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Planning for the next billion newbies

by Giles Turnbull -- 2000/10/12

Suddenly, some of the biggest names on the internet are investing in hardware solutions. The fight for eyeballs is spiralling towards corporatism, just like we always thought it would.

This week we've seen AOL expand its strategy, aimed at putting AOL login screens in household kitchens.

And there's Microsoft's new MSN portal, designed to compete directly with AOL, being bundled with a stripped-down computer terminal from eMachines.

Yahoo and Lycos, meanwhile, are looking at delivery of their services through mobile phones.

All this suggests the web that we're all used to just isn't enough for these big players anymore.

Of course developments like this are inevitable, given the natural progression of digital convergence.

But with the move to corporate-branded boxes for internet access comes the question: what will the rest of us do?

There's the potential for big players to lock users in to their walled gardens - or at least to attempt to. With control over the hardware as well as the interface, big players can control what users see, as well as how how they see it.

Usenet has fallen by the wayside with the emergence of the World Wide Web. Perhaps we should get ready to wave goodbye to other technologies that won't fit into the corporate vision of the web for the next billion newbies.

Because it's going to be those billion users who become the majority in years to come, using interfaces quite different to the ones we have grown accustomed to.