What is the next step for web? Where will we be in 3 to 5 years time? What will the new web look like? Let me share a theory with you.
The semantic web is often talked about as the next big shift online. Information marked in smarter ways so things will be infinitely easier to search for. Will the next step for web be the semantic web? Probably not since there is no real technical platform for this. Nothing that has been widely accepted by developers at least. And in web that is really what matters.
No instead we're already seeing the next step in web but only through the corner of our eye.
The next step in web will be the Aggregated web. Yes, that simple. While we are seeing more and more sites that aggregate feeds about the site or news about the common topic on the site these are really only precursors for the aggregated web. As mobile devices improve and more and more services offer APIs we'll see a shift from surfing the web to using services and information in real-time in the real world. A huge leap in integration between the real world and the web. In fact, we're already seeing this trend with the iPhone and stream of Android phones on the market.
Information is simple to find through search today. As more and more services offer open APIs to support different interfaces and devices we'll see a trend for information to become less tied to design also. Eventually most services and information on the web will be data streams with replaceable layers of interfaces.
So finding information about a topic on your cellphone, tv or laptop will be equally simple and fast. But the visual display of that information will probably differ, both in complexity and according to the users taste.
This will eventually spawn the trend for interesting interfaces aggregating the information you're looking for, real-time or otherwise, wherever you are. This is why I think the next step for web is the Aggregated web. Services are already popping up in a wide variety of styles and devices, just look at Twitter. When enough interesting services, and enough interesting information, has migrated to this sort of technology the interfaces on the web today will just not matter.
To finish with a situated example; your pen might feed information regarding grammar as you write while your fridge might aggregate special offers from stores near you. Sound like a poor 1950's vision of the future? Wait, I just got an offer from my local store via Twitter on my iPhone. All these devices really need is upgrade to Android and these examples can be used today.
Welcome to the aggregated web, you heard it here first. ;)