peak web · 2009-05-21 16:59

(or) market of information hack

This slightly spurious graph has been doing the rounds recently. I hacked the graph to pieces to try and see the real rates of change; my biggest problem is that people always perceive the near-past, present and near-future as having the most technological change, and the speed of decline of the old new media feels wrong.

I am, however, thinking that there’s something true in one reading of the graph: we may be at or past Peak Web. This really struck me when I saw this:

19/05/2009

It’s a fast food place in Soho. It’s using Twitter and Facebook (although I can’t actually find them there) to promote its business – there isn’t a need to have a URL and a website any more. They’re harder for people to remember and find, harder to create and harder to keep up to date.

Restaurants are second only to architects for having Flash based monstrosities of websites, with a 3 year old PDF of a menu if you’re lucky (the biggest exception to this I’ve seen is St John, who religiously update their menus twice a day). Facebook and Twitter offer slight-push, allowing companies to talk about and promote quickly changing stuff, without much hassle. Even email is rarely used effectively – I get the daily specials from Cafe Soho emailed to me every morning, and several times it’s twisted my arm in their direction for lunch.

Many restaurants and cafes using Twitter and Facebook seem to just have one enthusiastic person, who’s been given the freedom to do what they want. Some of the best I’ve seen recently: SJRestaurant from St John, thegunmakers from The Gunmakers (who also have a Facebook beer group), HixOyster from Mark Hix, the Facebook Breadman competition from the Berwick Street bread stall. One non-food special mention: the Barbican Theatre facebook group, who regularly have special offers.

It hasn’t escaped me that those people and companies using Twitter and Facebook well tend to have good websites too – but maybe we’re past the need for a website, as you just go where the people go, and the flavours of the month are Twitter and Facebook.

comments

reminds me of the bus shelter ads we saw over a year ago from Japan that have ‘google: companyname or product’ instead of any sort of URL

(ironically, what sort of link will show up near top of search results now? twitter pages)

ChrisFizik    22.05.09    #

A “slightly spurious graph”. Chris you’re far too kind. It’s the worst piece of chart junk I’ve seen for many years.

Greg Quinn    22.05.09    #

Neither the Web site nor the old media is likely to disappear. User behavior changes media usage and roles as new formats appear and are adopted.

Eleanor Haas    23.05.09    #

Another excellent example would be the Washington State DOT. (@wsdot) They’re aggressively using twitter and flickr to talk about construction projects, road conditions, traffic issues, and the like. I wouldn’t have seen this level of engagement on a website or blog.

Or @mreseattle – a small Redmond electrical contractor that has (as you said) one enthusiastic person who took twitter and youtube by the horns and is starting to build quite a following.

And while you’re on the money with restaurant websites, can you imagine a state dept of transportation or an electrical contractor (whose offices are in a single-wide mobile trailer) keeping an engaging and updated website?

Jim Gaynor    23.05.09    #

“ there isn’t a need to have a URL and a website any more. They’re harder for people to remember and find, harder to create and harder to keep up to date.”

Memories are short.

Remember AOL Keywords and RealNames in the 90s? Those were also on restaurant signs, billboards etc. People said the same thing at the time vs. URLs.

People also always overestimate the significance of that which is ephemerally popular in the near-past, present and near-future, and mistake such popularity for robustness and longevity.

More examples: Geocities (being shut down by Yahoo soon), Sidewalk.com (used to also show up near top of search results).

Finally, note the photo has a URL: “TWITTER.COM/FOODSECRET” (essentially, it resolves as a URL when typed into a browser addressbar), not “@FOODSECRET”.

We’re not even close to a “peak web” (not sure if that is even ever probable), however, we’ll likely see “peak Twitter” and “peak Facebook” in the next few years when they’re acquired or run out of money (nothing personal to the many friends and colleagues I respect at both companies, it’s just the reality of Web history where sites like Flickr (innovation+growth+robustness after acquisition) are the very rare exception.)

Tantek    23.05.09    #

Imminent death of the web predicted?

I’m not convinced, especially since the sign says “twitter.com/foodsecret” (a URL fragment) rather than @foodsecret — it’s still in the web’s identity space rather than Twitter’s.

Besides, the old HTML-based web doesn’t exist any more anyway: don’t you remember that VRML killed some time around 1998 .. no wait, it was PDF around 1999 .. or Java applets in 2000 .. actually, I think I remember reading that RSS killed it in 2001 … no, Flash killed it in 2004 .. ah, right, Ajax killed it in 2007.

David Megginson    23.05.09    #

As Tantek and David have noted, Twitter (and to a lesser extent Facebook) are of the web, not apart from it (unlike VRML, Java applets, and to some extent Flash).

However, the website as the single – or even, perhaps, primary – destination is what’s dying, just as the website as hand-coded HTML died. That was killed by blogs (for consumers) and CMSes for businesses (running the gamut from Wordpress through Drupal to those pitched at “the enterprise).

After all, you can already seeing these CMSes – especially the nimbler, smaller, open source ones – integrate content from other sites like Twitter, Flickr and del.icio.us. Surely the era of website-as-aggregation is next? (Anyway, even if those businesses fail, you can switch your site to pull in data from whatever the next big thing is.)

(As a sidenote: yes, a person on Twitter has a URL, but it’s much easier to say “follow ‘wossy’ on Twitter” than to say “visit bbc dot co dot uk slash radio 2 and then look for the show”. No wonder people do so.)

Paul Mison    24.05.09    #

Thanks a lot for the mention. It’s a fair point about the url but we thought it would be better to start with the url whilst people are still getting to grips with twitter. We’re also launching a website to support our tweets which will go live next week.

If you’ve got any comments or suggestions then let us know.

@foodsecret!    28.05.09    #

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