Note: This blog has been updated to include market updates relevant to the discussion.
“The original idea of the web was that it should be a collaborative space where you can communicate through sharing information.” Tim Berners-Lee.
The web IS changing.
Before our very eyes.
But, it has nothing to do with moving from a peer-generated world (Web 2.0), into an immersive, artificial one, through the means of reinventing Second Life for the VR goggles (Web 3.0).
It’s because we have powerful tech and media giants merging, who not only control the gateways to the web, but have ownership of the content that resides within it.
A platform designed for collaboration, is now being carved-up and marked for the new walled gardens. The borders are converging, and the bubbles are expanding.
When it comes to the new web landscape, we need to get our heads out of the clouds and face reality. We’re entering the eco-system era.
That’s the problem. The concept of eco-systems is being missed by most, due to the latest shiny new objects being flaunted by the futurist marketers. They may have discovered the crystal ball, but they still can’t work out how to use it.
Innovation is driven but the incremental developments that occur through the integration, acquisition, adoption, and application of new technology, with timing and luck playing their part (Ridley, 2020).
Google, had established itself as the leader of search. The gateway to the information highway. Google sets the precedent for search. How websites work. The content that resides within them.
The algorithm changes and SEO’s everywhere ask how high they need to jump. Its power beyond imaginable.
If you look at it another way, it’s helping to shape the web to THEIR way of working. After all, if you want to book flights, you don’t need to go to a website, the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), have their own interactive widget, enabling you to find the flights you need (as one example of many).
Of course, this all changes when the website itself becomes its own eco-system. Amazon and Meta (Facebook) are much more than a marketplace and social media platform.
They have their own hardware, marketplace, content, and search that they want users to interact with and explore.
We can play games through Oculus. Buy computers made by Microsoft. Watch movies made by Amazon or Apple. We can even target advertising based on users’ searches and interests (Google’s stronghold).
Then there’s the way in which we navigate the web. No longer do we need to type into a form. We can ask Alexa, Siri, or even Google itself. Each one powered by its own algorithms and priorities.
The result of vast vertical integration strategies. The acquisition and collaboration of media and consumer electronics has resulted in a new breed of technology companies.
The brand bubbles are expanding. The sharing of information is counterintuitive.
Changing our perspective of the web
Back in the old days of Microsoft vs Apple. The main difference between the two could be summarised in one phrase – end-to-end ownership.
Apple would take this concept of the hardware, software, and applications being built together and owned by one entity, creating a seamless user experience. It just worked.
While Microsoft’s initial approach was to create software which could be used on different hardware, creating collaboration and standards, in particular for the enterprise sector (Isaacson, 2011). They didn’t make the hardware (at the time), just the software.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
These approaches have been adopted and moulded for the various spaces the tech giants want to play in.
Whether it’s Google or Apple moving into the health space with wearable tech, Amazon partnering with the NHS for Alexa’s ability to answer medical questions, Facebook creating a virtual world as redemption for the real one they ruined, or Microsoft buying gaming publisher Activision Blizzard, to own their content, these virtual integrations are critical to monitor.
Considering how rapidly these companies are expanding and owning large parts of our digital lives, it is within their interest to ensure their eco-system is watertight. End-to-end ownership.
Except now it’s on steroids.
The data and market opportunities these integrations bring, mean the sharing and collaborative concepts the web may have once represented, are now commercial suicide.
Keeping users within their bubble is the goal. Exclusivity and compatibility are now the areas they compete in.
Own the hardware.
Own the content.
Own the experience.
That’s the reality we face and the perspective we now require.
Marketing in the eco-system era
What does it all mean?
Well, quite simply, it means we’re moving beyond the need for channel specialists. We’ll need eco-system specialists.
Because each one will become more comprehensive and more complex as the iterations of innovation continue to intensify, and the brand bubbles grow.
It’s only a matter of time before the smartphone is no more, and we all need to focus on optimising websites for watches, glasses, and other wearable tech.
Our routes-to-market will evolve. Heck, we may even have to set-up shop in the metaverse and have dedicated staff wearing VR headsets all day to serve people in that virtual space (God help us all).
Nonetheless, alternative digital eco-systems will be the norm. From hardware to software and services like search. You’ll either be part of the Apple/Google/Amazon/Meta etc. walled garden. Each with its own rules, priorities, and marketing requirements.
That’s where the focus will need to be.
The more these tech giants continue to vertically integrate into every product and service category, the more we will be confined to their walled gardens.
Forget Web 3.0 and the Metaverse tropes, we’re heading into the eco-system era.
Choose your digi-sphere carefully.
Share your thoughts
What do you think the future of the web looks like? Have you seen any trends which could change how we approach digital? Let me know in the comments below, send me a tweet @CJPanteny, or get in touch.
And if you liked this blog, don’t forget to share it on your socials and bask in its ranty goodness.
See you next time.
Davies,D. (2021) Meet the 7 Most popular search engines in the world, Available at: https://www.searchenginejournal.com/seo-guide/meet-search-engines/
Isaacson, W. (2011) Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography 1st edition , Simon & Schuster
Microsoft News Centre (2022) Microsoft to acquire Activision Blizzard to bring the joy and community of gaming to everyone, across every device, Available at: https://news.microsoft.com/2022/01/18/microsoft-to-acquire-activision-blizzard-to-bring-the-joy-and-community-of-gaming-to-everyone-across-every-device/
Milmo, D. (2021) Enter the metaverse: the digital future Mark Zuckerberg is steering us toward, Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2021/oct/28/facebook-mark-zuckerberg-meta-metaverse
Ridley, M. (2020) How Innovation Works. 1st edition. Fourth Estate
White, S (2017) Microsoft vs. Apple: Strategies change but the battle continues, Available at: https://www.cio.com/article/234749/microsoft-vs-apple-strategies-change-but-the-battle-continues.html