Moving Forward Means Jumping Backward

April 3rd, 2008 | Categories: design, marketing, markets, off topic, strategy, trends, usability, web issues

Evolution is a funny thing. It is the gradual process of improvement, whereby every cycle leads to a more superior result - whether it be an organism or a product. Having said that, evolution is not an exact science. Quantitative analysis cannot be employed and qualitative analysis may vary depending on the views of the observer. Over time, external factors and changes in the surrounding environment may skew the ultimate path of the original design. This leads us back to humanity and, well, the Internet. As we continue to push forward, the future begins to look eerily similar to the past. Evolution has come full circle.

Stepping into the offline world for a second, let’s take a look at arguably two of today’s biggest trends: organic foods and going green. Organic foods essentially lack pesticides or artificial compounds. Going green means decreasing carbon emissions, pollution, and waste. Based on these trends, it can be presumed that the ultimate goal is a world where all food is organic and the environment is clean and pollution-free. Sound familiar? Believe it or not, we are working toward a world where we’ve already been. Think back 100 years or more.

So what happened? Why hasn’t evolution improved the quality of our food and environment over the years?

External factors kicked in. In an attempt to minimize costs (expenses) and maximize efficiency (revenues), corporations began to cut corners. As we all know, this was at the expense of consumer health and the environment. Of course, you can purchase organic food or green-friendly products, but they generally cost more. At the end of the day, ethics have taken a backseat to profits.

So how does this relate to the future of the Internet?

When the Internet was established, it was a pure, simple entity. A simple combination text and links allowed a user to quickly and easily navigate pages. Had the Internet remained as such, the online world wouldn’t be subject to near as much clutter and waste as it is today (this is a generalization of course, as many new technologies have paved the way for much advancement and development). Once again, however, corporations began to take note of the revenue-generating potential of this new medium and piled on board. At this point, the metaphorical pesticides and pollutions of the Internet were created and the user was put backseat to profits.

The continual addition of new features and revenue-generating mechanisms have led to bloated applications, SPAM, confusing interfaces, and a myriad of other headaches that can be classified as Internet waste. The original, semantic concept of the Internet may be the purest, most logical form of communication known to mankind, but it has been lost in all the chaos and disorder.

Presently, we are being blinded by technology and losing sight of where we are headed. In order to get back on track and create a more useful communication network (i.e. the Internet), we need to maximize usability and eliminate disorder. The current evolution of the Internet is steering us farther and farther away from this goal.

But there is hope - perhaps only a glimmer at this point. The Internet is starting to move “backwards”, albeit very slowly at this point. Purity and simplicity may save us, but we continue to kill ourselves with evolution - it is apparent both in the online and offline world. That being said, it is in our best interest to take a glance back at where we came from. If the result is a more desirable outcome, then it is our duty to take a step (maybe even a leap) backward in order to progress onward.

One Comment

  1. Rian Says:

    Hmm, I think of craigslist and their new ( blog as I read your post. I was trying to decide for myself today if I like it or not. I must say I do miss the conveniences of the modern net (eg. an RSS feed). I think simplicity on the net is a given, but not to the point where we are taking out great features just for the sake of purity.

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