What's Next for the Net?

Future Tense: X Internet

A posse of visionaries think that they've cornered the culprit who is responsible for the Internet's stalled growth and narrowed sense of opportunity: It's the "reload" button on your browser.

You click "reload" in the last few minutes of an eBay auction when you want to find out if someone else is about to outbid you. You click it when the E*Trade server fails to respond to your "buy" order, and you need to start over again. "Today's Web isn't well suited for such transactions," says John Landry, founder of investment firm Lead Dog Ventures and former CTO at Lotus Development Corp. "Hitting the reload key over and over again is just brain-dead."

"X Internet" is the label that Forrester Research founder George F. Colony has given to what he thinks will replace the reload-and-wait Internet. The X stands for "executable."

This new model will be about applications — executables — talking to each other. It will be about conducting transactions in real time, rather than through a succession of static Web pages. "Think of how much time it takes to reserve a rental car on the Web," Colony says. "X Internet will be more intelligent, more seamless. It will anticipate what you want to do next."

AOL Instant Messenger and Napster are examples of X Internet apps. Charles Schwab's Velocity trading software is also an X Internet app. Eventually, X Internet will touch not just PCs but all sorts of devices. A coterie of companies provide tools for creating X Internet applications, including Altio, Avaki Corp., Curl Corp., and Kenamea Inc. Big players such as Sun Microsystems, with its Project JXTA and Sun ONE initiatives, and Microsoft, with .NET and Windows XP, are eager to establish a foundation for future X Internet construction.

"I doubt that X Internet will result in a boom like we saw with the Web in the late 1990s, because I don't think anybody is dumb enough to fall for that again," says Landry. "But it will set off another cycle of new and innovative development." Adds Colony: "The X Internet will enable companies to deliver an experience that's more alluring, more interesting, and more dynamic than the Web is today."

Contact John Landry (john@leaddogventures.com) and George F. Colony (gcolony@forrester.com) by email.

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