This is a speech I delivered at the 1997 Mactivity/Web conference in San Francisco on Monday 6 January, 1997 (the day before MacWorld).
1996: The Year in Review
Now that 1996 is finally behind us, this might prove a good time to pause and reflect upon the changes it brought to the World Wide Web. In general, 1996 saw the Web evolve from, largely, a computer industry oddity into a consumer industry oddity. The most significant advancements were in terms of audience size and market realms and not necessarily capabilities or fulfilled destinies.
For example, the Web is still almost completely thought of--and treated as--a publishing medium instead of a communications medium. Not that it isn't a fairly good publishing medium, but its ultimate power and impact will not be as a new form of yellow pages directory, index tool, or über-catalog. Unfortunately, most companies cannot imagine the Web as anything but a place to repurpose not only their old print strategies and ideas, but their old print as well. Most still have a long way to go in seeing the Internet as a way of restructuring their communications and relationships with their customers and with themselves, let alone their interactions.
We've seen the Web take its first real steps in becoming a consumer medium in 1996, but these steps had more to do with our understanding of traditional media instead of our vision of the potential of interactive media. We saw advertising become just as annoying as on television without any thought to innovation of appropriateness to the medium. We've seen almost every consumer company in the USA launch their own website describing in excruciating detail how it would help them serve our needs better by giving us access to the most inane trivia about our favorite stereo components and feminine hygiene products with regularly scheduled updates via email if we just leave our address with them--or worse, join their exclusive "members only" club.
It was the year that everybody talked about online shopping and selling their wares via the Net while just about nobody but Amazon books did so successfully. It's as if every marketeer suddenly forgot everything they know about what makes a shopping experience successful because they were so wowed by the wonders of HTML. Just as television reduces NEWS down to sound-bytes, most proponents of online shopping on the web have reduced shopping down to nothing more than transactions.
Let me take the 6 components that make a successful website, in order, and review for you what I feel has significantly happened in each over the past year. These of course are:
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