What a tangled web we weave, when at first we try to receive … content for a single web page from 150 different content servers. Maybe I am just noticing this more lately, given that the hard drive in my laptop is reaching capacity, but the web is becoming far too fragmented. One central tenet of convergence is that a single network platform can be used for voice, video, and data.
As the web becomes more multimedia based, that means a single web page might be serving up HTML data from one server, a video advertisement from another, and a VoIP-based customer service chat box from yet another server—not to mention all the other mashed-up content on a typical page today.
The result for me is that virtually any web page my browser tries to load is now taking two to four seconds longer as content is loaded from various social networking sites, ad networks, and content farms. Regardless of how much of this may be attributable to the lack of memory in my laptop, it is clear that the web browsers of the future will need to load converged content differently.
We have been using HTML 4 as a standard since 1997. That’s a lot of mileage out of a standard for such a nascent technology. HTML 5 is in the wings and got its biggest boost when Steve Jobs, in April 2010, issued a public letter titled “Thoughts on Flash.” In that letter, he concluded that “(Adobe) Flash is no longer necessary to watch video or consume any kind of web content” and that “new open standards created in the mobile era, such as HTML 5, will win.” Thus a converged web also means a single platform serving up converged content to both desktop devices on the corporate WAN and mobile phones like the iPhone. When you combine this with the trend toward social networking, the two signal a new era in serving up web content.
The biggest challenge in such a paradigm is how to quickly customize advertising. In a mashed-up world, a web site first has to access my social network information to identify me (perhaps by checking my latest status updates on Facebook) and then send all that to an ad network to select the most appropriate advertising. Because no one wants to pay for an ad that I don’t see, a web page is typically going to focus on rendering the advertising before it gives me functionality to the rest of the page. As you can imagine, this creates a lot of potential for delay.
What we need is a new approach to advertising on the web. Today, every site has its own approach, providers, and process for putting advertising on the web. It may be unrealistic to cache advertising on my local machine before it gets called from a web page, but my demographics don’t change from day to day and what I was searching for yesterday is still relevant today. Certainly, a significant percentage of the advertising I see in any given day originates from the top three ad networks. It’s not as if those networks couldn’t cache more of the higher-bandwidth, multimedia advertising that I am seeing.
The difference between 500ms and 2,500ms is very noticeable – and painful – in today’s world of instant gratification. Whatever delay is the result of my cluttered hard drive is only amplifying an effect that is inherently on the server side of the equation. I can’t predict what the converged web browser of the future is going to look like, but I can tell you that it will be dramatically different. With all the multi-core processing going on in today’s machine, it is not unrealistic to expect different cores will process different parts of tomorrow’s web pages (for example, perhaps one processor is dedicated to processing the VoIP coming on the converged pipe and another processing the video). While all this sounds great, I feel we are at least five to 10 years away from that today.