Holistic Web Browsing: Trends Of The Future

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The future of the Web is everywhere. The future of the Web is not at your desk. It’s not necessarily in your pocket, either. It’s everywhere. With each new technological innovation, we continue to become more and more immersed in the Web, connecting the ever-growing layer of information in the virtual world to the real one around us. But rather than get starry-eyed with utopian wonder about this bright future ahead, we should soberly anticipate the massive amount of planning and design work it will require of designers, developers and others.

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The gap between technological innovation and its integration in our daily lives is shrinking at a rate much faster than we can keep pace with—consider the number of unique Web applications you signed up for in the past year alone. This has resulted in a very fragmented experience of the Web. While running several different browsers, with all sorts of plug-ins, you might also be running multiple standalone applications to manage feeds, social media accounts and music playlists.

Even though we may be adept at switching from one tab or window to another, we should be working towards a more holistic Web experience, one that seamlessly integrates all of the functionality we need in the simplest and most contextual way. With this in mind, let’s review four trends that designers and developers would be wise to observe and integrate into their work so as to pave the way for a more holistic Web browsing experience:

  1. The browser as operating system,
  2. Functionally-limited mobile applications,
  3. Web-enhanced devices,
  4. Personalization.

1. The Browser As Operating System

Thanks to the massive growth of Web productivity applications, creative tools and entertainment options, we are spending more time in the browser than ever before. The more time we spend there, the less we make use of the many tools in the larger operating system that actually runs the browser. As a result, we’re beginning to expect the same high level of reliability and sophistication in our Web experience that we get from our operating system.

For the most part, our expectations have been met by such innovations as Google’s Gmail, Talk, Calendar and Docs applications, which all offer varying degrees of integration with one another, and online image editing tools like Picnik and Adobe’s online version of Photoshop. And those expectations will continue to be met by upcoming releases, such as the Chrome operating system—we’re already thinking of our browsers as operating systems. Doing everything on the Web was once a pipe dream, but now it’s a reality.

Ubiquity

The one limitation of Web browsers that becomes more and more obvious as we make greater use of applications in the cloud is the lack of usable connections between open tabs. Most users have grown accustomed to keeping many tabs open, switching back and forth rapidly between Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs and various social media tools. But this switching from tab to tab is indicative of broken connections between applications that really ought to be integrated.

Mozilla is attempting to functionally connect tools that we use in the browser in a more intuitive and rich way with Ubiquity. While it’s definitely a step in the right direction, the command-line approach may be a barrier to entry for those unable to let go of the mouse. In the screenshot below, you can see how Ubiquity allows you to quickly map a location shown on a Web page without having to open Google Maps in another tab. This is one example of integrated functionality without which you would be required to copy and paste text from one tab to another. Ubiquity’s core capability, which is creating a holistic browsing experience by understanding basic commands and executing them using appropriate Web applications, is certainly the direction in which the browser is heading.

This approach, wedded to voice-recognition software, may be how we all navigate the Web in the next decade, or sooner: hands-free.

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Tracemonkey and Ogg

Meanwhile, smaller, quieter releases have been paving the way to holistic browsing. This past summer, Firefox released an update to its software that includes a brand new JavaScript engine called TraceMonkey. This engine delivers a significant boost in speed and image-editing functionality, as well as the ability to play videos without third-party software or codecs.

Aside from the speed advances, which are always welcome, the image and video capabilities are perfect examples of how the browser is encroaching on the operating system’s territory. Being able to edit images in the browser could replace the need for local image-editing software on your machine, and potentially for separate applications such as Picnik. At this point, it’s not certain how sophisticated this functionality can be, and so designers and ordinary users will probably continue to run local copies of Photoshop for some time to come.

The new video functionality, which relies on an open-source codec called Ogg, opens up many possibilities, the first one being for developers who do not want to license codecs. Currently, developers are required to license a codec if they want their videos to be playable in proprietary software such as Adobe Flash. Ogg allows video to be played back in Firefox itself.

What excites many, though, is that the new version of Firefox enables interactivity between multiple applications on the same page. One potential application of this technology, as illustrated in the image above, is allowing users to click objects in a video to get additional information about them while the video is playing.

2. Functionally-Limited Mobile Applications

So far, our look at a holistic Web experience has been limited to the traditional browser. But we’re also interacting with the Web more and more on mobile devices. Right now, casual surfing on a mobile device is not a very sophisticated experiences and therefore probably not the main draw for users. The combination of small screens, inconsistent input options, slow connections and lack of content optimized for mobile browsers makes this a pretty clumsy, unpredictable and frustrating experience, especially if you’re not on an iPhone.

However, applications written specifically for mobile environments and that deal with particular, limited sets of data—such as Google’s mobile apps, device-specific applications for Twitter and Facebook and the millions of applications in the iPhone App Store—look more like the future of mobile Web use. Because the mobile browsing experience is in its infancy, here is some advice on designing mobile experiences: rather than squeezing full-sized Web applications (i.e. ones optimized for desktops and laptops) into the pocket, designers and developers should become proficient at identifying and executing limited functionality sets for mobile applications.

Amazon Mobile

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A great example of a functionally-limited mobile application is Amazon’s interface for the iPhone (screenshot above). Amazon has reduced the massive scale of its website to the most essential functions: search, shopping cart and lists. And it has optimized the layout specifically for the iPhone’s smaller screen.

Facebook for iPhone

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Facebook continues to improve its mobile version. The latest version includes a simplified landing screen, with an icon for every major function of the website in order of priority of use. While information has been reduced and segmented, the scope of the website has not been significantly altered. Each new update brings the app closer to replicating the full experience in a way that feels quite natural.

Gmail for iPhone

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Finally, Gmail’s iPhone application is also impressive. Google has introduced a floating bar to the interface that allows users to batch process emails, so that they don’t have to open each email in order to deal with it.

3. Web-Enhanced Devices

Mobile devices will proliferate faster than anything the computer industry has seen before, thereby exploding entry points to the Web. But the Web will vastly expand not solely through personal mobile devices but through completely new Web-enhanced interfaces in transportation vehicles, homes, clothing and other products.

In some cases, Web enhancement may lend itself to marketing initiatives and advertising; in other cases, connecting certain devices to the Web will make them more useful and efficient. Here are three examples of Web-enhanced products or services that we may all be using in the coming years:

Web-Enhanced Grocery Shopping

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Web-connected grocery store “VIP” cards may track customer spending as they do today: every time you scan your customer card, your purchases are added to a massive database that grocery stores use to guide their stocking choices. In exchange for your data, the stores offer you discounts on selected products. Soon with Web-enhanced shopping, stores will be able to offer you specific promotions based on your particular purchasing history, and in real time (as illustrated above). This will give shoppers more incentive to sign up for VIP programs and give retailers more flexibility and variety with discounts, sales and other promotions.

Web-Enhanced Utilities

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One example of a Web-enhanced device we may all see in our homes soon enough is a smart thermostat (illustrated above), which will allow users not only to monitor their power usage using Google PowerMeter but to see their current charges when it matters to them (e.g. when they’re turning up the heater, not sitting in front of a computer).

Web-Enhanced Personal Banking

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Another useful Web enhancement would be a display of your current bank account balance directly on your debit or credit card (as shown above). This data would, of course, be protected and displayed only after you clear a biometric security system that reads your fingerprint directly on the card. Admittedly, this idea is rife with privacy and security implications, but something like this will nevertheless likely exist in the not-too-distant future.

4. Personalization

Thanks to the rapid adoption of social networking websites, people have become comfortable with more personalized experiences online. Being greeted by name and offered content or search results based on their browsing history not only is common now but makes the Web more appealing to many. The next step is to increase the user’s control of their personal information and to offer more tools that deliver new information tailored to them.

Centralized Profiles

If you’re like most people, you probably maintain somewhere between two to six active profiles on various social networks. Each profile contains a set of information about you, and the overlap varies. You probably have unique usernames and passwords for each one, too, though using a single sign-on service to gain access to multiple accounts is becoming more common. But why shouldn’t the information you submit to these accounts follow the same approach? In the coming years, what you tell people about yourself online will be more and more under your control. This process starts with centralizing your data in one profile, which will then share bits of it with other profiles. This way, if your information changes, you’ll have to update your profile only once.

Data Ownership

The question of who owns the data that you share online is fuzzy. In many cases, it even remains unaddressed. However, as privacy settings on social networks become more and more complex, users are becoming increasingly concerned about data ownership. In particular, the question of who owns the images, video and messages created by users becomes significant when a user wants to remove their profile. To put it in perspective, Royal Pingdom, in its Internet 2009 in Numbers report, found that 2.5 billion photos were uploaded to Facebook each month in 2009! The more this number grows, the more users will be concerned about what happens to the content they transfer from their machines to servers in the cloud.

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While it may seem like a step backward, a movement to restore user data storage to personal machines, which would then intelligently share that data with various social networks and other websites, will likely spring up in response to growing privacy concerns. A system like this would allow individuals to assign meta data to files on their computers, such as video clips and photos; this meta data would specify the files’ availability to social network profiles and other websites. Rather than uploading a copy of an image from your computer to Flickr, you would give Flickr access to certain files that remain on your machine. Organizations such as the Data Portability Project are introducing this kind of thinking accross the Web today.

Recommendation Engines

Search engines—and the whole concept of search itself—will remain in flux as personalization becomes more commonplace. Currently, the major search engines are adapting to this by offering different takes on personalized search results, based on user-specific browsing history. If you are signed in to your Google account and search for a pizza parlor, you will more likely see local results. With its social search experiment, Google also hopes to leverage your social network connections to deliver results from people you already know. Rounding those out with real-time search results gives users a more personal search experience that is a much more realistic representation of the rapid proliferation of new information on the Web. And because the results are filtered based on your behavior and preferences, the search engine will continue to “learn” more about you in order to provide the most useful information.

Another new search engine is attempting to get to the heart of personalized results. Hunch provides customized recommendations of information based on users’ answers to a set of questions for each query. The more you use it, the better the engine gets at recommending information. As long as you maintain a profile with Hunch, you will get increasingly satisfactory answers to general questions like, “Where should I go on vacation?”

The trend of personalization will have significant impact on the way individual websites and applications are designed. Today, consumer websites routinely alter their landing pages based on the location of the user. Tomorrow, websites might do similar interface customizations for individual users. Designers and developers will need to plan for such visual and structural versatility to stay on the cutting edge.

Conclusion

Each of these trends—browser operating systems, mobile, Web-enhanced devices and personalization—provides a foundation for the other. First, traditional browsers will continue to expand their functional scope to meet our demands, ideally in a way that simplifies the user experience rather than just by adding more tabs or toolbars. But our demands will ultimately drive mobile innovation as well, expanding points of entry to the Web far beyond our desks.

As people grow accustomed to being able to access the Web from anywhere, the next logical step will be to create unique entry points, specific to context and purpose and crafted especially for us. This final stage will be truly transformative, imbuing our daily lives with a rich layer of uniquely targeted information that will make us more efficient and effective in what we do. But reaching every step along the way will fully depend on the vision of designers and developers to refine existing interfaces and create completely new ones.

To Sum Up

  1. Web browsers will continue to be refined and expanded to include new functionality that will approach an operating system’s level of sophistication.
  2. Designers and developers need to become proficient at identifying and executing functionally limited sets for mobile applications.
  3. Previously unconnected objects will be enhanced with filters to send and receive contextual data across the Web. The design of these objects will change as a result of new interface attributes.
  4. Personalization trends will give users more control over their information and bring new, relevant information to them.

Further Resources

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Christopher Butler is the Chief Operating Officer at Newfangled, a Web development firm specializing in agency partnerships. He has written articles on the the current and future state of the web for Print and HOW magazines, Newfangled.com, and is the author of The Strategic Web Designer. You can follow him on Twitter @chrbutler.

  1. 1

    Interesting thoughts in this article. Like the idea of web-enhanced devices, I like it, but the enhancement has to be functional only, otherwise it is only annoying.

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    • 2

      Fantastic article, great read, very thought provoking.

      One of the subjects that I find myself continually interested in is the future of the Internet. Technology advances occur so rapidly that it’s tough but intriguing to guess about where we will be in ten years, twenty years.

      For my part, I wonder what this Web 3.0, or Third Iteration of the Internet, will bode for competition. With greater use of the browser as OS, what will happen to companies that don’t create browsers? Google, Mozilla, Microsoft, Apple, all will be able to provide a total and controlled experience reliant upon their browsers. Won’t they be able to effectually oligopolize the Internet experience?

      As the move towards greater integration of technology continues, I think it’s important to continue to support multiple versions of a technology (ie multiple browsers) so that innovation through competition can continue to push the Internet towards its natural, intelligent conclusion.

      I know we shouldn’t link, but this one is relevant, as the Third Iteration of the Internet and web culture is what I blog about. If you’re interested, you can read me at arkimides.net.

      Again, a great article, and thank you very much for writing it.

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      • 3

        Christopher Butler

        April 12, 2010 12:46 pm

        @thePwner I think you’re right that one of the most critical issues still very much at play is whether platforms for web development should be as open/general as possible or diverse and proprietary. Our firm has decided to only develop for the WebKit platform when it comes to mobile, which gives us the broadest scope we can hope to design and develop for without sacrificing quality–and covers iPhone, Droid and NexusOne phones. Thanks for the link, too. I’ll check out your blog.

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        • 4

          “Our firm has decided to only develop for the WebKit platform when it comes to mobile, which gives us the broadest scope we can hope to design and develop for without sacrificing quality”

          Mh? And what is with the leading mobile browser Opera? Which is reinstalled by the most mobile phones?

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  2. 5

    What pisses me off is that a lot of developers fail to recognise that iPhones aren’t the only smart-phone, web enabled, mobile OS’s out there. Facebook for Android is absolutely terrible to use.

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    • 6

      You sound like one of those people who move next to the airport and then complain about the noise.

      If you want beautifully designed apps RIGHT NOW then get on an iPhone.

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      • 7

        John,

        You sound like one of those people that move to the suburbs, then complain about the decaying city.

        If you want a healthy marketplace, get out of the garden.

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    • 8

      Christopher Butler

      April 12, 2010 12:52 pm

      @DavidThorpe Agreed..sort of. See my comment above.

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  3. 9

    Web based applications are great and provide us with some handy tools. But consider having an OS is something that freightens me. Hackers are still out there and our privacy is still under attack every day. And saying something like “If you don’t have something to hide, you shouldn’t be worried”… Well what about your healthcare for instance! Do you wan’t the world to know that you visited a shrink or just had an abortion? I don’t think so. But it’s all on the net these days…

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    • 10

      Christopher Butler

      April 12, 2010 1:02 pm

      @Le Marquis You’re bringing up a serious point, one which I definitely did not want to diminish in my post. Privacy is one of the most critical concerns (in my opinion) to the future of the web. If you follow the link to my homepage in my bio above, you can find the article I wrote last July (the second part in my series on the future of the web) on privacy and data ownership issues. Having “nothing to hide” is only one way to look at this, and as you suggest, probably a myopic one. We often don’t know what we want (or have to lose) until we’ve already lost it.

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  4. 11

    OS is the core, I think.

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  5. 12

    Nice thoughts. Regarding the browsers, It is true. They are evolving fast.

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  6. 13

    Very nice read.

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  7. 14

    Jeffrey A. Haines

    April 10, 2010 5:54 am

    I believe that .ogg, as currently supported by Firefox, is just a container, not a codec. The video codec usually inside .ogg is Vorbis, although there is a codec for .ogg currently in development that will have “ogg” in its name.

    Currently, if you want to play .flv or .mp4 video in the h.264 codec in a Flash player on your site, you do not have to worry about licensing issues. h.264 delivers superior quality to Vorbis, but since it is proprietary, it is likely that licensing fees will eventually be attached to hosting files in that format.

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  8. 16

    Nice read. Thanks :)

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  9. 17

    Long story short: shit is about to get way too complicated. *lol*

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  10. 18

    Once I wrote a fantasy about having browsers able to shape-shift. Of course that wouldn’t happen until we have come out of our rectangle fetish; both technically and otherwise. But I would like to see circle and pentagon shaped websites in future, if anybody’s listening.

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  11. 20

    i believe that opera is one of the most close to the os concept.

    as for mobile browsing, i read smashing from an opera 10 nokia 5800 powered mobile. Apart for a few display bugs (minor) the experience is awesome.

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  12. 21

    Simple Question

    Quote: “we should be working towards a more holistic Web experience, one that seamlessly integrates all of the functionality we need in the simplest and most contextual way.”

    Why should we?

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    • 22

      Christopher Butler

      April 12, 2010 1:08 pm

      @Matthew V Fair Enough. I suppose my quickest answer would be because we’d all be much more productive if we eliminated some of the unnecessary technological barriers to simplicity. Most of the pages I (and most people I know and work with) keep open in tabs are actually different applications. Yet, the browser itself consolidates the “individual app” perception into one “uber app” — especially the more accustomed one gets to toggling betwen tabs. For me, this is much more intuitive than maintaining multiple windows, which I’d have to use my computer’s operating system to toggle between. Another thing that I keep in mind is that research into parallel computing is seeking to make the human-computer interaction even more simple. Imagine being able to simply converse with your machine rather than having to use navigation tools to operate it. In any case, for me, the answer is simplicity.

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      • 23

        Sounds like your speaking of a Kinect enabled PC. Which is already in the works… (also includes gesture/touch)

        How we interact with these interfaces is also changing rapidly. Its not just the screen size, or which browser, but what parts of our body actually control the interface. I think simplicity is the best solution for most web interfaces. Gone are they days of small and complicated content elements.

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  13. 24

    A lot of interesting points in this article. Things are about to get really hectic. Looking forward to hearing more on this.

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  14. 25

    Trends of the Past. This is nothing but us trying to get out of this mess we’ve put ourselves into. Just calling it “holistic” doesn’t make this new. The problems the browser and the Web have created didn’t exist in older older systems (think Lisp Genera, Smalltalk, Self, etc) which appear to incorporate nicer (and far deeper) approaches to the aforementioned problems, and also seem much more prepared for “the future”, whatever form it might take. But I’m hardly saying the Web suck; simply arguing what has been said and documented elsewhere: that the developers of the browsers, HTML, and protocols seem to have ignored prior art and a few things about system evolution in the ’90s, when the WWW was conceived.

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    • 26

      Christopher Butler

      April 12, 2010 1:33 pm

      @Thiago Silva Sure, much of the foundation we’ve built for the web as we know it today was pretty myopic. Even Tim Berners-Lee has said in interviews that he wished that the domain name convention had been reversed (so that the extension came first, rather than the name, and that the “www” was not necessary). But, we have to steer this massive ship of the web slowly in the right direction. Also, read my comment above–the parallel computing angle is a serious one, and I think one of the more important technological advances between us and the truly simple human-computer interaction paradigm we desire.

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  15. 27

    To sum up, if you don’t have Internet connection, you’re screwed.

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  16. 28

    Hopefully in the future people will start making more of a focus on design and usability as well! Well us geeky crowd are moving into the future, I feel like other industries are being left behind and not focusing on the same world as we are.

    We’ve created a usability tool at http://intuitionhq.com to try and make it easier for people to solve this problem, and there are other people out there with similar sites and ideas, but it really takes time for information on good design and usability to flow down from the web design community to the world in general.

    Hopefully people start to realise the value of a better, more usable design and this kind of web can move forward!

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  17. 29

    The iPad is also the wrong direction and reaction. The display and keypad do need to be larger at times, but wireless docking can take care of that. Soon, the smartphone will be everything else, including the network. The Internet should evolve into anynet within range of the largest distributed network ever built. Just how far away are you from another person carrying a wireless device at all times now?

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  18. 30

    Tristan Da Cunha

    April 11, 2010 12:40 am

    The graphic depicting ‘search interface’ in the glasses is pretty cool. But you havent mentioned how and where the input to the search box will come from. Will it come from thinking? The eyes dont have fingers to input texts into the textboxes.

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    • 31

      Christopher Butler

      April 12, 2010 1:35 pm

      @Tristan Da Cunha I actually didn’t intend for that illustration to be taken literally. I was trying to create a metaphoric illustration that captured the ideas behind the article in general, one that would captivate the audience and draw in interest. I doubt that something like it would actually be produced, or helpful to users either.

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  19. 32

    regarding personalization: http://www.iCurrent.com is a new approach to personalized news and keeping informed. It’s a centralized web experience that delivers news-for-you from thousands of online sources, including Smashing.

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  20. 33

    the kind of article one expects from SM.. an interesting read.

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  21. 34

    It’s good to realise alot of people in the world don’t even have an internet connection or a mobile phone with internet etc. Then there’s the people who are too old or too young to keep up with all the content/tools/apps available, not knowing where to find or how to use them.
    And even in the group who are 15-30 years of age alot of people are not aware of what’s out there.

    And there’s the group who just doesn’t care to have ‘news’ all the time. It might seem different to the people working on the net, but all this new ‘exciting’ internet stuff is actualy aimed at a much smaller group then most people think. We assume the ‘whole world’ is waiting for all these new things already, while i doubt they are. I myself am online for a good 20 yrs now and I don’t even know 1/10 of what’s out there (…)

    Many people these days are happy if they even understand all the functions of their mobile phone. For all these new things to really take off will take many, many more years. I doubt everybody will get ‘educated’ in time. (not saying they won’t be available – but not everybody will be using them or take interest)

    As a designer i found most of my customers don’t even know what a rss-feed, blog, or application is. And they are lightyears away from realising mobile content can enhance their business promotion…9/10 people think a business card and a static website will serve them just fine. Some neat new functions for their phone or browser won’t change that anytime soon.

    Global changes means everybody in the world is affected; as long as there’s the groups described above…and the majority of people living in south-america, africa, eastern europe, china not having acces to fast internet connections i doubt our ‘global way of getting news’ will be this ‘great new age of information’ many think it will be

    just my 2 cents

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    • 35

      Christopher Butler

      April 12, 2010 1:42 pm

      @Cycleburner This is actually a very legitimate and important point. It’s easy to fall prey to the idea that our experience (in this case, being designers and planners of technology) is shared by most people, when in reality, it is not. However, the momentum is faster than I would have ever thought.

      I spent some time living in Malaysia and was quite struck by how that country had “leapfrogged” into contemporary technology–they went right from a very antiquated phone system to adoption of very sophisticated mobile phone, internet, and cable television technology, which is very apparent as you walk past squatter villages that have satellites tacked on to lean-to shacks assembled from scrap. The cellular phones I saw there (in 2005) were more sophisticated than those I’d seen in the US at the time. But within those homes I described, technology in general was far behind what we’ve already grown to take for granted. It’s considerations like these–especially in light of the populations of such countries–that should sober us and refocus our work in more practical and efficient ways.

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    • 36

      Cycleburner & Christopher Butler – what wonderful conversation and very much part of the conversation “technological innovation and its integration” — good stuff! I’m a UX-UI designer in the tech/online field ooooh too many years to mention — and also to mention i’m a Li-dy LOL (Designed the XMB with small team of engineers at SCEA – Playstation :o), which actually worked to my benefit because as a designer i’m designing for users and experiences that have nothing to do with my own (note to self) — oh the Kill Bill episodes of designing for technology and engineers and companies (god bless em now :p) having to be a combantant on the side of the persona who’s actually going to buy and utilize ;p (ps don’t shoot me — i also am a believer that people should create what they love and that their is plenty of markeshare for everyone).

      The future of technology, I have noooo idea but i love your article Christopher and thank-you for provoking this discussion among some very smart people here.

      I guess the fascinating question for me in relation to the future of technology is to do with technology adoption…i find the comments from Cycleburner golden.

      Here and now, the “social app” – not alot of technology innovation, but fine tuned and a UI poised at the right time and place …wa la and now we’re off and running with the social app phenomenon. facebook, linkedin, etsy…etc,. what’s interesting is that the largest user segment and adoption rate are women 18-55. Also comprised of an audience (true for the internet as a whole) where english is not it’s first language. ooh interesting stuff!

      I live and work from Mexico City now and am deep in exploring all things social, mobile, and cultural (Mexico and Latin america, as well as Hispanic markets in US). After working in SF in tech industry, i adapted to survive. I don’t know what the future of technology is but perhaps there is something to that…adapt or die hahahah. There will always be innovation but the technology of the future, the technology that sticks will depend on whether folks adopt – adapt…and there i go again.. why would someone want to utilize or adopt this technology?

      …perhaps a next article :>

      thx again,
      low tech, high tech gringa de Mexico LOL
      Jacky

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  22. 37

    I really like your article, but I think a critical point of view would also be healthy.

    What happens with all developing countries?

    1. They have really slow conections and are unable to catch up with the unbelievable speed of current “first world” technologies.
    2. The trend of the past repeats again: Poor countries being dependant on big world Corporations.

    In my opinion all the effort and money should be invested in trying to fill the gaps of the world and walk together in the future.

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    • 38

      Christopher Butler

      April 12, 2010 1:45 pm

      @Andres, like @Cycleburner, you’re on to something. See my comment above, too. One other thing I’d add is that the One Laptop Per Child program has been, despite setbacks, price confusion, etc., pretty successful if you ask me. I’m eager to see the next generations of their machines, especially the tablet model that they hope to release next. I think their hearts are in the right place, and though corporations are needed for funding, are and may continue to make a positive impact in developing countries as far as computing and access to the web are concerned.

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      • 39

        You are right the One Laptop Per Child program was a big step in a positive direction.
        Also more serious projects like http://www.thekopernik.org/ could help a lot in bringing design thinking back to the roots of concious and real sustainable improvement.

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        • 40

          Christopher Butler

          April 13, 2010 5:46 am

          @Andres I hadn’t heard of the Kopernik project before, but it looks really interesting. Thanks for providing the link!

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  23. 41

    I disagree that functionality has to be limited for mobile applications; with creativity high levels of functionality can be maintained. Windows 7 Mobile takes a step similar to the one that games took when they went from Pong and Pac-man to side-scrolling and map-based, introducing the idea that the screen is a “window” or “view port” into a virtual space of continuous information. Using a paradigm like that, there are many more possibilities.

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  24. 42

    I really enjoyed your post. Could not help but proposing two alternatives for the enhanced glasses. It’s past midnight, and little else to do.
    http://ameyer.ch/images/glasses1.jpg
    http://ameyer.ch/images/glasses2.jpg
    (Not sure if it is appropriate to link these here in the comment)

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  25. 43

    What happend with smashing magazine forum? Died?

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  26. 44

    @Tristan: It’s either brainwaves, an integrated microcam following eye movements or a little joystick placed inside your mouth and operated by your tounge (get some exercise now). There is also an external microcam scanning the environment, recognizing any approaching danger, and immediatly blackening the glasses, preventing you from getting sared. (If I remember correctly, thats what Zaphot’s glasses did in Douglas Adam’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.)

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    • 45

      Christopher Butler

      April 12, 2010 1:46 pm

      @Andi Meyer Hmm, interesting idea. As I mentioned in response to @Tristan, I didn’t mean for that illustration to be taken in the same way as the others, but more metaphorically.

      0
  27. 46

    i think there should be platform independent applications which run on every mobile device. i really don’t like that everyone is developing an iphone app and leave the other mobile platforms aside.
    maybe something like adobe air which will be supported by Apple, MS, Google, … for their mobile devices.

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  28. 47

    Nice article…:)(:

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  29. 48

    Still trying to push those crappy eBooks I see? Nice job of throwing in an advertisement after paragraph 4 claiming it was “offtopic”.

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  30. 49

    I think Kohive ( http: //www.kohive.com ) is a good attempt at bringing a better OS experience to the browser and with good integration between apps.
    I wonder if that’s the future of the web, or maybe something like it.

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  31. 50

    A lot of these points may be very valid for consumer apps, but what about the enterprises that utilize SaaS products like our EAM & CMMS still mandate IE6 as the corporate browser.

    I think many people forget that home computers and work computers are two different beasts in many organizations. Small businesses react quickly and can use the tools that are available to do the job the best.

    I can’t wait for IE9′s HTML5 and CSS3 support for those corporations that support MS products, but I’d prefer just killing IE6.

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  32. 51

    Really interesting look into the future of web design. Thanks for the article!

    0
  33. 52

    Great article Christopher!
    I love the debit card idea and I wouldn’t mind having that balance either :P

    0
  34. 53

    Good piece of information and worth reading.

    0
  35. 54

    Interesting article looking at future trends!

    I think mobile apps and the development of these will become a lot more common place in the future. Take a look at South Korea for example, they offer everything on the mobile from web searching to watching TV! They do have one of the fastest broadband networks in the world, so no surprise they are so far ahead.

    The browser has become second nature to everyone now and a place of comfort, so it will be interesting to see how web 3.0 can make it an even more interactive, personal and engaging space for the user.

    Good article though!

    0
    • 55

      Christopher Butler

      April 14, 2010 10:21 am

      @Neil George, I think they have this kind of thing in the U.S., too ;-) I can do just about everything you mention and more (searches, tv, podcasts, email, chat, social media, etc.) on the iPad that I can do on my laptop. The same seems to be true on the iPhone, too, though I don’t have one.

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  36. 56

    I’m surprised Opera Unite was not mentioned in the “Data Owneship” part of the Personalization. With Unite users can already share content from their own machine and there’s no reason they couldn’t share it also via social network sites.

    0
    • 57

      Christopher Butler

      April 13, 2010 5:49 am

      @Mark I wasn’t aware of Opera Unite, but at first glance it looks pretty interesting. Thanks for letting me know about it!

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  37. 58

    I thought this was a great piece to stir the imagination. I did notice, as some others did, that all your recommendations presuppose quality access to internet service for everyone. You mentioned that our demand will cause more access points to form, but left it at that. I wondered though, will our demand be enough?

    Do you think there is a place for public policy/planning in expanding access points to the internet? Just like our cities help us access electricity, water, roads, etc., should they help us access high-quality internet connections? I see cities and towns working with private companies to provide this type of service in the future. As there are more people in the pool of potential users, industries will begin adopting technologies like the interactive debit card and thermostat without a fear that they are overlooking part of their clientele.

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    • 59

      Christopher Butler

      April 13, 2010 7:08 am

      @Andy It’s true, the “cutting edge” of web is pushed by those with the best and most reliable internet access. I know many Americans are frustrated by the fact that we have pretty slow broadband speeds (compared to places like Japan, Korea, Finland, Sweden, France) and pay more for it ($3.33 per 1mbps compared to Japan’s $0.27 per 1mbps). You can see these stats in an infographic posted here:
      http://gizmodo.com/5390014/internet-speeds-and-costs-around-the-world-shown-visually

      I actually heard an interesting program from The Spark podcast about an American man who built his own tower in his rural community in order to boost the power of his internet access and “escape from dial-up.” Here’s a link to that episode:
      http://www.cbc.ca/spark/2010/03/spark-107-march-28-30-2010/

      So yes, I do think there’s something to your point that municipalities should be interested in supporting better internet access. For rural (or at least less cosmopolitan places) it could create a compelling reason for web workers to relocate there.

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  38. 60

    This is by far one of the better posts I’ve seen on Smashing in a long time. Thought provoking!

    0
  39. 61

    If Smashing Magazine got a mobile version, why not link directly to it instead of going through an advertisement page? How does that help strengthen SEO on the mobile-links?

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    • 62

      what advertisement page?
      the mobile version is completely “noindex”, we dont want these page in search engines.

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  40. 63

    I’m most intrigued by your coverage of web-enhanced devices. This seems like the factor that would be most likely to truly “connect” our entire world. We think so much more about web-specific devices like computers and phones but not about everyday objects that will become smart transmitters of data accross the web. I’d love to see more articles about this and how designers can be thinking more about how their skills translate to a completely new application.

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    • 64

      Christopher Butler

      April 14, 2010 10:17 am

      @aven, I’m with you on this. I wrote most of this article months ago, and feel at this point that the web-enhanced devices portion is still the most prescient. Maybe I’ll try to convince the Smashing editors to let me do another one focusing only on them…

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  41. 65

    Thanks for the vision

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  42. 66

    Love it. I’m reading this on my iPad right now!

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  43. 68

    Great article. great read but annoyed that you’re only including the iPhone in your mobile section. All websites look and work fine on my htc hero.

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    • 69

      Christopher Butler

      April 14, 2010 10:14 am

      @Bim, I understand. The iPhone is certainly not the only device worth designing and developing for. Our approach has been to focus on the WebKit platform, which suits the browsers for the iPhone/iPad/iPod touch, NexusOne, and Droid.

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  44. 70

    A browser is not an operating system it never will be.
    The problem is that people do not know the difference.
    They can not distinguish a desk top from a OS.
    Cant change it.. it came with the computer it must be an OS.

    So, The courts decided this for us, since we could not tell.
    IE is not an OS!

    Is Office your operating system? I though so.

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  45. 71

    Manuel Berrios

    May 26, 2010 7:20 am

    Heard the story of the blind men and the elephant? If instead of looking at separate section of reality we rethink life holistically? If real estate, space, gets virtualized the behavioral patterns of the local community can be quantified and a holographic data set can emerge, but who mines it? Economy, energy, technology are inadvertently intertwine consequently if average Joe is to be a part of future waves he must be empower to understand the space he occupies. Energy and information consumption could be organically managed. History is full of examples where technology is driven by greed not progress, for example Nicholas Tesla, and Leo X. Tyranny has delayed progress but this time is different because if open, collaborative, cooperative approaches drive function then form follows. Build real/virtual space from the ground up with no religion, no dogma, and no superstition but with awareness, community, and the best most advance technology out there and others will imitate out of fear of falling behind. I know most people here are unique in that the collective grasp of reality is pragmatically nonchalant but the world has over 6 billion “neurons” in this network driven or motivated by more basic needs that your technology can satisfy but I guess the next renaissance does not begin until the Medici of our time opens the gates. I thought maybe Google could be it, but it remains to be seen. Developers you are the key holders of the holy scripture of our era translate from script to visual objects, relay to the experience. Where is the new Luther? Christopher you are good!

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  46. 72

    The holistic view of web browsing fascinating. I love the integration of the browser with the operating system. But what must naturally be the trend is to integrate the web experience into the living-breathing part of life.

    Before laptops, people were chained to a chair and desk to experience the Internet. We find ourselves unfettered as technology evolves, but it is clear by our social behavior through Facebook-type networks that we want to incorporate technology into our entire behavior and daily process. We are getting closer to a tanginetical existence through mobile devices. The trend, as mentioned by Christopher Butler in his article Holistic Web Browsing: Trends of the Future, is reaching toward this integration at a breakneck speed.

    tan·gi·net·ics (tănjěnětĭks)
    n. (used with a sing. verb)

    The theoretical study of the integration processes between actuality or human existence and the cyber or virtual world, especially the merging of these discernible processes into the totality of socially transmitted behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other product of human work or thought.

    [1Late Latin tangibilis, from Latin tangere, to touch; see tag- in Indo-European roots. 2Greek kubernts, governor, from kubernn, to govern]

    tangi·netic adj.
    tangi·neti·cal·ly adv

    1

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