Just as the first generation of personal computers was mostly about personal productivity, the first generation of the Internet has largely been about centralized Web sites, used for publishers, transactions and e-mail. For the most part, all seems well and good. At a personal level, however, many of us are overwhelmed. We’re chained to e-mail and the Web, drowning in an information flood that leaves us feeling more and more like human message-processing machines.
Each of us will soon face hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of “inputs” that we’ll need to continuously absorb and coordinate. A world with complex social, economic, organizational and personal interdependencies is inevitable. And as we near this linked future, systems and technologies must evolve or we will simply be unable to cope.
Ozzie describes a notion of a “virtual workspace” (which is what his company – Groove – focuses on).
A distinct third layer will emerge between the operating system and productivity layers. Think of it as a “virtual workspace” layer that links together all of your own computers and those operated by people with whom you work. The workspace will become as common in our lexicon as is the folder today. But more than just a container of files, the workspace will be a flexible container that brings together people, information and the tools relevant to the nature of your work. Many of today’s operating system concepts will migrate into this layer as most of what you do will involve other people and computers.
The next 10 years will find us moving decidedly from an era of personal productivity to one of joint productivity and social software. That will involve a move from tightly coupled systems to more loosely coupled interconnections. It will be an era of highly interdependent systems and relationships, with technology continuing to reshape the nature of organizations, economy, society and personal lives.
My perspective is that now, more than ever, we need the Memex. This is a vision first articulated by Vannevar Bush in 1945, and one I am writing about in my Tech Talk series in the context of the tools and technologies we have available today. Within enterprises, the Memex will need to be extended to work with enterprise events.