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The Future of the Web as Seen by Gartner

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Gene Phifer, Managing VP in Gartner Research, and David Mitchell Smith, VP and Fellow in Gartner Research, recently held a webinar entitled How Web and Cloud Computing Will Drive Your IT Strategy (registration required), outlining some of the key characteristics of the future web as seen by Gartner, concluding with a number of recommendation for businesses that want to be prepared.

Smith divided the history of the web in 3 periods:

  • Web 1.0 (1989-2003) – HTML on top of HTTP – consumed by humans, mostly readers and a few authors
  • Web 2.0 (2004-2010) – Web 1.0 + AJAX, XML – consumed by humans and machines with many readers and authors
  • Modern Web (2011-) – Web 2.0 + HTML5 – includes mobile, cloud computing, real-time

The Future or the Modern Web has several characteristics, according to Phiper:

Contextual – the web will be “personalized for the individual user based on their needs, their taste, who they are, what they are doing, who their friends are”, etc. Personalization is driven by

  • static attributes: business, geography, role, language, etc.
  • dynamic session-centric attributes: device, browsers, bandwidth, etc.

Web sites have used context in the past, but its usage will increase adding information such as location, the network of friends and their preferences. There will be a context architecture attached to the entire web experience.

Mobile – there will be browser and native web applications running on all sorts of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. According to Phifer, a new mobile service and social era will start in 2012, and data revenue will exceed voice revenue. The number of website accesses done via mobile devices will exceed those done through PCs in 2014. To be successful, companies will either have to create websites tailored to mobile devices or create native applications for smartphones and tablets.

Smith considers that the number of web apps targeted at mobile devices will rise at 50% on average by 2015, the other 50% being still represented by native ones. The trend is driven by better and better web browsers and HTML5.

HTML5 – a new era for highly interactive web applications. RIA applications, based on Flash and Silverlight, will see their share diminished without being completely wiped out.

UXP (User eXperience Platform) – represented by a suite of features including content management, collaboration, social, analytics, search used together to create new user experiences.

Social – the web will be social, either public such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or private being used inside organizations between employees or collaborating with customers or business partners. Phifer recommends all companies implement a policy for employees interacting with public social media.

Cloud – cloud computing usage will grow in the future due to its benefits: speed, flexibility, agility, financial, simplicity, and convenience.

Real-time – the web will tend to reflect events while they happen, Phifer exemplifying with a Twitter message sent 4 seconds after a Californian earthquake started to be felt, while general media started to react at least 5 minutes later. This real-time characteristic of the web can be used to promptly discover and react to critical customer issues.

Architecture – the web will be architected more and more to be consumable by machines based on Identifiers (addresses, foreign keys), Formats (schemas, envelopes, containers), and Protocols (processes, message exchange patterns). REST will play an important role according to Phifer.

Browser war and Web OSes – the browser war has been reignited and a race for creating web OSes, such as Chrome OS, has started. There is no longer a dominating web browser, as Netscape and IE used to be at different points in time, leading to increase competition driving innovation. Implementing HTML5 features and increased JavaScript processing speed being the two main outcomes.

Consumer-driven – many products and services started in the consumer world before being adopted by enterprises. The Gartner chart below compares the number of users (dark blue) using a certain technology against the number of customers (lighter blue) businesses think that they are interested in the respective technology and the number of businesses’ employees (light blue) using it. The idea is that surveying their own employees businesses can find out how technologies are used by the general public out there.


eCommerce will play a major role in the future, with more and more financial transaction being carried on over the internet.

Gartner’s webinar ended with a number of recommendations for those interested to be prepared for the web of the future:

  • Embrace cloud computing
  • Adopt WOA (Web Oriented Architecture) where possible. Use REST
  • Use mashup applications
  • Encourage consumer technology experimentation inside the organization
  • Incorporate social in every aspect. Management should lead in this area by example

These characteristics of the Future Web are already visible today, and Gartner’s webinar did not outline anything really new, but it did emphasize the key features that will play a major role in the web in the years to come.

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