Apps killing internet?


Ta-da! Score 1 point for the smartphone and the internet version 2012.  When I woke up to a blackout because of Super Storm Sandy, my phone really saved me. At home our internet service was down. A tweet let me know the extent of the blackout, and there was even a mashup map already set up before 8 am. I also dialled into work’s email service remotely deducing that power was on 25 kilometres away. Just as I was picking up messages, I saw the time stamp of a message received so I knew there was power at my workplace. What is the significance of my story?

I have never owned a Blackberry nor an iPhone, but I am part of a growing number of people who own smartphones using them to search the internet as well. Estimates of about 46% of U.S. adults own one. Adoption is not as robust in Canada with one study saying about “32% of population being able to access a smart phone.” There is a projection that 62% of phone users will use smartphones by 2016.

So it’s all good news right? Maybe not according to technology commentator Anil Dash as we move to mobile apps, walled gardens, less sharing information and more monetizing links, the internet has become a less rich experience. He writes a thought post called The Web We Lost and I encourage you to read it all.

We’ve lost key features that we used to rely on, and worse, we’ve abandoned core values that used to be fundamental to the web world. To the credit of today’s social networks, they’ve brought in hundreds of millions of new participants to these networks, and they’ve certainly made a small number of people rich.

But they haven’t shown the web itself the respect and care it deserves, as a medium which has enabled them to succeed. And they’ve now narrowed the possibilites of the web for an entire generation of users who don’t realize how much more innovative and meaningful their experience could be.

I don’t agree with his whole argument as I recall my Technorati searching was dubious at best. I do remember when content was king, and as a user  when I created content, the expectation was users could download a back up copy of their data. Anyone remember mirror sites? But being a privacy freak who is not entirely social, my Facebook profile is a red herring with some wrong information, as I feel those are key pieces of personal data that I would like to keep private.

Also as one who reads more and more on my phone, I was also intrigued by how apps are made and what decisionmaking goes into them. Tech guy Martin Belam talks candidly about Rise and fall of Guardian newspaper’s Facebook app. I paid particular attention to “frictionless sharing” or the web site and app triggering the function of automatically posting a share or link on Facebook user’s timeline without an explicit click from user. Many Facebook users got hot under the collar about frictionless shares. I was intrigued by the pre-launch feeling that it was a grand experiment that could possibly fail big time.

Thanks to tweets from Matthew Ingram as a source of inspiration for this post. I composed this post on a desktop machine, but I did my background reading on my phone. I gain about 2 hours a day of professional reading through my phone. So Anil Dash, along with others I am participating in the death of the internet. It’s just so convenient! Convenience may have trumped meaningful experience for me.

– Brenda Wong


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