23 August marks the accepted 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web being open to the public, Tim Berners-Lee starting a revolution that will be a subject of study for school children in years to come. We cannot describe the syllabus in detail as it is changing as you read.
When Amazon opened business on the net with the first online bookshop – didn’t they do well – an IT expert was asked if the web would be as big an influence on the way we live as the Industrial Revolution. He replied: ‘The only thing in doubt is by how many times bigger it will be.’
It was a brave statement at the time but the confidence, and it has to be said, patronising attitude towards the interviewer whom he obviously thought of as ignorant, impressed me. Two years later I had my own website.
It was crude, perhaps so even for the time, but it gave me a certain reputation, presumably as a nerd, that I revelled in. I was cutting edge for the first time in my life. People came to me with all sorts of IT problems, and some with more personal ones as well. I assume the latter thought that if I was clever enough to create a website, I must know everything.
I expected to ride the crest of the internet wave for a few years and then it would settle to be more or less fade into the background with occasional spurts of improvement. How wrong was I?
The first company to use email marketing predated the web. Gary Thuerk, of DEC, sent out a few hundred emails – unsolicited of course – in 1978, the company making $millions from the exercise. It earned Gary the rather unkind, but accurate, sobriquet of ‘The Father of Spam’.
The two great innovations which have kept email marketing in the vanguard are effective spam filters which is beaten only by data from email marketing software.
What next for the web? It would be a foolish person who predicted what will happen in the subsequent 25 years. So here are the thoughts of a nerd.
1/ Tighter legislation with higher penalties will be policed with enthusiasm. Not the most controversial of predictions, which also goes for;
2/ Email marketing will remain the top form of marketing for some time, certainly longer than the foreseeable future. More arguably;
3/ To keep ahead we will have to target much more effectively just to stay in the pack. There will be ‘whole user experiences’;
4/ Email design will become more interactive. And finally;
5/ There will be another norm, similar in significance to that of mobile use in reading emails. It is quite likely to be in the region of ESPs. Gmail has shown one way with having emails diverted into content folders. Others will come up with other innovations, one of which will become a standard, for a while at least.
Whatever the changes, there will remain a need to keep informed and to react to changes as soon as identified. Happy birthday, WWW. Tim, you changed the world for the better.