By Jessica Watson

I had the pleasure of happening upon “The Future of the Experience Web,” a talk led by Dries Buytaert (http://buytaert.net/), the original creator and project lead of Drupal (website CMS platform), and co-founder and CTO of Acquia (digital innovation platform). In his talk at SXSW, Buytaert made some solid predictions about the future of the experience web, and raised some important questions about security and data as well.

“I believe that for the web to reach its full potential, it will go through a massive re-architecture and re-platforming in the next decade,” Buytaert told his audience. “The current web is ‘pull-based’, meaning we visit websites or download mobile applications. The future of the web is ‘push-based’, meaning the web will be coming to us. In the next 10 years, we will witness a transformation from a pull-based web to a push-based web.”

Buytaert’s idea of the future is quite enticing. He envisions a world where the web isn’t so forefront, and where our technology – whether it be our smart phone or a wearable band – delivers the content we need. In his presentation, he used the example of a phone alerting you that a close friend’s birthday is coming up, and then prompting you to buy a gift based on your friend’s interests and taste. You’ll never leave the framework of your phone for this, meaning that it would pull products in from various sellers, can charge your card without your input, and insure its delivery. Think of it as Facebook meets Amazon.

Here are my take-aways from his SXSW seminar:

THE OPEN WEB IS STARTING TO CLOSE:

If you think about your experience online now, you’re relating to most of the internet through large entities such as Google, Facebook and Linkedin. This, over time, will disintermediate the web as we know it, cutting out the middle man.

Facebook and Flipbook serve as early examples of the push-based experience that Buytaert said will be the web of the future. Both deliver relevant content to you based on your interests and suggestions. Facebook’s tracking has become so precise, it can track when you lag in your scrolling to view content. Information is gathered on this platform and others to bring you content that is customized for your taste.

A CHANGE IN RELEVANT CONTENT:

Presently, we, the end user, do the work to gather pertinent content as we search the web, and our behavior is recorded and analyzed through algorithms, so that more relevant content can be delivered to us. Buytaert predicted that in the future, not so far as 10 years from now, there will be a huge shift. No longer will we be responsible for actively providing that information. In the future, push-based experiences will dominate as they will prove to be much more efficient. For example, “instead of going to a doctor, we’ll have web-enabled hardware and software that is able to self-diagnose.” said Buytaert, “Wearables, like activity trackers, are just the start of decades of innovation and opportunity in healthcare.”

CREATION – AGGREGATION – DELIVERY – COMMERCE:

How we receive content will also change. True, there will still be content creation from notable sources, such as Fast Company, Entrepreneur, and Huffington Post, but, you won’t be going to those individual websites to view that content. Imagine there is another interface, that pulls content from those reliable sources and presents it to you based on your prepossession. We see this happening already with Pinterest, for example, which now features a homepage screen with pins based on user behavior. Additionally, the delivery of the content changes, as its more optimized for the end user. In retrospect, it wouldn’t be far off to imagine that Pinterest’s next step would be to have a “buy now” button next to the items they’re presenting you through their website.

DELIVERY OF CUSTOMIZATION:

With the industrial revolution in 1790, we traded customization, high quality, and the buyer/supplier relationship for mass production; a cut in cost, optimization and efficiency. But, as the experience of the web changes, we’ll return to creating that personalized relationship, with technology and with our sellers. Take for example, TrunkClub (https://www.trunkclub.com/), a service that acts as a personal shopper for men. They send a box of clothing based on your tastes when you sign up. You keep what you like, and return what you don’t. Eventually, the service pegs down your taste impeccably and, through its data over time, can provide you with exactly what you’re looking for.

Other sites, like Etsy, also allow for communication between the buyer and seller, and the opportunity to have custom pieces created. “A ‘pull economy’—rather than creating standardized products—will create highly customized products and services produced on-demand and delivered to consumers through one-on-one relationships and truly personal experiences.”

QUESTIONS ABOUT DATA:

“You should be upfront about what you do with people’s data,” Buytaert said. And he’s right, because while it’s completely normal for Facebook to notify you of a friend’s birthday, it would be a bit strange to receive that notification from Amazon, with recommendations of what your friend likes. It would almost feel invasive. How and where do we draw the line? How do we guarantee the safety of the information we would be providing so freely? Here lies the opportunity for universal laws and standards for privacy.

HOW THIS EFFECTS MARKETING:

Here’s where you need to put your focus: (1) Leveraging your content beyond your website, so that it’s easily shareable and can be picked up by various social/news streams. (2) Creating personal experiences, with your customers/clients utilizing the technology you have now. You likely already have some data about interest, spending, purchases and projects. How can you leverage that to add a personal touch for your business, product or service? Now is a good time to build and establish relationships. (3) Transparency is king. It is becoming important to distinguish your business with a personality, a story, a human factor that makes you relatable, or unique in some way. Being memorable, and having that personality extend through your social media streams, is what will allow your audience to connect with you in that more meaningful, and memorable way.

As Buytaert advocated, “We’re in the middle of a digital evolution. In 10 years, we won’t recognize the current form factor of the website.”

Jessica Watson heads Baltimore-based JWatson Creative

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