)
Copyright 2010. Doug Garnett