Turning Points

A regular correspondent of mine just posed an interesting question: “The Web has significantly evolved over the past 15 years. What have been the major milestones in the web’s evolution either in business or technology?”


That’s quite a big question… 🙂  I didn’t have time for a detailed answer, but came up with the following main “turning points”:

  • 1996-7: The “ubiquitous web” becomes useful. This was the point at which someone with an average PC and dial-up connection could perform real tasks as well as or better than going to a traditional intermediary, e.g. for booking holidays.
  • c2003: Composite applications and services start to become a reality (e.g. Amazon marketplaces). This required a number of technological advances (RSS, web services), but also a shift from human-computer to computer-computer interactions. I was never completely convinced about “web 2.0”, but in hindsight I suppose this was what it meant.
  • c2005: The web becomes “the main way of doing things” for things like banking, tax & interactions with the government. Before that date I was often frustrated either by not being able to use the web, or frustrated because of the services’ limitations. Since that sort of date I’ve only had to perform a handful of such transactions by other means, and they’ve usually been a disaster!
  • c2009-10: The web starts to deliver on the mobile “information everywhere” vision, as per things like Bill Gates’ The Road Ahead. It’s the confluence of decent large-screen hardware, standards-based services and well-designed apps. Put it another way – this was the point at which the computing in Star Trek, the Next Generation started to look out of date, just as the original series did by 1987.

I’m aware that this is very focused on practical, e-commerce type uses. I’m not personally convinced that social networking represents a watershed in itself, rather than another exploitation dimension, which probably has a very similar set of milestones. The same is probably true of several other content / application areas.

What do you think? Have I nailed it, or have I missed a big one?

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