Week of May 28, 2001
  Snapshot from the Field
Forrester Report Bombshell:
Web Will Die in
'Two to Three Years'

By JACK LYNESite Selection Executive Editor of Interactive Publishing

CAMBRIDGE, MASS. -- Whoa. Here's one that could shake the real estate industry down to its toenails:
        Here real estate is, frenetically scrambling to "Web-ify" itself. Now comes this: The Web is verging on dying, according to a new report from Forrester Research (www.forrester.com). And soon: "That judgment day will arrive in the next two to three years, not 25 years from now," said Forrester Chairman and CEO George Colony. Forrester Research Chairman and CEO George Colony
        No, the Internet isn't dying, the report explains. Quite the contrary. What is on the fast train to obsolescence is the software - the Web. What's coming in its stead, the Forrester report asserts, is "the X Internet" - a steroid-fueled version of today's Net with far, far greater power, vastly expanded boundaries and the ability to allow business to actually control operations online.
        What does it mean? A lot of things, at least if what Forrester sees coming does come. But here's the earth-shaker for real estate: Web-specific systems - those online islands that the industry has spent multimillions (if not billions) of dollars in creating - could rapidly become out-of-date dead ducks, the report asserts.
        Said Colony, "Web-centric companies will get stuck holding the bag. They will wake up one day with hundreds of millions of dollars of legacy code on their hands. Yes, their brands will remain intact, but their technology will suddenly be very outmoded."

"The X Internet" will topple the Web from its current ingrained perch, says Forrester Research Chairman and CEO George Colony (above). Among other things, that means "destroying perfectly good Web sites," he contends.

What Lies 'twixt Web and Net

Let's take a deep breath here and then examine more of what Forrester's report, "The X Internet," foresees.
        The report's core rests in the difference between the Internet and the Web, a twain many of us consider one.
        "They're not," explained Colony. "The Internet is a piece of wire that goes from me to you, and from me to 300 million other people in the world. The Web is software that I put on my end of the wire, and you put on your end, allowing us to exchange information. While the Internet, the wire, evolves gradually, the software on the wire can change quickly."
        Just that sort of seismic software transformation is bearing down on us, the report says. It's inevitable, evolutionary and very necessary, Colony contends.
        "The problem with today's Internet is that it's dumb, boring and isolated," Colony maintained. "The online experience [is] more like reading in a dusty library than participating in a new medium. . . . Ultimately, the Net hasn't truly become a part of our real worlds."
        What will make the Net much more "real-world," the report insists, is "a software revolution." Rather than relying on the Web, Internet sites would send users rapidly downloadable "disposable code," used once and tossed. That software would enable users to engage in "extended conversations" with Net services, a marked change from transactional Web services.
        "Now you've got brains at both ends of the wire, resulting in a high-IQ, interactive, valuable conversation," Colony said. "Work is performed at both places, greatly increasing the richness of experience, the relevancy of content and the amount that can get done."

Controlling Your Business Online

The X Internet's impact on how business is conducted will be substantial, explained Carl Howe, Forrester research director and principal analyst.
        "The extended Internet will reshape technology's role in business," Howe said. "Most firms struggle to understand and act upon what is happening in their business now; they're lucky if they know what happened last week or last month."
        But with the X Internet, businesses will know, and react, instantly, he added.
        "Extended Internet devices will provide real-time information about what is going on and provide knobs and levers for companies to control their businesses," Howe said. "A data center business in California might combine real-time data from both the power company and customers to reduce the power consumption of their air-conditioners when power demand peaks -- all through extended Internet devices."
        The X Internet will have other advantages over the Web, Forrester's report maintains.
        "It leverages . . . bandwidth; once the connection is made, a small number of bits will be exchanged, unlike the Web, where lots of pages are shuttled out to the client," Colony explained. "X Internet will [also] be far more peer-to-peer, unlike the server-centric Web."

Precedent: The Killing of Gopher, Et Al

All this may sound a bit farfetched and Chicken Little-like. On the other hand, the idea has a firm cyberspace precedent, Colony said.
        "Before the Web, other software was clamped onto the Internet. WAIS, Gopher and Usenet were the dominant systems, and there were companies that were doing commerce using those software models," he explained. "Then along came Tim Berners-Lee and Marc Andreessen (the Web's inventors), and suddenly all of the old systems were pushed into the background."

        And Colony's advice for preparing for this technological tsunami?
        "If you are a Global 2,500 company . . . this means overhauling the skills of your technologists; destroying perfectly good Web sites in favor of the X Internet; dumping Web-centric suppliers, and retooling organizations.
        "Change management," he adds, "will get a new test."
        Oh, boy will it - at least if this prognostication becomes present tense.

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