If the internet was a physical space like a city, websites would be the buildings. Big companies like Google, YouTube, and Amazon would be the skyscrapers in the distance, while a small company website is a quaint house in the suburbs.
Now picture a modern city with no over-site. No regulations, no city guidelines, no safety precautions, no one to enforce anything, and no standard structure shared by anyone. What would that city look like?
It would look like a post-apocalyptic hellscape, no matter what the skills of the individual occupants might be.
The internet is the wild west right now, and the use of websites made it this way. Websites are fully customized, unstructured messes with no standard rules followed by any two people or organizations.
They’re the reason why search engines got created in the first place, to provide a map that calls out information about each place. Put in the magic words in just the right order, and you might just find a good website that has it (or 100 million of them that “sort of” have it).
The problem isn’t that we have the inability to create useful websites, or even the technology to create them, the problem is that websites are all 100% unique to the individuals and organizations that create them.
Websites are blank canvases, and unfortunately, very few of us are skilled painters. We’re impatient, unskilled, and uninterested painters for the most part.
We know we need to put something on the canvas, but we just don’t care, and if we don’t care, the likelihood of our audience caring is slim to none. It’s even worse when we DO care but still don’t consider the audience or the skills necessary to create something good, and simply create something we personally think is good.
Nothing is more disappointing than putting something you’ve worked hard on out in the world, and hearing the word “ew.”
That’s why we all default to consuming information on the few websites that have figured things out to a useful degree.
It’s why we all use the same websites… Google for search, Youtube for videos, Instagram for pictures, Amazon for shopping, etc.
The relationship we currently have with websites can be described with the following formula:
It sounds like it makes sense, but it starts at the wrong point… it starts with a creator, not with an individual’s problems and preferences for finding solutions.
Every person is unique. Their situation is unique. Their wants and desires are unique. Their intelligence, personality, and experiences are unique.
How could any individual with their own uniqueness truly connect with another, especially when that other is as far away physically, mentally, and emotionally as you can be with a random stranger on the internet? In simpler terms, you can’t know this person less.
We currently combat this situation by fitting people into boxes provided by the dominant player in any given space.
We search the way that google has trained us to search: we rephrase our questions, review unrelated data, and click, click, click until we get an answer (maybe).
We shop the way that amazon has trained us to shop: we look at a bunch of random items with insanely long and unhelpful titles and make a decision based on whichever one will get to us the fastest, or the one that has the most and best of a long list of reviews, or the one that amazon literally tells us to buy.
We consume and share content the way that TikTok trained us to consume: it feeds us based on the posts we watch, our demographics, and our interests (and probably our facial expressions, attention spans, personality profiles, etc.), then we make content that fits in line with the content we’ve already seen so that we can “game the system” and become popular ourselves.
The point is, our interactions online have been 100% creator-driven, and they don’t truly reflect what we personally want or need in any real way. Just players in other peoples’ games.
We all want to be the “hero” in the stories we write ourselves. It may sound selfish, narcissistic, grandiose, and immature, but fcuk it… it’s your life, why shouldn’t it be that way?
No one like you has ever existed and never will again after you’re gone. As Dr. Ali Binazir stated during a 2011 Tedx Talk by Mel Robbins, “The odds that you exist at all are basically zero.” Mel gave slightly better odds at 1 in 400 trillion during his presentation.
The point is… we’re all INSANELY unique, and we deserve a solution that takes that fact into account (or is at least perceived to).
Imagine interacting with information that was uniquely structured in a way for you to personally consume.
Imagine using a browser that reformats the data provided by a company or organization in the best way for you to read it.
I create online courses, and as such, I’m very concerned with pushing my information into the audiences’ minds in a useful and applicable way. The problem is that there are more types of learners than I could possibly consider or accommodate with my content.
Are they visual learners? Auditory learners? Do they learn through the application? Do they have a disability I need to consider? Are their attention spans short or long? Do they need the information quickly or over time? Do they respond better to direct or indirect instruction? Do they learn better from men, women, robots, etc.?
I have the data. I know what I want to teach and the lesson I’d like you to learn, but after that, I’m kind of clueless.
Imagine a world where the internet works like this:
In order to keep up with the new search functions, customer expectations, and data consumption of AI-enabled capabilities, brands will need to evolve.
I theorize that many of the large ones have already done so. Did you know that Amazon, Nike, Starbucks, Alibaba, and BMW all utilize AI in some capacity, some of which for years?
After a single successful implementation of the technology, how long would it take them to start to apply the capabilities to other aspects of the business? Not long.
I theorize that brands, especially big ones, will have something much better than websites… they’ll have “Organizational Knowledge Interfaces” (OKI’s for short), that will aggregate all of the information created by the company, searchable by an AI similar to ChatGPT (if not a licensed version of ChatGPT itself).
Look for the “replacement for websites” next.