Looking Forward

Watch this TEDxSantaCruz talk by Roger McNamee published in July. He made five very compelling hypothesis around the future of the internet and the web.

Please ignore the irony of the above video if it happens to embed with Flash! YouTube promises HTML5 video in the future through the wonders of this iframe…

Watch all 16 minutes, it’s well worth it.

Two points stand out for me in Roger McNamee’s talk: the decline of indexed search — namely Google, and Apple’s domination in apps and their almost victory over the web at large. He highlights the importance of web standards (“HTML5”) and predicts the demise of Flash, which to be fair has been a very long time coming, but the way McNamee mentions Flash as an aside — almost an after thought — is certainly insightful.

In regards to search, I ranted about how SEO is Killing Website Design in April. Anyone who knows me even remotely will know my complete disdain for anything “SEO”. I think that’s often mistaken for some sort of distaste for “search” and Google in general. That couldn’t be further from the truth! What I can’t stand is the completely illogical notions that anyone talking “SEO” is sure to utter. Warning, semi-rant ahead! “SEO” is a business that preys on the naivety of website owners who should be collaborating instead with designers, developers and copywriters directly. Search engines rank good, relevant content for users. It is so, so simple. Anything that intermediates that connection with snake oil, buzzword bingo and money that doesn’t go directly into either production or intelligent strategy thereof will rarely succeed in the long run. Don’t get me wrong, there are many techniques claimed under the moniker of “SEO” that make up good web development practice, but the majority of such practitioners have no idea what they’re really talking about. If I were to specialise as a website consultant I would keep this term as far away from me as possible, considering the ridiculous levels this common sense distraction has reached.

I think many more people would agree with me today than earlier this year (though a lot did back then). It helps that indexed search has peaked. I run several websites that get between 5–25k uniques per month. As a rough average across the board — bearing in mind my very tech-web-savvy audiences — less than 20% of that traffic is via “search engines” (Google).  The rest is scattered across referring sites and direct traffic. And in one case almost 3% via the RSS feed — go RSS! Of course those stats don’t resemble the web at large but it is a growing trend. Search will always have its place but it is not the end game for a successful website.

The death of Flash is a lot more obvious. I often get reminded on Twitter that Adobe only killed off the mobile runtime but my point is: no mobile = no web. Everyone from Microsoft to Apple to Facebook have publicly supported web standards, i.e. HTML5 & friends. Even Adobe themselves have with Muse and Edge. They made a complete hack of it, but it’s still early doors yet and a very positive sign for future production tools (I’ll remain skeptical for a while longer but the effort is duly noted).

For me this is all about looking forward.

You’ll have probably noticed that idea in a lot of my recent articles. That’s where the fun lies! There’s always time to reevaluate your practices to ensure you’re working on the right track. A large percentage of my time goes into research, experimentation, and collaboration with the web design & development community. Those guys know the score. I urge everyone to do the same, otherwise you’ll probably be stuck trying to optimise keywords in a Flash website in five years time. I wouldn’t wish that future for anyone!

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