Wired‘s buzzed-about “The Web Is Dead” cover story went live on its website today, and there’s a fair amount of content to sift through. The issue includes dueling commentaries from editor-in-chief Chris Anderson and Vanity Fair columnist Michael Wolff on who is to blame for the Web’s “demise” — to get this out of the way early, the argument goes like this: people don’t use browsers anymore, they use apps — plus, dissenting opinions by Tim O’Reilly and John Battelle, both credited with the genesis of the term “Web 2.0,” and an alternate take on the web-versus-app debate from Evan Hansen of Wired.com. It’s a iPhone-era update of the argument Wired made in 1997, when the magazine told readers to “kiss their browsers goodbye.”
We read the whole thing on a browser, as most people probably did. Anderson and Wolff each take up one half of the screen with their respective takes. Anderson’s approach blames consumers for the web’s perceived over-ness, citing our need for specialized apps as opposed to browsers. “You wake up and check your email on your bedside iPad — that’s one app. During breakfast you browse Facebook, Twitter, and The New York Times — three more apps. On the way to the office, you listen to a podcast on your smartphone. Another app. At work, you scroll through RSS feeds in a reader and have Skype and IM conversations. More apps. At the end of the day, you come home, make dinner while listening to Pandora, play some games on Xbox Live, and watch a movie on Netflix’s streaming service. You’ve spent the day on the Internet — but not on the Web. And you are not alone.” Wolff hinges his piece on the idea that Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs resemble old-style media moguls in the way they control their content, separating themselves from the Google approach and, in turn, from the web in general. “While Google may have controlled traffic and sales, Apple controls the content itself,” Wolff writes. “Indeed, it retains absolute approval rights over all third-party applications. Apple controls the look and feel and experience. And, what’s more, it controls both the content-delivery system (iTunes) and the devices (iPods, iPhones, and iPads) through which that content is consumed.”
Elsewhere in the “Web is Dead” package, O’Reilly emails Anderson about the “great dance” between an open web and the closed web. “Openness is where innovation happens; closedness is where value is captured,” he writes, explaining the value of each version of the Internet. Battelle, however, is not buying Wired‘s death knell. In fact, he’s “particularly unhappy” that everyone is proclaiming the browser-based web to be a thing of the past. “I for one think the ‘open, searchable, common platform’ is not dead, and no one should be planning a party on its presumed grave,” he writes. “It’s simply the most elegant approach to creating the most good in the world, and heralding its end strikes me as not only premature, but also shortsighted. Is that grumpy enough for ya?”
The pundits mostly agree that the way we’ve browsed in the past is on its way out and there’s no doubt that the entire issue will look great on Wired’s Scott Dadich-designed iPad app. Anderson even sneaks a plug for his magazine’s new platform into the story—”check out Wired’s cool new iPad app!” he says parenthetically. Yes, we get it — apps over browsers, the web is dead, etcetera. But another reminder of your prized app? Perhaps a bit much, Chris. It’s not free, you know.