A little over two years ago, I had the bright idea to write about the newest websites coming online. This was back in the day when Facebook and MySpace were still fighting for users, Twitter was just making its way into the UAE, and you couldn't swing a dead cat without hitting someone who had just developed a website to stream music.
It was the heyday of Web 2.0, and if nothing else, it was a great time to be involved in developing new technology. Boy, are those days over.
Last weekend, I found the screen shots of those websites so I decided to check up on them. Several are still around and doing well, but a good numbers of those sites had vanished. If there is one common thread among those that survived, it's the development of a mobile phone app.
Today, it's all about apps. If you want to see the latest in technology, you're not going to find it now on your computer, but on your mobile phone.
This, for the most part, sucks. In just two years, we've gone from the free-wheeling days of anything-goes technology to the controlled, cold, corporate environment of a branded online shop, which has been sanitised for your protection and scrubbed of any personality.
Apple, while not the only one doing this, is certainly leading the pack. The company's iPhone is producing a generation of technologically inclined sheep, who are willing pay for the device, pay to use it, and then flock to Apple's online store to pay more money to buy their apps.
Google is slightly better, because at least their operating system, Android, is open-sourced, so you get your apps for free. That doesn't mean there isn't money to be made, generally from the companies who charge through the nose for the phone, which is the only way to access Android. You also have to deal with the annoying proprietary software that these handset-makers threw into the mix as soon as possible, and there is still the possibility that the makers of Android phones will be able to block access to the app market place. Yes, there will be a way to work around this — there always is — but I don't want to have to work around it.
It makes you really miss the days of web 2.0, when anyone with a computer could get into the fun. Somewhere along the line we let the mobile phone-makers take over and now they are quickly and at times viciously trying to force the web back into the box. Once the genie is out of the bottle, there will be a hard fight getting it back out. We're looking at a duopoly between Apple and Google, which will dominate the mobile phone app industry.
What can be done? There's a part of me that thinks: You broke it, you bought it. Web 2.0 simply didn't pay. No one was going to keep developing cutting edge technology for free, and our spending habits showed we preferred convenience to innovation. In short: Rupert Murdoch was right.
But the other half of me remembers that no technology survives long before it's made redundant by something else. There are already a couple of tablets computer looking to challenge the iPad. Hopefully, one of these will be innovative enough to revamp the industry and push it forward.