LouisGray.com: Web 2030

The Web 2030: Cinchcast Transcript

SM: Stuart Miniman, EMC
LG: Louis Gray, louisgray.com

SM: Hi, this is Stuart Miniman, and joining me is Louis Gray of louisgray.com, and today we are going to be extending the conversation from ON magazine, discussing the Web at 20 years. Thanks for joining me, Louis.

LG: Thank you, Stuart.

SM: So, there were three questions that ON Magazine asked a variety of experts, and I wanted to be able to get your input on these also. So the first one is, how has the Web changed your life?

LG: So, for me, I see the Web as really becoming a universal source for information for just about any topic any time, regardless of the source. It's really turned into the leading place for communication, whether it be friends, colleagues, family, or strangers, you can find out just about any topic at any time. It has really undone the traditional formats of scheduled information flow, where things used to come out at a specific time. You would go out and get your afternoon newspaper, you would get your nightly news... you can find out these things much more in advance now, as they are happening. It has reduced a lot of those barriers that were traditionally based on geography or class. So I can find things out from where I am, in the San Francisco Bay Area, that previously, you needed to be in Europe to find these out, or in South America, and these borders are just being eliminated.

For me personally, I have enjoyed being able to get access to people and companies in near real-time, where previously I might not have had a voice, I would have to send a letter to the editor, or write back to a product, and do this all via postal mail, possibly not getting a response. Now, I can anticipate being able to reach people at all sorts of levels in companies through the Web.

SM: So, really, you see that as accelerating what started, probably, with the printing press, and as media has changed, the information flow has really accelerated, and velocity has increased, to where we are today, which is really the real time Web as we would say.

LG: Absolutely. I think it mirrors transportation as well. If you look back only a couple hundred years, which sounds like a long time, but it isn't in the history of everything that has happened... and you've gone from walking to horse and buggy to cars and planes, and now you don't even need to travel. A lot of these barriers are being broken down, thanks to the Web. And the same thing has happened to communication. Whether it be from the telegraph to the postal mail to the telephone, to the Web, everything is happening faster, and you have the ability to get to anyone at any time.

SM: That leads us into our second question, which is, "How has the Web changed business and society?"

LG: I think it does. When you take a look at the virtualization of the physical, we've replaced physical communication with online messaging, whether that be e-mail, chat or conference calls, and we've reduced a lot of this commerce that we used to do in exchange for online. You can buy just about anything on eBay and Amazon, or even Walmart.com. Why would I need to go to Walmart if I can go to Walmart.com? The travel to meetings has largely been reduced. The kind of conversations I can have now with colleagues, no matter where they are, it kind of makes your location look really independent, and instead of having to fly out, you can just jump on any of the many different services that are out there, from WebEx to GoToMeeting, etc.

SM: I was wondering if I could poke on that a little bit, because there are some that say the Web has made things impersonal, and we don't have human interaction any more, and do you think that's the case?

LG: I think it is absolutely not the case. I think what you are looking for is... you get that human interaction in a different way. I believe I can now have that human interaction with a lot more people than I could before.

Previously, maybe your friend access was limited. If you have no Web, no telephone... you only get to communicate with those people you meet at the office, or at home, or your neighbors. Today, I can communicate and have human interaction with people who I have never met, if that makes any sense. You can have visits across different borders. So are things impersonal? I think there is the ability to do that. Those that hold on to anonymity, and those people that don't want to be discovered, and are holding back certain aspects of their true life, yeah, absolutely that's breaking down a tad, because people have opted to do so.

In my opinion, that's not the case at all.

SM: I would agree with you completely, Louis. There is the opportunity to really just broaden your connections. When I think historically... when I first started out in business, when you left one company and went to the other, you would have a big party and you would say goodbye, and especially if you moved out of the area, chances are you weren't going to talk to any of those coworkers again, and now, with the Web, and what we can do through social networking, we can keep in touch with the people that we want to, and keep sharing information, and it can really continue those relationships and flatten geography.

LG: Absolutely. You talk about the changes in society... it's become more than just the human side, but business and entertainment as well. Everyone is becoming a creator of content and entertainment itself, whether you are putting videos on YouTube, writing insights on a blogs, sharing photos on Facebook, Flickr... so all those people you said bye to at your last job, you are still connected to on LinkedIn, you're still friends on Facebook, and they are going to watch you as you move on and progress, and so, as this happens, I can see barriers really coming down, and so these antiquated barriers in terms of what information is valuable, and transparency, you've gotten from this very traditional, private society, to one where people are sharing everything.

Really, it comes down to what you want to do? Do you want to share the meals you are having, with pictures? Do you want to share your location as you check in to every new place? You can even put your spending habits online and show people exactly every single purchase that you are making on credit cards.

People are livestreaming. They are broadcasting even their most embarrassing moments for thousands or millions of people. So, you talk about impersonal and breaking down what used to be a very personal and one to one communication, going one to many, many to one, and it's not going away. It's just changing the definition.

SM: Sure. So we've talked about where the Web has come over the last twenty years, and I wanted to get your thoughts on where you thought the Web was going to look like twenty years from now.

LG: I'll first preface that any predictions I have will be wrong. The reason I say that is because if you look back twenty years, it's amazing to think what has changed. Twenty years ago, we just had the initial first personal computers in our home. We were maybe probably playing the first versions of SimCity and Myst, if you remember those games, getting the turtle to go correctly on your LOGO, so things have dramatically changed, and as communication gets faster, and information becomes accessible to just about anyone in high quality, sometimes I think the only real limits are physics and our own imagination.

As you know, working in the hardware and networking space, the underlying components of the Web, be it software, servers or networking, processing, as they all get better, so can the potential for the new ideas. I look just five years ago... full-length movie downloads were impossible. You could go to Atlanta where there was a test case for video on demand, and now, not only is that happening, but it's streaming and there are multiple providers. It's streaming full-length movie downloads.

What's to say that can't continue to happen, where you have that maturation? That activity is going to become faster, mobile, more connected. Why not speculate that twenty years from now, you can have in your pocket or on your headgear, or whatever device this is, the entirety of the world's publications and videos, ever published?

SM: Absolutely. There was a great interview with Bob Metcalfe, one of the inventors of Ethernet, in the ON Magazine, and I think you've touched on this. There are a few key areas where he expects to see the most growth, are in video and in mobile and embedded, and I think you are repeating those same themes.

LG: Absolutely. I think it's not a huge speculation to say that is happening. People know that it is moving toward mobile, and the idea of a desktop computer is almost as antiquated as a mainframe these days. So you went from mainframe to desktop to laptop to mobile, and I expect to have the real Internet, like Steve Jobs always promised us, the real Internet is going to be in our mobile devices.

The next step, we talked about being personal and connected... Today, you can hear my voice. Today we can go and do a video presentation where I can see you, but what about those other senses? Why not speculate that in twenty years, and it will probably start in the porn industry, as it usually does, before moving on to go more mainstream, that you can share things like touch and taste and smell, without being in the same geographical location as the other person.

SM: So now we need to re-read Brave New World and talk about the Feelies that they had... or we can watch Willie Wonka and get the Smell-o-Vision.

LG: Every single time you look at some of these things that are actually developed, they are always science fiction and trade fiction that have thought of it before, because we do have these ideas. You look 500, or 1,000 years ago, and people were talking about flying in magical machines that could go in the air, and eventually, it happened. So there's no reason that "eventually it could happen" again, with each of these things that at some point seem like fiction.

SM: Hey, Louis, I appreciate you taking the time, and look forward, as the Web keeps increasing and moving forward, reading your early adoption writings on your blog and thank you for taking time.

LG: Appreciate it, thank you.

SM: Thanks, Louis.