Mark Cuban recently wrote a post floating the idea that the Internet is dead and boring. (He definitely get’s an A+ in the provacative title department for that one…) The gist of the post seems to be that the Internet is no longer producing exciting innovation and explosive disruption. I generally like what Mark has to say, he’s just technical enough to get a handle on what’s going on without getting bogged down in technical minutae. Although when he tries to predict when the next wave of innovation will arrive, I think he’s slightly off the mark:
"The days of the Internet creating explosively exciting ideas are dead. They are dead until bandwidth throughput to the home reaches far higher numbers than the vast majority of broadband users get today."
Mark is looking at this from the perspective of a content provider–he wants to be able to deliver more and better Dallas Mavericks content to sports fans. This requires bigger pipes–making the network fatter and more robust. Which is a perfectly valid way of innovating and evolving the Internet. But I don’t think the list of possible ways to innovate stops there. I would add to the list of ways to explosively change the Internet:
- Making the pipes fatter (Mark’s idea)
- Extending the network to new places (the Internet does not yet extend to humans, although it will)
- Adding layers of functionality that become part of the plumbing
Mark also hints towards the last method there, which is to add another layer of utility to the Internet "platform". But he does it by way of saying that the last wave of innovative applications (primarily social networks) happened because the Internet has stopped changing, thus providing a stable platform on which to build new applications. This is true, and I would agree that finally stabilizing around a core set of dynamic HTML (as it was called in the olden days) has given rise to the new wave of Web 2.0 applications. But that does NOT mean that platform innovation has to stop there.
When I look into the future, I do see more bandwidth running to the house, enabling richer media applications and more entertainment variety. It’s inevitable, there’s just too much value in delivering high definition media for it not to happen. However, I also see an Internet that doesn’t stop at the Web site, an Internet that extends out to the individual humans using the Internet, making them active participants in the network. I can see much more utility resulting from this change than the added bandwidth, which I see as adding more entertainment value. Coupled with a layer of more standardized functionality, it’ll extend to the average person a rich Internet which can do many of the things that only technically-advanced enterprises and their closed networks can do right now. Think Microsoft Exchange or Lotus Notes on a global scale, open, on the Internet… should be pretty cool.