2005-12-13 1855 Opinion: == Foolish prediction of the day == How many times do you stare at the screen, muttering "c'mon, . . .

Foolish prediction of the day

How many times do you stare at the screen, muttering “c’mon, c’mon….” under your breath? My, I’m a patient beast, so it’s not too often, though a certain person not too far from me tends to shout it (along with expletives) pretty regularly every five minutes. I can set my watch by her.

It’s something that in eighteen months’ time will be a thing of the past because I’ve invented a whole new concept, and I’m going to call it The Instanet.

The name explains it all, really. Imagine an internet that is…well… instant. Forget about poor bandwidth, your download speed and waiting for pages to load. That will be a (slightly humourous) thing of the past, much like Bulletin Boards and 9,600 modems are now. We’ll look on all that waiting time with fondness and nostalgia. All except for CroXie, of course. The Instanet still won’t be fast enough :)

The magic behind this new technology isn’t a faster connection but a more efficient use of our existing systems. It’s about changing the way we work and use our computers so that the information we want is already in place, ust when we need it. A lot of the technology is already here – or “just around the corner”, that home of vapourware everywhere.

The Instanet will be formed from a number of key concepts and technologies:


The buzzword of the day will come and go, but the basic principle behind it will continue for a long time yet. Ajax is a solution to the wrong problem in many ways, because it’s designed to avoid webpage refreshes by pre-fetching-then-hiding information, or by showing the changes to the page before those changes have been commited to the backend server. Ajax (especially a badly coded implementation) has the potential to cause untold problems. Imagine an Ajax-powered online banking system that shows you have just completed a bank transfer but in reality the database backend didn’t accept the transaction. Multiply that “minor” error by the number of transactions a bank handles daily.

Ajax-like functionality will exist in the Instanet though not in the form we have today. The Instanet will provide feedback while a transaction (or forum post, or whatever) is being dealt with, then inner-refresh the page rather than “pre-committing” any changes.

2. Pre-fetch

The Instanet will rely heavily on intelligent predictive caching of pages. This means that when a page has finished loading the browser will start to fetch all the pages that link from that one so that their content is immediately accessible and ready to read. This technology is already in place in such plugins as Fasterfox and as pre-fetching becomes more of a dominant technology further refinements will mean that the browser will “know” what pages to priortitise and which to ignore.

3. The end to merely searching

The generic search-engine page is coming to an end as browsers integrate a search box into the toolbar itself. This search box will also morph into an “information” box which will bring up information regardless of source. Enter “Matt’s phone no” and the browser will list the telephone numbers of all people named Matt from your contacts list. Type “nearest pizza” for directions and menu for the closest pizza parlour. The Instanet is all about delivering the most accurate information quickly by bypassing any intermediary pages along the way. Page-hopping to find the right information will be a thing of the past.

This box will also work on a much larger scale. Enter “tell me everything about the Battle of Berlin” and a page will be dynamically created containing photos, video, wikipedia content and information from a variety of sources. Ajax-like tecnhology will allow the user to shuffle page layout to suit. Similarly, the users can enter “Show me photos of Manila” and the browser will return back only photographic content.

In addition, hovering over any word or phrase in a page will display a definition, link or thumbnail image.

4. Three dimensional browsing

The Instanet is also about being able to navigate more effectively. As well as the existing forward-and-back controls, the user will be able to travel “into” and “out of” a topic which will drill down through definitions and additional content, then navigate through a 3-dimensional map of their own travels – all the time while the browser is pre-fetching pages alongside and around those already visited.

5. Personalised content

Your default homepage will contain the latest information from your most visited pages alongside local news items, your blog (and atext box for a new post), items flagged for later review, your eBay items, emails and more – all in an AJAX-able layout.

The number of real websites that exist online will decrease to be replaced by small, fast rss-like feeds as website creators realise that more people are using the feeds than actually going to the pages themselves. Soon rss (or equivalent) will be the dominant protocol on the web and the layout is at the whim of the reader.

6. Integration with othertech

The Instanet is also about removing the web from the computer so that information is available regardless of location. Your watch will beep when a new email hits your inbox, or play a small tune when you’ve made that eBay sale. Your mp3 player will download podcasts over wifi as they become available and music can be pre-ordered for immediate wifi upload to your player on album release. All of this will happen silently in the background, instantly available and ready for use.

Welcome to the Instanet. Personally, I can’t wait.

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