An article in today’s NYTimes magazine has me thinking about the state of the Internet. While I understand the author’s concern about the segmentation of the ‘net experience, I think that this is a natural evolution. I’ve been running web servers since 1993, and have watched things evolve from “gee, isn’t this so cool that it works” to “OMG, how do we keep the bad guys out of our workstations and servers.” Read Fatal System Error to get a picture of who’s behind the malware on your computer. The key for a successful walled garden is to provide an effective tradeoff between protection and restriction. Is Apple’s too restrictive? If so, vote with your wallet and move to Android. I think that Android will provide the measure of healthy competition that will keep Apple innovating and which will keep them from too much lock-in of functionality. The problem is that today’s personal computers (PC and Mac) are too complex and configurable. The industry is maturing, and becoming more appliance-like. The next few years will see more people eschewing traditional home computers for appliances – tablets like the iPad and the cascade of Android tablets that will appear soon, TV’s with network media consumption abilities, smart phones, and more. We’ll have a computer in the home for keyboard-centric activities, but not one per family member, as the appliances will take on “personal” computing roles, and that’s itself a transient condition.
Don’t be wistful about the Internet of yore, as this is not the “beginning of the end”; this is the “end of the beginning” of the personal digital revolution.