Future of the Web

There has been a lot of news lately about the future of the web. First, let me drop some links:
Disruptive changes from Microsoft
Yahoo! Local/Maps
Sun and the Office
Yahoo and Tivo
Google helps

Firefox gets it’s 10%

Microsoft is finally acknowledging that the web is for more than buying books, reading the news, and keeping in contact with friends. The web is more than just a fun place to hang out, it’s a place for building applications — applications that would traditionally be built for Windows.

Most people see Google as Microsoft’s biggest challenger. They’re giving far too little credit to Yahoo. Sure, Google has some snazzy new applications like Gmail and Google Maps, but Yahoo has a calendar, shopping, games, Flickr, Tivo integration, and a lot more. They’re not exactly slacking off. Don’t get my wrong. Google is still a major threat to Microsoft, but they’re not the only one. Sun is working on making it easier for people to share documents, while Google is working on OpenOffice — a cross platform office suite.

I wonder what most people really use use their computers for on an average day. I’d guess that checking email and surfing the web are fairly universal. Saving and pictures, listening to music, and managing finances probably rank pretty high. Managing a calendar and word processing are very important, but typically only at work. How much of this can be done on the web? Okay, maybe it all doesn’t work as well in a browser as you’d like, but we’re getting there.

The really interesting thing (at least to me) is that by far most of these new, cool, web applications run equally well on Internet Explorer and Firefox. If the day comes where the vast majority of what people use computers for (say, 95%) can be done in a browser, then what operating system you’re using doesn’t matter so much. Microsoft realizes this. They also realize that people want to use open standards based documents. Well, most probably don’t understand what that means, but they know they don’t want to be locked-in to one vendor.

I don’t expect Microsoft to give up very easily, but I do see them working on a good Plan B by providing web based services. I’m not sure how long it will take for this trend to mature, but when it does it could mean very good things for consumers.