Over the years a bunch of people have talked about a second generation Internet. People mean all sorts of things when they talk about it, ranging from a newly created network, to something that takes a new form.
I think the second Internet has finally arrived.
Through two Internet booms (or bubbles), we’ve learnt that monetising the digital world isn’t simple. The Internet is based on freedom, and trying to cash in on that type of model presents a whole range of problems. For that reason the Internet hasn’t really flourished like it can.
Don’t get me wrong. The Internet is amazing, and has come a long way, but most people can’t afford to dedicate time to something that isn’t likely to put food on the table. There are plenty of people that do, and places like Wikipedia and Flickr have grown because people make a hobby out of them. But people need to eat.
That’s why, love it or hate it, iTunes App Store could be the new model for the Internet. Thousands of people have started to create things on the Internet, and are making money. I’m sure most people won’t make a lot of money from their apps, but the business model is a lot more solid than expecting to make money from advertising.
The other reason I’m suggesting this is a new form of the Internet, is because when we use apps we’re at another level of abstraction away from the Internet. Sure, we’re using the same protocols, but we need to think less of the mechanisms, and just use the functions. Soon we won’t even need to worry about a web address.
Now I know this could be a worry, because we really don’t want to be locked in to a single vendor to use the Internet. Many have expressed their concern that using devices like the iPhone or iPad gives Apple far too much control. Perhaps it does. If everyone moved to these platforms for their use of the Internet, then it would give Apple unprecedented control over what we can see and do online. But that’s a whole other blog post.
In reality, what the app store has done, is change people’s expectations. Several years ago people wouldn’t pay to use an online service. They figured they’d find something else that was just as good and free. But today, people will pay a little for the convenience, and experience. People are more willing to pay to use something that provides them with what they want.
So although it’s not a perfect world, and we should all be cautious about vendor lock in, I think it’s a positive step forward. I hope it means that a raft of new Internet entrepreneurs and innovators make their mark on the new Internet.