If Web 1.0 - typified by online newspapers and emails - was about one to many content production, and if Web 2.0 - typified by WordPress and twitter - is about connecting people through a many to one publishing model, then what comes next? I used to think it would be something of a network or matrix - many talking to many. But don't we already have that? What's really missing? Instead of thinking macro, we need to be thinking micro. Here are some thoughts on the personalized internet browser. If we already have everything we need in terms of connections to other people, then the next logical iteration of online behavior is to make our communication and shopping more personal. What if there was an internet browser that knew who I was?
Let's take online shopping: I imagine we could have a browser that automatically loaded my preferences, including clothing sizes, preferred brands, etc. And I'm talking across the internet - not just on a particular site. If I look for jeans, this browser would load size 34x32. It would place Izod in front of Sean John. Blue and black shirts would be listed before green. If I got a hankering for rugby shirts all of a sudden, it would respond in kind.
This system would be as much or more based on exclusion as it would about inclusion. I can assure you that I will never ever ever buy anything from Nike, but I do like Converse and Simple. This is an an important distinction if you want me to buy something from your store. (More about the importance of exclusion in Rob Walker's article in Fast Company this month.)
Instead of cookies used between my computer and Amazon, and my computer and Barnes & Noble's, and my computer and Best Buy, they would all be integrated across the board. This browser would recognize items rather than stores. For instance, if I am shopping for a book, I wouldn't need to go to Amazon, B&N, and Powell's individually. I could search for the book and get a list of prices from each online vendor. Likewise, book recommendations would not be based on a particular site, but rather the internet at large.
Here are a few other problems that would be solved by the type of browser I am describing:
- Why can't I move my half.com wish list to Amazon or another retailer, and then why can't I morph that into a wedding registry on TheKnot?
- Why do I have to log in to MySpace, Facebook, and Friendster separately to see if I have messages or to see what my friends are doing?
- Why can't I crop and size a photo and use it to create a SecondLife avatar which would then be used as a basis for a World of Warcraft character?
These are not difficult steps to take, relatively. We already have the information and we are quickly becoming adept at manipulating it. Now we just need to make it dynamic and customizable which is far less difficult. Sure, someone will need to develop a smart cookies and a nice interface and a business model (uber-targeted ads, perhaps?), but it is certainly within reach.
To sum up, the standards then for the personalized internet would be as follows:
- Customized (and customizable) based on the person
- Based on inclusion and exclusion of items
- Online shopping based on item rather than store
- More power to the user, less to a particular vendor
- Bring together all the information from various sites into one dashboard
What do you think? Is this all crazy talk? How far away is all of this? Who will be the first to seize onto it (Apple, Google, a dark horse)? It will almost certainly be internet-based rather than software, so that already puts companies like Microsoft at a bit of a disadvantage. But it is anyone's game. I want my personalized internet!