The Web is Dead! (Didn't We Know That, Already?)

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Two significant portions of any news organization's diet are Ideas (see: The Atlantic on "The End of Men") and Speculation (see: The Atlantic predicting the New York Times would be dead three months ago). We've all read a lot of both. But I think this is the first time I've read a story speculating that a magazine might endorse an idea. Journalists are ideating! Break out the Drudge siren! I know this is August, but seriously.

Here's the lede from Gawker's story Will Wired Proclaim 'The Web is Dead'?:

Word from inside Wired is the magazine is prepping a cover story in which editor Chris Anderson declares that "the Web is Dead." At a magazine founded by digital utopians, that would be something close to sacrilege.

Sacrilege, perhaps, but not an original blasphemy. The Atlantic's Michael Hirschorn wrote this story two months ago. It goes like this. We've emerged from the decades of the Web browser: one window into the free Internet. But in the next decades, we won't consume online media on computers as much as smartphones, smartpads and other devices that don't exist yet, but will probably be smart, as well.

As most people with smartphones will tell you, browsers don't work nearly as well as apps. Some of these apps, like dictionaries and calculators, are free. Others, like the Financial Times and WSJ on the iPad, cost money. This way, publishers that twiddled their thumbs for a decade while we soaked up their expensive products for free online now have a way to make us pay for a premium experience. "The era of browser dominance is coming to a close," Hirschorn wrote. The empire is striking back.

It's an interesting story. It might even have the virtue of being true. But Chris Anderson won't be the first person to (allegedly) declare the Web dead.

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Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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