Back in late September, I attended the MIT Review Emerging Technologies Conference, which included a speech by Bill Joy (current Kleiner-Perkins partner and co-founder of Sun Microsystems). In it, he reiterated his “Six Webs” framework of how he categorizes the taxonomy of different webs comprising the entire Internet – the here, near, far, weird, B2B, and D2D (device to device) webs – from the perspective of how and when they are viewed and used. (Read this and this summary for a further explanation).
One of his notions, “the far web,” is the “the Internet you see when you sit back from a big screen.” A user’s experience in this situation is much different than it is on a laptop/desktop computer (“the near web”) or mobile device (“the here web”). The first place where consumers are experiencing this far web is on what is now our private television screens. With the ongoing convergence, this device will increasingly become webbed into various networks.
The second component is the screens in public places. In the past, we’ve only seen only a handful of instances of it, namely a few (marginally successful) kiosks. However, it appears as though we are perched on the proliferation of digital signage, the first step in moving the “far web” to the “everywhere web.” In recent months, I personally have seen flat-panel advertising displays pop up in malls, elevators, and retail outlets. While visions of screens everywhere were prophesized during the bubble, today low flat-panel screen costs and near-ubiquitous connectivity give this vision a tangible reality that wasn’t available six years ago. (Forrester recently wrote a piece entitled “Digital Signage Grows Up.”)
As the number of these screens explodes, they will transition from mere digital slideshows to truly “everywhere web” connected devices. Yahoo, with its eyes on becoming the interactive media giant, sees this coming, and made a unique partnership with Clear Channel’s Malls unit and Digital Advertising Network, a Montreal-based provider of digital screen networks. While Yahoo is merely a content provider in this agreement – supplying news headlines, financial information, and blurbs about sports and entertainment – it marks a notable venture for the company into the proliferation of the networked web information into public spaces. (To be honest, I am surprised how little hype this announcement drew given the ramifications, at least from my perspective.)
The transformation from dumb screens to connected ones, coupled with their upcoming flourishing, will take the far web out of the house and move it everywhere. And if Yahoo sees this coming, then notable (and soon-to-be successful) emerging startups can’t be too far behind.