The Future of the Web

CactusThe Demo conference two weeks ago was in Santa Clara, not San Diego. Sorry for the error — Demo has often been in San Diego, but not this time. My last posting summarized what the event is all about and mentioned a few companies that launched there. In addition to the excitement of seeing so many enthusiastic start-ups I gained some new insight at the conference as well. Executive Producer Matt Marshall made some brief but profound comments in his opening talk. The content was not really new but he pulled together and nicely summarized the big picture of where things are headed (See more about his talk at DemoBeat. In a nutshell Matt said the future of the web is evolving around social networking, mobile, and cloud computing.

All three of these topics are written about throughout this blog but I truly gained some new perspective on them at Demo. I have often said that social networking is not about eleven-year old kids on MySpace. It is more about grown-ups looking for jobs, hunting for people to hire, or collaborating on a new venture. The new ingredient is e-commerce integrated with social networking. People can buy what their friends are buying and can offer help to a colleague who wants to know how a particular product works or might fit into their environment. More broadly speaking, social networking is finding its way into every web application, not just a separate application of its own.

The mobile Internet is booming as we can all witness from the massive press coverage about every new phone, phone rumor and network pricing change. The new trend I observed at Demo is that startup companies showed off their new application and pointed out that in addition to the mobile app, the data from it can also be viewed from a PC or Mac. That is a 180 degree flip since a year ago. The iphone and Android phones have the power and speed and graphics to make e-commerce, business apps, video conferencing, and other sophisticated apps practical on the handheld devices. The iPad and coming tablets take things to the next level. The PC and Mac become secondary.

Every start-up at Demo either offered some form of cloud computing service or had it built in to whatever they were offering. While there are still skeptics about cloud computing it is clear to me that it has evolved to where the Internet was ten years ago. Cloud is a natural evolution of the Internet. What makes cloud computing so powerful is actually what is on our computers and devices — the browser. Browsers are getting very sophisticated and able to execute javascript incredibly fast. The result is that apps in the browser have the look and feel of what we expect from a desktop computer or better.

When you combine all three of these market factors — social networking, mobile, and cloud computing — you get a new generation of capability. It takes things up a notch in terms of power, flexibility, convenience and ease of use. I no longer say we are just 5% of the way there. I revise that to 10-15% overall but still 5% in healthcare.