The Web is Dead: Long Live the Cloud

The Internet is the underlying transportation system for how our economy and society operates, and its growth will accelerate the move to the cloud. CIO's Bernard Golden outlines some ways that the people in IT can plan for this growth.

By Bernard Golden
Thu, August 19, 2010

CIO — The tech world is all a-twitter (literally!) about an article in this month's Wired Magazine which announces "The Web Is Dead. Long Live the Internet". The article recites a litany of problems that are choking the Web: the rise of apps that replace use of a Web browser; the growth of uber-aggregation sites like Facebook that are closed platforms; the destruction of traditional advertising and replacement by Google (GOOG), the semi-benevolent search monster; and even the move away from HTML and use of port 80-based apps.

In short, Wired has published a jeremiad for the end of the freewheeling open Web, being rapidly supplanted by voracious wannabe monopolists who seek to dominate the networked world and reduce all of us to nothing more than predestined consumers of "content" served up by monolithic megabrands. You have to look carefully, but, after all mournful moping about the terrible things happening on the Web, Wired concludes that the Internet is young and still developing, so new things are right down the pike.

I yield to no-one in my admiration for (or, indeed, enjoyment of) Wired. I always find it stimulating and interesting. Nevertheless, one must admit that in its straining for profundity it often overreaches for effect and overstates for conclusion (indeed, the magazine itself admits this when it notes that it predicted the death of the browser over a decade ago). For example, Wired reached a laughably wrong conclusion two years ago when it declared "The End of Theory: The Data Deluge Makes the Scientific Method Obsolete".

As regards the message of the article, I draw a diametrically opposed conclusion than does Wired. It spends perhaps 90% of the piece bewailing the rise of bad forces, and tosses in 10% at the end in a kind of "but it's still early innings for the Internet, so some good things might happen." I look at the same phenomenon and see the huge problems it poses as perhaps 10% of the reality of the Internet, and certainly nothing to be worried about — in fact, unlikely to remain as problems into the near future.

For example, take the move away from Web standards like HTML and port 80. Why anyone should be concerned about what port is used for communication across the Internet is beyond me, but in fact port 80 is increasing in importance. In my experience, entire tranches of applications that would be better served with their own ports and protocols ride on port 80 because its the only one that can reliably be expected to be open on company firewalls. We might shed a tear for poor old port 80, given how it's overworked and overloaded all in aid of letting applications do things that were never envisioned for it when the original HTML protocol was designed — but we shouldn't conclude it's obsolete and abandoned.

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