There is a constant question of what the next web will be like, but there won’t be a next web, as we know it.
The space based, searchable web is being replaced by a time based, searchable stream of real-time data. This has been proven by Facebook, Twitter, RSS Feeds and other streams of information which display time based activities, in real time. The new time based information highway is dynamic and tracks changes in people’s lives in real-time, versus the current web which stores space based information that is static.
Today, the most important function of the internet is to deliver the latest information, to tell us what’s happening right now. That’s why so many time-based structures have emerged in cyberspace: to satisfy the need for the newest data. Whether tweet or timeline, all are time-ordered streams designed to tell you what’s new.
Of course, we can still browse or search into the past: Time moves bidirectional, forwards and backwards in the cyberspace. Any information object can be added at “now,” and flows steadily backwards — like a twig dropped in a brook — into the past. You can drop files, messages, and conventional websites (those will appear as static, single elements) into the stream, which acts as a content-searchable cloud file system.
Imagine an old-fashioned well with a bucket on a rope, with the bucket plunging deeper and deeper into the well. This well of time is infinitely deep, so the bucket will plunge forever — and the rope is always as long as it needs to be, so there will always be more rope to unwind. The infinite scrolling we now experience on many websites is merely the rope unwinding. The bucket represents the head or start of the oldest data object. The rope-axle represents now, and the rope (plunging deeper and deeper into the past) is the stream itself.
Instead of today’s static web, information will flow constantly and steadily into the past.
So what does it all mean?
Today, the most important function of the internet is to tell us what’s happening right now.
Streams Completely Change the Search Game
Today’s operating systems, browsers and search models become obsolete, because people no longer want to be connected to computers or sites.
What people really want is to tune in to information. Since many millions of separate data streams will exist in cyberspace, our basic software will be the stream-browser: like today’s browsers, but designed to add, subtract, and navigate streams.
Searching content in a time stream is a matter of stream algebra, which is easier than the algebra of space-based structures like today’s web. Add two time-streams and get a third. (Simply merge the AP news feed and Email Answers blog streams into time-order); and content search is a matter of stream subtraction (simply subtract all entries that don’t mention “email marketing” to yield all the entries that do). The simple, practical features of stream algebra have one huge benefit: giving us made-to-order information.
Every news source is a stream. Stream-browsers will help us tune in to the information we want by implementing a type of custom-coffee blender: We’re offered thousands of different stream “flavors,” we choose the flavors we want, and the blender mixes our streams to order.
E-commerce changes drastically.
We shouldn’t have to work to find what’s new, yet the way the web is currently architected it’s no different logically than having to visit a thousand separate physical shops. The time-based stream lets us sit back instead and watch a single, customized fashion show across sites.
Does this sort of precise control limit the serendipitous nature of the web? In a way, yes. But it’s about time: “Bring me what I want” is almost always more useful than “Let me rummage around and see what I can find.” No matter how fast it seems, most search is a waste of time. In a way, we are using time (i.e., the time-based structure) to gain time.
Instead of doing an endless series of separate searches, we tune the knobs on our stream-browser to continuously feed us just the information we need.
This future doesn’t just kill the operating system, browser, and search as we know it — it changes the meaning of “computer” as we know it, too. Whether large or small (e.g., a smartphone), a computer’s main function in the near future will be tuning in to — as a car radio tunes in a broadcast station — the constantly flowing global cyber-flow. We won’t care much about the computer devices themselves since we’ll be more focused on the world of information … and our lives as attached to it.
Finally, the web — soon to become the cybersphere — will no longer resemble a chaotic cobweb. It’s already started to happen. Instead, billions of users will spin their own tales, which will merge seamlessly into an ongoing, endless narrative: the history of everything from this point forward.
“You have many questions, and although the process has altered your consciousness, you remain irrevocably human. Ergo, some of my answers you will understand, and some of them you will not. Concordantly, while your first question may be the most pertinent, you may or may not realize it is also irrelevant.” -The Architect