My nephew’s wife was frustrated. The “easy-to-use” site-builder software she was using to make the church camp website with was anything but. To make matters worse, their “free” hosting service came with a price—banner ads that randomly appeared on the site. And she found no help on the home front … unlike so many of the nephews out there that have built websites for their uncle’s business, mine was not one of them.
So in desperation, she turned to her Facebook friends to ask if anyone knew of a free and easy-to-use website builder—one without ads. A well-meaning friend replied:
That is so last decade. Why don’t you just make a Facebook fan page? It’s 2011; you gotta catch up with the times!
She even offered to set the page up for her.
Her thinking was reflected in a 2010 WIRED article entitled, The Web Is Dead. Long Live the Internet. The author makes the point that, the more we access the Internet using our smart phones, iPads, and gaming devices, the less we are using the Web or visiting websites. Is the rise of the app causing the decline the website? Welcome to Web 3.0.
You may or may not agree with the author, but here’s my point: Don’t assume the stuff you sell today will be the same stuff you sell tomorrow. When I quit my web business in early 2006, “social media marketing” was barely a blip on the radar. But if you believe the blogosphere, it’s now the Next Big Thing.
To paraphrase author Michael Gerber, the technical person (read, web designer / developer / SEO expert) looks inward at his skills and asks, “How can I sell this?” But the Entrepreneur looks out at the needs of the market and asks, “How can I fulfill this?” So let me rephrase my question. What will you do for a living when the Web as we know it is dead? What will you do when your skills no longer fit the needs of the market? Will you end up like the thousands of unemployed U.S. steel workers? Or like the ice harvesters of the 19th Century?
The Internet as we know it is going to be forever changed—if Facebook has their way, that is. In case you missed the memo, Facebook and Google are locked in a near-epic struggle over who will ultimately control the Internet and its content.
Another WIRED article describes “Facebook’s 4-Step Plan of Online Domination.” It starts with 200+ million Facebook members contributing billions of pieces of information, photos, and videos, resulting in a virtual “second Internet” … residing entirely on Facebook’s servers.
With all of this data, Facebook hopes it can get its members to access their content on their servers using Facebook search rather than Google. They’ve even made it possible for members to communicate and share with their friends without having to log in to Facebook, by allowing you to ‘like’ content on a network of “partner sites” or apps (adding even more content to Facebook’s servers). And to further their agenda to becoming the gateway people use to access the Internet, they’ve recently introduced Facebook email so people will think, “I’m already on Facebook anyway; I’ll just send Mom a message through Facebook rather than my email” (or Gmail).
Once they’ve accomplished this, they can sell targeted ads everywhere—not just on its own site, but across all of its partner sites and apps. If they’re successful, Google search and Google AdWords will be a thing of the past. If you think that’s too far-fetched, think about what Yahoo once was and what it is today.
Is Google nervous? You bet they are. And here’s why. When you search using Google, all they know about you is your IP address, so all Google can tell that website owner is: “The seven people who visited your website were from Ohio.”
But Facebook can say: “Here are the names of the people that ‘liked’ your content, how old they are, what college they went to, what music they listen to, what books they read, how many children they have, who their other friends are …” It’s a marketer’s dream! Think Google isn’t nervous? Think again.
The face of the Web and the Internet is changing. No-one, not the media, not even the experts of the day, foresaw the Internet coming into existence in its current form. And no one truly knows what it will ultimately become. Don’t assume the stuff you sell today will be the same stuff you sell tomorrow. So I ask again: “What will you do for a living when the Web is dead?”
Former owner and partner of web firm Jenesis Technologies, John is currently Director of Digital Strategy at Haines Local Search, a company providing local search marketing solutions to SMBs, including print and Internet Yellow Pages, web design, and local SEO. When not working or spending time with his family, John offers great sales and marketing advice on his blog, Small Business Marketing Sucks.