MEME 1.08



MEME 1.08

It's December, 1995, and that means it's time for a MEME prediction on what 1996 has in store for us. There are three big themes we should all be looking out for next year:

* In 1996 the Personal Computer will be marketed and sold like a consumer electronics item -- putting pressure on certain PC makers (Dell, Packard-Bell, Gateway) who don't know how to sell computers the way Sony sells Discmans. A premium will be placed on design, marketing and little add-ons that distinguish one box from the next. The trend already started, but next year we will see Compaq, IBM and Apple joined by Sony as clear leaders in the marketing and selling of PCs. They will innovate and try to separate from the pack by using strategies pioneered by the packaged-goods industry.

* The gap between workstation and PCs (Dell, Packard-Bell, Gateway) who don't know how to sell computers the way Sony sells Discmans. A premium will be placed on design, marketing and little add-ons that distinguish one box from the next. The trend already started, but next year we will see Compaq, IBM and Apple joined by Sony as clear leaders in the marketing and selling of PCs. They will innovate and try to separate from the pack by using strategies pioneered by the packaged-goods industry.

* The gap between workstation and PC parallel, you can take on the biggest workstations at a competitive price. The proof? The Department of Energy just signed a deal with Intel to build a terraflop (one trillion calculations per second) supercomputer out of several thousand Pentium Pro chips. See Intel take over more of the computing world in '96.

* In the great tradition of hacking (in the old sense of the word: to improve a system through constant exploration and alteration), which helped establish the digital environment we revel in, the World Wide Web will metamorphose into something much, much more exciting. The Web, now based on HyperText Markup Language (HTML), a standard created by Tim Berners-Lee in 1989 so physicists could share documents, is restricting truly unique uses for the web. Consequently, a series of new standards -- HotJava, Microsoft's Visual Basic, Shockwave by Macromedia, and more -- will compete to expand the creative tools available to Web designers and users. With that will come a form of content truly original to the Web, as opposed to the current state based on mutant rehashes of existing off-line media.

So what does this last prediction mean? This one is worthy of deeper probing....

SPACE, MOTION ... AND TIME

These new Web-based tools will shift the Web away from the two- dimensional metaphor of the "Web page." Right now Web-pages move either up or down (scrolling) or forward/backward (linking). The third dimension, missing from the Web, is that of time. Time is what you experience when you're able to interact with dynamic information -- the best example of that is the video game, for instance Doom or the MUD/MOO environments on the Internet. These new Web-based standards will permit the element of time to enter the Web. Once that happens the first phase of Web design will ebb away, liberating us from the utterly banal paradigm we're now suffering through, the "let's put a magazine on the Web" idea.

That idea fails because it contradicts the original purpose and architecture of the Web. HTML lets us build repositories of information. Consequently, along with the "page" metaphor, there is the "library" metaphor. The Web is a big disorganized library w