Even though our blog is less than a month old, we have gotten a lot of great feedback and suggestions from readers. Apart from questions like, “Do you really know how to surf?” many have asked for a more in-depth explanation of Roger’s 10 Hypotheses for Tech Investing. We’ve also had requests to offer tangible examples of products and companies that that line up with these hypotheses. To facilitate this, we are going to put together a set of “Exploration” posts over the coming months. My hope is that they will bring the 10 Hypotheses to life and encourage like-minded people to engage in the discussion.
Big Change #1: The Hypernet Emerges from the Web + Cellular + WiFi
It’s hard to believe that only 5 years ago, Microsoft Windows ran on over 95% of Internet-connected devices. For all practical purposes, smart phones were not even web capable. There were no tablets as they are currently conceived. It was a pretty simple Internet world. PCs with browsers and windowed interfaces and applications accessed a single worldwide web with linked pages indexed primarily by Google.
But the advent of the iPhone changed things. Apple transformed the smart phone from a carrier-centric device that could make calls and handle e-mails to an always-on computer ecosystem with a new way to access the web and a new application model. Soon, Google and others created an alternative post-PC ecosystem and the race was on.
That Apple changed the smart phone market is well understood. One only has to look at the collapsing fortunes of the leading smart phone vendors such as RIM, Palm, and Nokia to see this as well as Apple’s stock price since Steve Jobs’ iPhone keynote in 2006. But the more important and subtle change has been that the new devices that we have put into our pockets and purses have changed the fundamental architecture of the Internet. This is Big Change #1.
From this first big change emerges the Hypernet. More precisely, the Hypernet is the physical infrastructure that results from combining the Internet with cellular and WiFi. At present, half of the nodes are computers and half are smart phones, but the balance is shifting away from computers.
Big Change #2: Leveraging the Hypernet architecture, the Hyperweb moves past browsers and pages
The potential of an architecture that merges the Internet plus cellular plus WiFi is bigger than it seems at first glance – it will change the way we interact with digital products and services.
More precisely, the Hyperweb is the new user experiences enabled by a world of billions of nodes connected to millions of clouds. Another key aspect to the Hyperweb is our belief that HTML5 will be a fundamentally important building block.
How will the Hypernet/Hyperweb Change Digital Experiences? Examples
Now that we have laid the foundations for the hypernet and hyperweb, let’s explore some specific examples of how the technology landscape is likely to change:
Hyperweb Example 1: New Ways of Hyperlinking
Like many people who follow blogs on the Internet, I found Dave Winer’s post on Why apps are not the future to be an interesting read. In the article, he discusses how a key advantage of the web over apps is linking rather than the silo approach of apps in which only the app provider has control of what goes in and out. Not long after Dave’s post, George Colony at Forrester gave a speech at LeWeb, which proposed an alternative viewpoint, declaring, “The web is on life support.”
Both points of view have make solid points. Dave’s contention that an app world where everyone builds a separate skyscraper and allows only the people inside each building control what happens points out a lot of the limitations of the app model. But George argues persuasively that much of the web is as messy as it is open and that users like the safety of the app world. He also points out that the continued rise of processing power at endpoints as well as continued exponential increases in storage make the web model as we know it today not the best use of the computing resources at our disposal.
My view is that the Hyperweb will reconcile Dave’s affinity for links with George’s view of a future “App Internet.” I think that this is due to the fact that the hyperweb redefines linking in exciting new ways.
The diagram below shows how we think this will play out. In the “simple” web experience, linked web pages are viewed via browsers primarily on Windows computers and are indexed by Google. The hyperweb broadens our definition of linking. A whole new set of instrumented smart nodes interact with a rich variety of connected clouds, apps, and services which can be hosted, local, or hybrid in terms of where they reside.
The examples of this today are early in their evolution, but as the industry begins to advance and build on the concepts of the hyperweb, things will get really interesting. In this and a few upcoming posts, we will start to offer ideas and examples, getting a little further out into the future as we go along.
Hyperweb Example 2: ifttt
In the spirit of full disclosure, FLOODGATE is an investor in ifttt’s seed round. Ifttt stands for “if this then that.” It is designed to put the early hyperweb to work for people by creating tasks that follow a simple “if this then that” structure. “If this” is the trigger, such as “if there will be rain today,” or “if I get an attachment in Gmail,” or “if I take a photo on Instagram.” “Then that” is the automated action, such as “then send me a text message”, or “then store it in Dropbox”, etc.
Ifttt “recipes” can link services together to enable early types of hyperweb experiences. Below are some examples:
Right now, ifttt is in its infancy and in early Beta form. All caveats apply. But it pulls together a set of ideas that I believe have a chance to be very meaningful.
Hyperweb Example 3: Content Unbound
It’s amazing that 1080p HDTV quality has entered the mainstream at such a low cost. It’s equally amazing that we put up with the awful user experiences that are the front-end of this awesome hardware. Every TV I own has multiple boxes fed by proprietary pipes owned by large companies with a distribution lock on content. Each box feeds the TV with wires that are tangled behind a cabinet in an almost incomprehensible mess. And having a simple way to access the content with a remote? Forget about it.
In our view, the hyperweb offers the potential to transform the use of video content and TVs the way the iPhone transformed the value and utility of mobile devices. This hypothesis is a little bit further out in time, but already several pieces are coming together.
Imagine if, instead of having a jumble of boxes with pipes that are owned by big companies and wires that are a confusing tangle with an array of incompatible remotes, you could instead migrate all of the functions of these boxes to your smart device. In this world, a player or a streaming device or a DVR is just an “app” or a programmable service. Imagine further that you could take these devices anywhere (throughout your house, a hotel room in another country, your friend’s place – anywhere there is a screen) and zap the content to the screen wirelessly. This is an example of a hyperweb-centric way of re-imagining connected TVs. Not only this, a world of connected TV content “apps” on smart mobile devices would liberate the capabilities in new ways. When a Blu-Ray player and a TiVo and a Roku box are physical devices, they are far less flexible than if they could behave like programmable objects that can link together. Someday, we believe that content interactions between apps should be as easy as dropping a photo from an app like Instagram into a cloud service like Dropbox.
We also believe that the war to build the perfect general set top box or the ultimate smart TV user interface is an example of how companies tend to look in the rear-view mirror. For example, if I were Google, rather than create a set top box to compete with traditional TV providers on their turf, I would use Android on smart phones and tablets to wildly disrupt them by migrating the functions to the devices in a way that would delight consumers and turn existing value delivery networks upside down. Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon could do something like this as well.
Another belief of mine: If you had to bet on who is more likely to create a compelling interface for video and entertainment content, would you side with the set top box and TV hardware makers or the folks who have built the new user experiences on smart phones? My money is on the latter group and when this is combined with the empowerment offered through mobility and programmable linking, I believe that it is only a matter of time before content becomes unbound as a rich new hyperweb-powered set of experiences.
- The iPhone did more than change the smartphone market: Its success serendipitously changed the architecture of the Internet.
- The Hypernet is the physical infrastructure that results from combining the Internet with cellular and WiFi. At present, half of the nodes are computers and half are smart phones, but the balance is shifting away from computers.
- The Hyperweb is the new user experiences enabled by a world of billions of nodes connected to millions of clouds. Another key aspect to the Hyperweb is our belief that HTML5 will be a fundamentally important building block.
- Hyperweb experiences will redefine our expectations of how we interact with technology. Today, we interact with web services via browsers and windows and PCs and graphical apps on tablets and smartphones. But in the future, there will be entire new experiences that result from a new way of linking the billions of smart nodes in our lives to the millions of smart clouds that will deliver services by themselves as well as through their interactions with each other.
- We offered ifttt and the idea of decoupling TV content from boxes under TVs as two examples of new experiences that the hyperweb will enable. But there are many more examples, such as driverless cars, multi-tier cloud services, and others that we will discuss in the coming months.
- We are extremely interested in your views as well! Make sure to get in touch with us with your ideas and comments.
Next up: HTML5, Driverless Cars, and Multi-tiered Cloud Services
There are many more examples yet to be discussed. In upcoming posts, I will be drilling down on why we think HTML5 will be fundamental to the Hyperweb as well as offer more examples such as self-driving cars and multi-tiered cloud services. But these topics are for future posts. In the meantime, hopefully this will kick-start a conversation about the potential of Hypernet/Hyperweb experiences.