How we use the Internet is changing. For the last 15-odd years all the talk, trends and emphasis has been on an open, standards-compliant web — and rightly so.
However, in recent years the rise of applications has added a new slant to this argument.
Chris Andreson, Wired magazine’s editor-in-chief and originator of the ‘long tail’ concept, took a long look at this trend in a recent piece for the magazine.
“As much as we love the open, unfettered Web, we’re abandoning it for simpler, sleeker services that just work.”
A quick think about how you use the Internet should be enough to prove the point: Skype, iPhone, iPad, email, iTunes, iPlayer, instant messaging — they’re all applications of one flavour or the other.
And while they all use the Internet to connect, they are proprietary, not open browser-based services. This is having a profound effect on the business models of the web. The predominant monetisation method of the last 10 years has been based on advertising. Attract enough eyeballs to any given web page and you could carve out some level of revenue through well-targeted ads on a per impression or pay-per-click model. The problem with this method is that it simply hasn’t stacked up for many firms.
However, as consumers become increasingly willing to pay for simple, effective, single-serving solutions to their needs, new business models are appearing. An online publisher might now consider selling an iPad version of their magazine or newspaper alongside free web-based content.
Many companies are becoming even more creative in this space. Jamie Oliver’s hugely successful recipe app has spawned dozens of competitors. Travellers can now purchase apps that deliver walking tours, find restaurants and provide foreign language translations — many provided or sold by major publishers.
Which is great for anyone trying to figure out how to generate revenues online — but it also creates two distinct opportunities for developers in this space. Firstly, they can create simple, single-serving services that directly address a given problem for a well-defined market. Last week’s SHOWCASE conference in Derry provided plenty of examples of smart companies doing just that.
At the same time, it’s not difficult to see where companies could create custom versions of these apps in association with major brands or online publishers.
As it becomes increasingly embedded in every aspect of our daily lives, how we use the Internet will continue to evolve, creating new business models. Applications are clearly driving this latest iteration, which makes it a smart bet for Northern Ireland’s businesses and developers. But given the kinds of local businesses that are coming to the fore, they’re already ahead of the game.
Mark Nagurski is the newly appointed digital champion for Derry. You can find him online at www.digitalderry.org