The Strip-Mall Effect
I recently came across an interesting perspective on how the Strip-Mall effect could “destroy the web”.
It’s a pretty American analogy. The huge strip mall appears, the one stop destination for all your purchasing or grocery needs. This basically causes the little mom and pop stores to go out of business, simply because they cannot compete with the likes of anchors in huge chains like Target or Walmart. I never really thought about the fact they actually built roadways to make these malls unavoidable. Then again, I guess that was a huge theme in Pixar’s Cars…
So here’s how this analogy applies to the web:
“…the next generation of Internet users will grow up with a different understanding of the Web. To them, it won’t be the odd, wild, vital place it is today, but instead a smaller pool of big sites that reinforce each other’s traffic and wield heavy influence in purchases and tastes. The next generation will be able to access most of what they need – news, entertainment, shopping, comedy – through the hub of their social network, or even hubs that pool all their social networks. That leaves them removed by several degrees from the go-anywhere Web of today. They’ll have little reason to mosey up to the address bar and type in anything else.”
Consolidation and the Likes
The article above was largely focused and based on an assumption that websites online depend on advertising to sustain themselves. Issues about advertising and trying to monetize what’s on the web aside, fundamentally, there is that underlying theme of aggregation and consolidation. And then the loss of any opinions that are peripheral to the “main” viewpoint that most in the group hold.
I feel Seth Godin alludes to this in his post, Death of the Personal Blog, in which he talks about how the world’s ‘top’ blogs are written by groups of people. True, this means that updates are frequent but this may mean a less diverse opinion, especially if the groups decide to simply reinforce the general opinion/perspective held by the team.
The music industry has gone through a similar evolution, only to have the internet and digital initiatives handing the power to produce and distribute back to the masses. The communications industry is still arguably controlled by the major holding companies. I guess this simply means that the landscape is constantly evolving, it is going to be pretty difficult to say that the emergence of a certain phenomenon (e.g masses all congregating at social networks and not visiting individual sites anymore) is the end.
It seems pretty harsh to use the phrase that the web will be “destroyed”. That raises a few questions for me.
1. What exactly is meant by “destroyed”? If the web still serves a function for people, regardless of the diversity of content, it still exists. The word “destroyed” is a bit too apocalyptic, too terminal for me.
In addition, the future looks to remain digital, if findings from reports such as this are anything to go by. Haven’t had the chance to read the actual content, but the abstract is pretty concise.
“About The Pop Culture Trend Report – While icons like Barbie and LEGO continue to captivate people, global pop culture has become highly defined by the internet. Only by translating these brands into the digital world, and establishing an online presence, have they managed to sustain their appeal. New brands can also be more easily discovered if they appeal to online consumers.”
If anything, people will become increasingly dependent on the web to carry out their daily chores and communication.
2. What is “the web”?
Is this just something that you consume off an internet browser? Or basically anything that you do online, say, Skype or emailing? In which case all you need is an internet connection and a computer or a handheld device that does the same job.
3. Will there be a day when internet connection is going to be 24/7, completely affordable, universal, and accessible to all? We’ve already moved from dial up, to cable and broadband. Perhaps the question is not will there be a day, but rather, when?
4. Does it really mean the demise of the web?
Sure, maybe most of the people are going to be concentrated on those “hubs” that the first article mentioned. But the tools to produce and distribute on the internet still remain in control of the users. Increased homogenization yes, but total? I don’t think so. At least not so soon, and not so easy.
Nevertheless, it will be pretty interesting to watch how all this panders out.
Actually, lets not just watch, let’s be a part of it as well.
Update: Some cool stuff about what experts are predicting for Web 2.0 in 2009.
Tags: web, internet, future, music, communication, blog, digital, strip mall effect, production,