TECH TALK: The Emerging Internet: From Search to Subscription

In the early days of the Internet, Yahoos directory service was the way we surfed the Web because it was still indexable and classifiable by human editors. But the Web grew too fast for this to last. The first-generation of search engines like Altavista, Lycos, Webcrawler and Excite mirrored the pages on the Web and provided textual search capabilities on the documents. It was good for a short while until spammers figured out how to infiltrate the system. For a while, it seemed we would need to go back to maintaining bookmarks and remembering URLs to go to different sites. And then along come Google with its PageRank technology which enabled search based on the importance of pages as measured by incoming links. Search was back in vogue and has stayed that way ever since.

Search engines are the primary way to navigate the Reference Web. We no longer bookmark sites or even try and remember their URLs; we Google everything. This becomes possible because we trust Google to have made a copy of everything that has been created and appropriately ingested it with its algorithms. Search works very well with the PC screen most of the space is taken up by the results with some relevant ads thrown around. This works great for us, the search engines and the advertisers.

As the Live Web starts to occupy a greater importance in our lives, Search on a PC will no longer be the dominant form of interaction. Instead, I believe it will be Subscriptions delivered to a mobile screen. Let me explain.

The Live Web is about events and incremental information. There are a number of things we would like to know as soon as they happen. In this context, the best way to be alerted is to set up an alert. So, when we want to track something, we can set up a Subscription to that site. All that the site needs to do is to publish its new content via RSS and then ping a central server whenever it gets updated. That central server can also track who all have set up subscriptions for that particular site and therefore can be immediately notified. The mobile is the perfect device to send out an alert to since we can be pretty sure that the user will see the message almost immediately.

In emerging markets like India, access to the PC is still limited, but mobiles (and SMS for now) can reach over 150 million users. Also, even those who access the PC dont do so all the time a majority go to a cybercafes once in a few days. The mobile this becomes the ideal device to send people information about the Live Web.

Search does not become irrelevant for the Live Web. In fact, we will still use Search for things we cannot Subscribe to in advance. My point is that Subscription will be the dominant way we interact with the Live Web just like Search is the primary way we interface with the Reference Web.

With this change in behaviour and device, the business model will also morph.

Tomorrow: From Advertising to Invertising

TECH TALK The Emerging Internet+T

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.