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10 things you wish the web could do by now – Part 1

Posted on 11th August 2009 in Insight, Interesting Stuff
Written by: Andy Wickes

A new series of posts on the Jellybean Blog.

After our 10 myths on the web here comes 10 things you thought the web could do by now. A look at how far we have come, and yet how far we need to go. We will identify how, despite all the advancements of the last 10 years of the web, we are still hamstrung by some simple, yet seemingly fundamental constraints.

This week we will be starting at the very beginning with internet access. The router of all evil.

We dealt with dial-up. It drove us mad, but at the same time it was a quantum shift in the way we communicated. For most of us our very first introduction to the web, email, IM and downloads. We became smitten. It was slow and noisy, but we forgave it all its gremlins and loved the revolution in information access it gave us.

Then came broadband and the web changed forever. Before we would wait for content to be delivered, loading from the top down, line by line. But now it was instant, and as a result producers of content created richer experiences like gaming, and video, and P2P, and IM again but with webcams (gosh!). There was no stopping us now.

But it is from this point that things reached something of a plateau.

We are now a truly mobile workforce and stats show how we own a desktop computer AND a laptop, and in some cases a netbook, purely for browsing the web rather than working. And yet, here’s the thing. Internet access still costs money.

If we are at home we have our ISP. Fair enough. But when we leave the house what then? We are out of range of our wireless routers. We need to use a cafe and pay fortunes to Starbucks, or (heaven forbid) scan for a neighbours unprotected network.

Internet access has become as vital to us as gas, water and Sky +, and yet it is still something we have to scavenge for throughout our daily lives.

Perhaps the solution to this has come around via the iPhone – itself a breakthrough in the way we browse the web; a portable, fully functional, content-rich browsing experience. There is talk of Apple equipping it’s notebooks with the same connectivity as the iPhones – namely 3G and GPRS, the protocols by which you connect to the mobile web, and through which the iPhone can position you within it’s networks (for mapping and sat nav purposes for example). By creating an account with Apple using it’s services you would store your account details and Apple’s 3G and GPRS server settings into your laptop, which would then dial to the same web services as the iPhone when you are on the move. Instant wireless web browsing without the fuss.

Simple eh? I’d agree. But while we might coo over the wizardry that is the new iPhone, we ought to remind ourselves that the infrastructure that gives is the mobile web has been around for ages! The signal is there! We have mobile phone signals and television signals and radio signals EVERYWHERE. Whether we use them or not they are there. They send, and in most cases (ignore tv and radio here) they receive. Which is what the web does in it’s rawest form. It’s there already, we just need to find a simple way to ensure it’s use is legitimate and paid for. And what is the simplest and most widely regarded method of this that we currently all have, if not a mobile phone?

So the infrastructure is in place. We already have a talk / data / text plan /chat bundle. So let’s stop the increased charges for ‘extra’ services and just open up the web to all. Stop pretending we have a ‘cloud’ (T Mobile, Vodafone) when all we really have are pockets of bright weather (genuinely free wireless) with mostly overcast areas of extortionate wireless hot spots coupled with dreadful coffee and £5.00 muffins.

As with all the other milestones in web development we could expect to see a raft of exciting new services and applications, taking into account the fact that we would be genuinely free to roam. Google Mapping, Streetview and Sat Nav all benefit from exact positioning data, and with notebooks and other mobile devices similarly connected we could see free calling using VOIP or CB frequencies (the US has had this for years) and a connected workforce the likes of which we have never seen.

And more importantly than all of that, I could then get on Twitter from the pub without paying.

That, friends, is progress.