eBulletin - Alan Dix (vfridge limited, aQtive limited and Lancaster University)

the web sharer vision

First distributed as an aQtive internal vision document March 1999 (some parts removed for external distribution). Since this was first written, some of this vision has become reality, for example a 2003 survey shows nearly half of US internt users also creay content. This was also the driver behind vfridge.

products for tomorrow

The emergence of PopuNet suggests that there will be whole new classes of product to meet a changing world of virtual connectedness. But what are these new product categories?

where we are — the one-way-web

Currently the web has two overlapping, but still distinct communities:

  • the providers — web developers/authors/publishers, who produce pages and sites and master the intricacies of HTML, GIF images and Flash.
  • the consumers — web users/readers/surfers, who search for, navigate and interact with web content, but do not modify or change what they see.

Although the same person may, at different times, act in both these roles, they are quite distinct activities. In fact, I often use my own web pages as a launch pad to reach others, so act as a consumer of my own material!

This broadcast model seems to be set to grow as large vendors, such as Microsoft/AOL/Netscape, push content provision and as integration with existing broadcast services develops. Set-top boxes may allow interactive television, but strictly within the boundaries set by the programme producers.

but … who are web developers?

The web was designed to allow more interaction between reader and material — what happened to that?

Many people are both providers and consumers, mounting their own web pages and also looking at others.

ISPs offer free web space, obviously expecting their customers to want to mount their own material — is everyone a web developer/author?

Certainly the established major web users will be — often semi-professional, reasonably PC literate. But will this extend to the growing ranks of the 'connected' from broader backgrounds?

a choice

The web is at a crossroads — does the future belong to the large scale producers ... can the 'amateur' web page survive?

Even if every 'Channel 4' web user becomes a web author, will the wider public simply become an army of passive 'listeners'?

the future

Although everyone isn't a web developer, it is likely that soon everyone will become an Internet communicator — email, PC-voice-comms, bulletin boards, etc. For some this will be via a PC, for others using a web-phone, set-top box or Internet-enabled games console.

Some of this communication, such as email, is person-to-person, but others, such as bulletin boards and email lists, have a more community aspect. Many web pages also allow feedback forms and guestbooks, some of which are automatically published back onto the web. At this point the 'published' page becomes more of a notice-board, part of a shared virtual space.

Direct communication is just one side of inter-personal interaction. In both private and business life we communicate in a physical context continually including physical artefacts of our work or home life in the conversation. We huddle over holiday brochures and television listings, shop windows and bus timetables, car engines and family photographs.

Physical human interaction is about sharing words and things within a shared context.

The web/Internet is not just a medium for publishing, but a potential shared place.

Everyone may be a web sharer — not a publisher of formal public 'content', but personal or semi-private sharing of informal 'bits and pieces' with family, friends, local community and virtual communities such as fan clubs.

This is not just a future for the cognoscenti, but for anyone who chats in the pub or wants to show granny in Scunthorpe the baby's first photos.

 

 

@large
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also in Interfaces, no. 48, Autumn 2001

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the web sharer vision - the producer/consumer distinction breaks down on the web, a whole new class of web products will emerge for the new class of web sharers. bulletin

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http://www.hiraeth.com/alan/ebulletin/ © Alan Dix, November 1999