The Web Is A 'Shrinking Minority' Of Internet Traffic
LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:
Good morning. It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
And I'm Steve Inskeep.
The September issue of Wired Magazine proclaims, The Web is Dead. That headline turns out to be a bit of an overstatement, but it points to a major change. Chris Anderson, editor-in-chief of Wired, is referring to the World Wide Web, which is no longer the leading force of the Internet.
We've spoken for years as though the Internet and the World Wide Web are pretty much the same thing - that they're synonyms. But you begin by pointing out that they're not.
Mr. CHRIS ANDERSON (Editor-in-chief, Wired magazine): Yeah, you know, the Internet predates the Web. The Internet, it was originally created in the 1970s. And it is the network. It is the wires and the routers that transport digital data.
Now, there's lots of applications that use the Internet. The Web is one of them. And it's the one we use. But, you know, when you think about it, you know, when you make a Skype call that's using the Internet but not the Web. If you're downloading movies via Netflix, that's using the Internet but not the Web.
And over the past decade, the number of applications that use the Internet but not the Web have grown, specifically driven by the kind of the rise of iPhone and iPad and this mobile computing model, so that the Web is now a shrinking minority of the Internet's traffic.
INSKEEP: Just to make it totally clear. When we talk about the Web that's one of those pages like on Internet Explorer or Safari or some such thing that begins with a w-w-w-dot, usually. And that's a Web connection. But there are all these other ways and other devices and other programs and applications that can get you to some kind of content.
Mr. ANDERSON: Exactly. You know, the Web is by and large the world that you see through your Web browser. But if you have an iPhone or iPad, increasingly you're using apps.
And apps are sort of, you know, specialty software that do like one thing well, whether it's maps or a game of some sort. They don't use the Web standards. They don't use a browser. Because of the small screen, you need to have a, you know, a really focused application that has a user interface that does one thing really well.
INSKEEP: Well, let's talk about why that matters to different groups of people. Why does that matter to consumers, first?
Mr. ANDERSON: Well, consumers are driving this by choosing apps. They're choosing to stream Netflix on their X-boxes. They're choosing to buy iPhones and iPads. They're choosing to use dedicated applications, even on their desktop, like Skype, that do the job well, because it just makes their life easier.
Take Facebook, for example. Facebook is something you experience via your Web browser but Google can't search it.
INSKEEP: OK. You've already hinted at some of the business consequences of this, because you mentioned Google. Here's this company that their business model is we're going to be your portal, your window, your door into everything. And suddenly they can't quite be the portal into everything. It affects their business.
What are some other businesses and business decisions that could be affected by this switch toward apps?
Mr. ANDERSON: Well, the biggest one is - in the world of professional content, the notion was that advertising was going to support everything. That contents would be, by and large, free and that it would draw traffic driven by these kind of openness and linking and search engines. Yet we've now clearly seen the limits of that. You know...
INSKEEP: You can't make money that way, because there's just too many people going too many different directions. You can't get a mass audience to any one page.
Mr. ANDERSON: Exactly. The advertising model doesn't work anymore. And so now what - companies have to switch to a subscription model or any other model where people pay directly for their information and content, rather than indirectly through advertising.
INSKEEP: Well, let me ask the question that people ask about virtually every new development on the Internet. Is this finally going to be the development that allows evil corporations to capture this gigantic force of community on the Internet, and take it over and monetize it?
Mr. ANDERSON: Oh, yes. That question. Well, you know, extract the word evil and, you know, probably I'd have to agree. Apps and mobile computing is the next big thing. Will there be a next big thing after that? No doubt.
But as Tim O'Reilly, the founder of the Web 2.0 conference, said in a debate we just hosted on Wire.com, the Web is the adolescent phase of the Internet. And it's dead in the sense that the child is dead when they become an adult.
So this is an evolution. There will be more things. But the Web phase was not the end of the story. It's not the end of the digital revolution. We are entering the mobile phase now. It has different economics. It has different principles of openness. And no doubt, there will be something after that.
INSKEEP: Chris Anderson, editor-in-chief of Wired, always good to talk with you.
Mr. ANDERSON: Thanks. Nice to be here.
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