Beyond the Browser

As part of a series of reports on the 10th anniversary of the browser (Mosaic), contemplates the future. Some extracts:

The question for the browser then becomes what form it will take as the Internet is used increasingly for functions that go beyond simply reading Web pages. “The big challenge is does it get more specific in the foreground or expand to include all these background news-scanning functions,” said Clay Shirky, new media professor at New York University. “As Weblogs move from being interesting to important, do RSS newsreaders like NewsMonster become a separate application?”

“One of the disadvantages of the browser is that there aren’t very good ways of organizing information,” Macromedia’s Norm Meyrowitz said. “Bookmarks just don’t do the whole job. There’s no real sense of place for the information you want to come back to.”

Because browsers are passive, applications that take at least some of the initiative to find information relevant to the user are likely to gain ground. “One of the problems with the browser is that you’re going out to find information; the user has to fetch everything,” Meyrowitz said. “Sometimes people want to just have the information on their desktop. We think there’s a real need for applications that do that intelligently.”

Much of the future innovation will relate to information access, storage and retrieval. Using the email client and browser in tandem with blogs, RSS and outlines can craft an interesting mix. More on this next week.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.