The Next Chapter

Critics predict Web sites will become even more annoying. But they'll be more stable and require less manual labor, too.

That Feels Awful

At Web sites of the future, all senses will be involved, including smell and feel. For example, for a food site you'll have a device on your PC that emits the odor of a pot roast and perhaps a device that lets you feel its texture. And the image will be in three dimensions.

— Scott Testa, president, Mindbridge Inc., Norristown, Pa.

Forcing Customers Online

The high cost of maintaining customers in both off-line (store, phone, mailing center) and online channels will force company Web sites to become the epicenter of customer services and sales. As a result, companies will strengthen their online customer service and create a genuinely interactive experience, with animated agents, live chat or voice-over-IP customer service. The challenge will be in forcing multiple channel users to use just the online channel and then converting off-line customers to online.

— Idil Cakim, director of knowledge development, Burson-Marsteller, New York

Ruining a Good Thing

The prevalence of intrusive advertising will ruin the Web experience and limit the appeal of broad-spectrum Web browsing. Indeed, within the next two years, public Web sites will be as unappealing as public restrooms: essential if you're desperate, but decidedly unpleasant. Pop-overs, pop-unders, faux search results, animated skyscrapers, fictitious dialog boxes, interstitials . . . all will bombard users, driving them away and discouraging them from exploring the Web.

Who knows what annoying technology advertisers and browser developers will create next? The only winners will be recognized name-brand sites, which can encourage visitors to pay or register in order to turn off the advertising.

— Alan Zeichick, principal analyst, Camden Associates, San Bruno, Calif.

Business Hubs

In the world of business-to-business markets, Web sites will become less relevant. Custom, private, jointly created digital hubs and extranets will be the real environments for business dialogue.

— Ralph A. Oliva, executive director, Institute for the Study of Business Markets, Smeal College of Business, Pennsylvania State University, University Park

More Stable, More Automated

There's good news and bad news coming for Web site stability and management. The good news is that sites should become more and more stable as time progresses; their performance and dependability will continue to improve as coding becomes cleaner, and the lack of pesky competition in the browser market means only one product - Internet Explorer - to design around.

The bad news is that it will take fewer human beings to tend to the machines that serve up this newfound stability, meaning decreased salaries and head count around the business of Web site operation. (Then again, this is good news if you're an employer.)

— Jim Bunte, CEO, Transistor 8 LLC, Santa Monica, Calif., and member of the original development team for Homestore.com

The Three-Tiered Internet

Within seven years, the Internet as we know it won't exist. Instead, we'll have a multitiered Internet. The top tier will be a business-quality Internet that's wrapped in a virus-free zone achieved through extremely rigorous outer-perimeter security restrictions. This tier will have tight quality-of-service controls and the highest levels of redundancy. A middle tier will extend Web services into the consumer space, where individuals will have a virtual commerce identity to conduct transactions on the Internet. The average consumer will use e-mail, chat and streaming - and many will also use avatar-based online worlds as another means of communication.

The lower tier will be occupied by public-service organizations that, because of their direct interface with the mainstream public, require a more accessible and traditional presence.

— Duncan Black and Dave Asprey, business strategists, Cable & Wireless PLC, London and Santa Clara, Calif. Downsides of High Bandwidth
With high-bandwidth connections becoming more common in the next two years, Web developers will eschew the static site and provide interactive multimedia Web features - even if they don't serve a purpose beyond being eye candy. This will lead to further Internet congestion, taxing routers and other network hardware.

Also as a result of high-bandwidth connections, spammers and virus writers will exploit the opportunity to provide multimedia spam and worms delivered at high speed right to your desktop.

— Sunil Hazari, adjunct professor, Robert H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland, College Park

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"Hi. I'm Mark."
In the next six to 12 months, the Web will feature avatars—"emotive interfaces" with human faces and voices—for applications such as customer service and online training, says Mark Yahiro, president of Pulse Entertainment Inc. in San Francisco. He says the key to widespread adoption is developing low-cost, lightweight avatars with technology that creates videolike characters at one-tenth the cost of video and with files that are 1% or 2% the size of video files. In this illustration, a virtual character is created from a photo by selecting a few key movable parts of the face; then the image will be placed on a 3-D wireframe.



In the next six to 12 months, the Web will feature avatars—

In the next six to 12 months, the Web will feature avatars—
Jot It Down
In a year or so, users will be able to call up a Web site with just a handwritten symbol or abbreviation, without ever touching a keyboard, predicts Leonid Kitainik, general manager of Pen&Internet, a unit of Parascript LLC in Niwot, Colo. In this illustration, the user of a wireless handheld device writes CNN and circles it, telling the handwriting-recognition engine that it wants to call up the CNN/Sports Illustrated Web site.

In a year or so, users will be able to call up a Web site with just a handwritten symbol or abbreviation, without ever touching a keyboard.

Special Report

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Hard-Workin' Web Sites

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Copyright © 2002 IDG Communications, Inc.

  
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