The Web Wide World — The Web Spreads Into the Physical World

I have noticed an interesting and important trend of late. The Web is starting to spread outside of what we think of as “the Web” and into “the World.” This trend is exemplified by many data points. For example:

  • The Web on mobile devices like the iPhone. Finally it’s really usable on a phone. Now it goes everywhere with us. Soon we will track our own paths on our phones as we move around, creating a virtual map of our favorite places and routes.
  • Location aware applications and services, such as Google Maps Mobile. They link physical places to virtual places on the Web.
  • The Web in cars.  Auto avigation units will soon be Web-enabled.
  • Next-generation Wi-Fi digital cameras are wifi-enabled, linking directly to camera GPS and to photo sharing and storage services. Will cloud-centric wireless cameras with zero local storage come next?
  • Web picture frames such as Ceiva bring the Web into your grandma’s livingroom.
  • The Web in restaurants and stores. Your server gets your reservation on the Web from OpenTable. In-store kiosks connect to the Web to help you shop, or to bring up your online account and shopping cart.
  • The Web in your garden. GardenGro‘s sensor connects your garden to the Web, in order to figure out what to plant and how to cultivate it in your actual location.
  • Everything becomes trackable with RFID. Physical objects have virtual locations.
  • Sensors are connecting to the Web and popping up everywhere. For example here.
  • Plastic Logic‘s portable plastic reading device. The pad of paper, version 2.0.
  • The beginnings of an Internet of Things — where every thing has an address on the Web.
  • The rise of Lifestreaming, in which everything (or much of what) one does is captured to the Web and even broadcast.
  • Progress on Augmented Reality — instead of the physical world going into virtual worlds, the virtual world is going to flow into the physical world.

These are just a few data points. There are many many more. The trendline is clear to me.

Things are not going to turn out the way we thought. Instead of everything going digital — a future in which we all live as avatars in cyberspace — The digital world is going to invade the physical world. We already are the avatars and the physical world is becoming cyberspace. The idea that cyberspace is some other place is going to dissolve because everything will be part of the Web. The digital world is going physical.

When this happens — and it will happen soon, perhaps within 20 years or less — the notion of “the Web” will become just a quaint, antique concept from the early days when the Web still lived in a box. Nobody will think about “going on the Web” or “going online” because they will never NOT be on the Web, they will always be online.

Think about that. A world in which every physical object, everything we do, and eventually perhaps our every thought and action is recorded, augmented, and possibly shared. What will the world be like when it’s all connected? When all our bodies and brains are connected together — when even our physical spaces, furniture, products, tools, and even our natural environments, are all online? Beyond just a Global Brain, we are really building a Global Body.

The World is becoming the Web. The “Web Wide World” is coming and is going to be a big theme of the next 20 years.

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