Ready for some new revelations on the state of the Web? “Dumb” and “dusty” are two adjectives used to describe the Web in a recent report by Forrester Research, Inc., in Cambridge, MA. The report predicts that the Internet will experience a second round of expansion that will take it beyond the browser to become a more interactive and pervasive medium. Forrester dubs it the “X Internet,” which will eclipse the Web and will be more executable, offering real-time, interactive data through disposable code or programs that can be used once and then thrown away.

But will it really happen? And what will it mean to you? In this article, I’ll relay some differing opinions on the report’s predictions on the future of the Internet.

The new incarnation of the Web
In support of the X Internet theory, Forrester’s Chairman of the Board and CEO George F. Colony said that the “Web will fade and be replaced by a new software paradigm.” He added, “We have just gone through the calisthenics of the Internet economy. There was lots of huffing and puffing, but the match hasn’t even started yet.”

The 21-page Forrester report said the evolved Internet will provide decision-makers with real-time information about what’s going on in their businesses, allowing them to make immediate adjustments according to their needs. But, it also described the Web as “cold, clammy, and pale” and predicted “the current Internet’s steroid-boosted second incarnation will muscle its way into a myriad of devices.”

Many similar projections have already been laid out, sans the flowery prose. “The Web isn’t going away,” asserted Christopher Hoffman, director of business solutions services at IDC, a Framingham, MA, technology advisory company. “It’s here to stay, and companies are just now exploring ways to apply the Internet in real ways, rather than in the crazy overblown business models we’ve seen.”

The Internet will only improve, according to Hoffman. “Right now, companies are looking at the Web as a way of increasing the efficiency of their supply chain and forming better relationships with their customers.”

New tools meet old business needs
The future will be “a combination of the Web and old-economy applications,” Hoffman predicts. “Companies will be Web-sizing their applications. Until recently, all applications were written in a client-server mode relying on servers from the outside rather than inside. Now companies are creating Internet-based applications. Instead of being tethered to a PC to access mainframe company data, you can do it from a browser 1,000 miles away.”

So is the Web fading? “Nonsense,” snaps Gene Phifer, vice president and research director of Internet Strategies at the Gartner Group, a research and advisory services company in Stamford, CT. He envisions the Web evolving into the Supranet, a “world where we have ubiquity of access whether it be though mobile devices, cell phones, or traditional browsers on our PCs.” Consumer appliances will be Internet-connected with their own IP addresses. Along with local area networks (LANs) and wide area networks (WANs), Phifer says there will be personal area networks (PANs) to plug into any environment in which you want to interact.

A different perspective
What’s missing in the Forrester report is a short- and long-term view of the market, asserts Tom Koulopoulos, president of the Delphi Group, a business and IT advisory firm in Boston. “Overall, the report’s goal is to paint the Internet in a positive light,” he says. “But initially, you get the impression that everything we’ve done so far has been a fool’s journey and we need to go back to ground zero. That’s not the case at all. We have to take a long view, which says that from a technical standpoint, there is a lot more we have to develop and deploy.”

Yet, Allen Shaheen, CEO of ArsDigita Corp., a Cambridge, MA, software development and services company, agreed with Forrester’s overall assessment of the marketplace. “But, the report failed to say the Web is only in its infancy. We’ve passed the novelty stage, and now it’s down to business,” he said. “Now Web companies will be concentrating on building their companies and reaching customers rather than going for the numbers.”

Change is the constant
But, Internet observers universally agree that change is in the works, which means new career options. Expect strong demand for system integrators who can tie together disparate systems; i.e., customer relationship management (CRM) systems and supply chain packages and back-office enterprise resource planning (ERP) environments; XML and wireless programmers; and seasoned techies to simplify the technology so average consumers can learn it quickly.

That’s for starters. Be on the lookout for new technologies and jobs yet to be named.

Get in touch with the futurist within

Go ahead, peer into that crystal ball. What do you see in the Internet’s future? How will your industry be changed? Start a discussion by posting a comment below.