The web as legacy technology

Examples of our evolving media landscape.

This tweet from @jamesrbuk (James Ball) caught my eye: “Average age of @guardian Facebook audience is 29. Website is 37, print paper 44. Amazing channel effect, really. #newsrw”

I’ve been thinking for some time how the web is “legacy” software, and that so many media companies just getting on the web are already behind the curve. This tweet says it all.

Or almost all. Because of course, the web isn’t just one thing. At Vidcon a couple of weeks ago, I was struck by the remark of one panelist, a young YouTube video star, advising his peers to get a Facebook page as well as their YouTube channel: “The audience there is older, and more male, but it’s still worthwhile….”

So even though YouTube is older than Facebook, the audience is younger…

It’s a wonderful, evolving media landscape these days. So much change, so much opportunity!

  • You might be seeing something else: the kids on youtube are doing something that is more passive, less sophisticated and less intimate than those older audiences on those other media. When they get older, they will be spending time elsewhere. Youtube could just be the Interent equivalent of Saturday morning cartoons format for the TV generation. Consider also that every app on a tablet or a phone has a web technology behind it somewhere storing data / housing user information to back that app. The web is There with a capital “T”.

    So you’re supposition that web=legacy might be dead wrong. I have a tough time imagining an Internet without the Web and only with Tablet and Phone apps. It’s almost akin to imagining the Internet without TCP/IP at this point.

    • Tomas Gradin

      Web ≠ Internet

      • And I never said it was. What point are you making? I recently had some confirmation on my thesis, too: My 14 year old niece spent most of her 13th year on youtube. She now almost never uses it and is more into Facebook, according to her older sisters.

  • Mike C

    I wouldn’t count out the web. The web is sort of “Linux/OSS/etc” to mobile’s “Microsoft” (think 1990s). That is mobile is a more popular but relatively closed platform, and there are lots of things that the former can do that the latter was just never very good at.

  • John Gilbey

    Interestingly, we still have rich paper sources despite all the predictions to the contrary…

    I reckon we are just looking at a much more complex information environment in future – with all sorts of “Long Tail” effects allowing folk to tune their consumption to the shapes and systems that are most convenient to them…

    Yes, we’ll have a core IP based platform – or whatever it evolves into – but the magic is in the variety it can support… Especially if we view ourselves as specifiers of services rather than as mere passive consumers of what someone else wants us to buy into…

    Just my 10 cents…

  • The web IS legacy technology, but this has nothing to do with the average age of the audience. The web is legacy technology because it stubbornly relies on (and perpetuates) broken software, broken platforms, broken protocols and broken concepts. And by broken, I mean utterly incapable of supporting the current pace of innovation. This ONLY applies to the web, and NOT the Internet in general! To quote Alan Kay:

    “The Internet was done so well that most people think of it as a natural resource like the Pacific Ocean, rather than something that was man-made. When was the last time a technology with a scale like that was so error-free? The Web, in comparison, is a joke. The Web was done by amateurs.”

  • There are many signs that the Web as we know it was just a first step. After all, how could we visualize the best way to set up and use something utterly new?

    There is also a ‘feedback effect’ of the Internet trial and error process. We started with just the Web as an interface, mostly one-way, and the rapid way in which we learned moved us toward apps and platforms like Facebook that sidestep the Web. This process will loop many times before the next generation will emerge that will make apps and Facebook look like baby steps.

    What’s coming next? I can see the next leap forward being the automation of interaction, as we’re starting to see with social media, but on a much broader scale. While eCommerce is automated, there is enormous space for greater machine-to-machine interaction through the Internet with humans having a more passive role of tweeking the machine and and consuming the outcome.

  • There’s a great TED talk on the topic by Kevin Slavin. I wrote up my opinions here:

  • The divisions aren’t uniform: the facebook (or twitter) audience spends a lot of their time jumping in and out of articles on the web. If you shut off the web, twitter and facebook would have a content problem – much of the interaction on those systems is commentary on things published elsewhere on the web.

    Historically one form doesn’t kill the others, it forces them to change – What TV did to Radio is the canonical example. It didn’t kill it, it made it better in some ways. No guaranteed that happens of course, but there are more outcomes to rise of a new media that the death of the old.