Is the Internet shrinking now?

For about one year I feel an “unbalance in the force”. The feeling that a big, long-lasting change has happened, that we have changed cycle:
The Internet is now shrinking. Not in size, in number of users, but in ambition.

high-water mark

The last cycle embraces roughly the last 15 years, and it’s been an amazing journey:
I remember back in 1994, sitting in my university dorm room (or what it my neighbor’s room? I don’t remember owning a PC at that time) and trying the new stuff: Linux with X-windows and a little program called Mosaic to see graphical pages on the “World Wide Web”. Or was it running Windows 95 beta with Netscape 2 ? Or maybe both, I’m not sure.

There were actually very few sites to visit. I remember being told by a friend (there was no portal, no search at that time…) to go to the Louvre website, one of the few to have high-quality pictures. It was amazing.

Porn sites didn’t exist either. To get hot stuff, you had to download text files from Usenet and build images out of them with complex tools like uudecode.

As incredible as it may seem today, you couldn’t search either. Just look at the web archive and you will see that Google did not exist until late 1998.

You couldn’t find stuff. No music. Computers at that time were not powerful enough to decode mp3 music, and did not have enough storage anyway!

So the web at that time was very small, and had very little “functionality” or use for day to day activities.

Fast forward to 2005.
Web 2.0 is all the rage. The Internet has become a marketplace, an application platform, people starts blogging en masse. Wikipedia shows that collaborative efforts can.
Maybe circa 2006-2007 we have witnessed the high-water of the web, ambition-wise.

We never have been so close the see the vision of the 21th century web fulfilled: an universal, open, ubiquitous software and services platform.
Despite impressive efforts, like HTML5 standard, Webkit, Cappuccino, and the demise of poisons like Flash or Internet Explorer 6, the web is under new threats.

Next post will explain why the Internet is shrinking in ambition, and why it matters.