In spite of the major advances in Web technology and the explosion of communication methods on the Internet, the simple act of Web browsing has remained fundamentally single-user in its implementation. Why is Web browsing still a solitary activity? Researchers at Microsoft and Harvard were excited about their proposal for a multi-user Web six years ago, and yet here we are and nothing much has changed. Jared White of The Idea Basket gives us his take on the matter, and offers a new proposal for a multi-user Web experience.
Why is the Web Still Only a Single-User System?
Submitted by Jared White 2002-11-11 Internet 18 Comments
Because BBS’s are still the only way to get stuff done.
I remember ICQ introduced something years ago, a plugin for your browser… each page was a chat room, so if you went to yahoo.com, you could chat with a bunch of other people who were there as well. Got old fast, mainly because few people used it, and only major sites had people there.
How about a simple way to make the web multi-user without any requirements for site developers? Here is my idea:
Create a new pane in Mozilla at the bottom that creates a seperate tab for each site you are viewing. In that tabbed pane is realtime chat for all mozilla users looking at the same site. If you are looking at jcrew.com you can write, “has anyone bought those pants? Do they suck?”
Forums could be added but there is a risk of detracting for the site’s own forums if they have them. So, the solution would be to provide web service plugins to Slash, Nuke, etc that would allow my idea of a Mozilla forum front-end to talk to your site directly. All web site forums would have a consistant look. It would make looking at forums at work less comspicuous if it looked just like your email client
I play a lot of multiplayer Quake. Others play other genres, like Ultima Online, Startraders (sp?).
Microsoft products like Netmeeting, under certain circumstances, allow an interpersonal experience.
It seems, though, collective usage (a TV-like experience) must rely on some new protocols which will allow for better broadcasting. We were going to have excellent Internet radios, but then someone got greedy (that CARP thing).
The “net” result: me hearing a Korean radio — and surprise: it was not bad at all (note: I speak Portuguese, so I couldn’t understand a word…)
OTOH, as many who studied Economy will know, you can’t combine personal interests of several people into one preference who will please all of them.
Hence, reading books and internet browsing shall remain a very personal experience.
” Create a new pane in Mozilla at the bottom that creates a seperate tab for each site you are viewing. In that tabbed pane is realtime chat for all mozilla users looking at the same site. If you are looking at jcrew.com you can write, “has anyone bought those pants? Do they suck?” ”
Like the Amazon.com product review system, for example?
Why SHOULDN’T the web be a solutary experience? Nice to
get away from people at the end of thee day, IMHO.
It is a multi-user system. Isn’t OSnews multi-user? Three other sites
that I visit daily are similar.
Amazon is certainly multi-user. Anyone can contribute a review (you
don’t have to have bought the item from Amazon).
Loads of people play chess and other games on the Web.
As for VRML, there is a major project ongoing to create a new version
of VRML which will link in with XML and other current web standards.
The major limitation is that mant computers are not powerful enough
for the real time 3D rendering. Also, the mouse is a terrible
interface for navigating in 3D.
Why do men shave as a singler user? Why do we read as a single person? When we write notes, why do we write as a single person, rather than a group? When we talk to someone, why do we talk as a one person? When we think, why do we think as a single person.
I found the idea interesting but certain activities are meant to be single-user. The things that is described are aleady possible. If the site owner wants, he/she can make it possible for users to interact. But certain site owners will never want their sites to be used that way. OSNews allows user exchange of data but some sites do not work that way. I found the article interesting, but at the end it is useless.
I found the idea interesting but certain activities are meant to be single-user.
If the site owner wants, he/she can make it possible for users to interact.
I agree with you on both points. Some activities are best enjoyed alone. Other activities work best when groups of people are involved. The point of my article wasn’t to debate whether or not individual sites should remain single-user or not. The point was that, right now, Web browsing is a standard, while multi-user interaction on a Web site is not. I say multi-user interaction on a Web should be a standard feature that can be easily implemented by the site’s owner if so desired. If you want to browse the Web in solitude, that’s your choice. But other people might feel differently. That’s what technological freedom is all about.
Multiuser? It is multi-user. Unless I’m the only person accessing every web site I go to.
I agree with poor richard above: Why SHOULDN’T the web be a solitary experience?
White romanticizes the interpersonal dimensions of meatspace transactions. Taking his example of shopping, I can indeed recall positive interactions with salespeople and fellow shoppers, but that may be because such positive exeriences are exceptional. Mostly when I’m shopping I just want to be left alone, or alone with my spouse. I assume other shoppers feel the same way, so I don’t intrude on other shoppers’ solitude unless they give some sign that they want to interact. Salespeople can be helpful, but they can also be quite disingenuous. That puts a real contraint on the kinds and quality of interaction you can have with them.
The internet today is about as interactive as I need it to be. If I want to read in solitude, I can. If I want more interaction I can find it easily.
i think this is a useless idea. the whole concept of a user in this case is for a system to know who is doing what. even excluding the HUGE GAPING SECURITY HOLES this idea would create, what what be the point? i mean seriously, is it really going to make a different with how i log on to kazaa and download an app? should you developers be putting your time into creating better apps and OSes then sitting around thinking about really really dumb ideas? hey, i’ve got an idea STOP BEING HUGE NERDS, THEN FIND A WOMEN, GET LAID AND COME UP WITH A BETTER IDEA. </rant>
should[n’t] you developers be putting your time into creating better apps and OSes then sitting around thinking about really really dumb ideas?
No, because when we create a better app or OS you will just go to Kazaa and download it instead of buying it from us.
On Audiogalaxy you could easily share some music with a group of friends and send them notice of what they could hear. I don’t see such a feature in newer P2P agents (maybe the new Kazaa, I haven’t tried it).
About 5 years ago, you had a tool called Gooey which did almost the same thing.. Only it was not per page, but per (sub)domain.. You could transfer files, put people in a buddies list etc. Later it was ripped off by ICQSurf
Well, when a person browses the internet that person generally is in a newer and more focuses state of concentration.
People do not like being interrupted during such periods and as such the idea of a multi-user internet has not become the internet.
BUT, if the Operating System supports Multi-users, keeps cookies and all regarding the internet seperately, then you have a multi-user internet….just not at once.
We have chat rooms.. does that count?
What exactly is meant by multi-user internet anyhow?
Ah, thank you, I forgot what that thing was called!
I used this service back in The Day ™, around ’98-99. I, too, just like the author of that article, thought that the web would lend itself well to a multi-user experience. However, each time I downloaded and installed their plug-in, I ended up uninstalling it within a couple of days. (This would repeat several times, actually – in its absence, the idea would grow more attractive, but faced with the reality, I kept being disappointed).
The problem was not in implementation. They poured a lot of good design into their little client (it was an IM-like window that would float about near the browser, showing you which people were looking at the same web site that you were looking at (people with the same plug-in installed, that is)). The company had a good community going, along-side, with message boards, games, multimedia & other content offerings. Each web site you visited could act like a chatroom, and you could talk with any and all of the users visiting the site at the same time.
Here’s what it boiled down to, however – the people. And it was always either too many people, or too few. On big sites, such as Yahoo.com, CNN, EBay and the like, there were too many people, and the chat window was indistinguishable from any AOL or Yahoo chat room (i.e. filled with stupid chatter and age/sex/location checks). On the smaller sites, however, the cool and quirky ones, the ones about your hobbies or your passions, the ones where you actually /want/ to meet people visiting them, you almost never met other people who had the same plugin installed and visiting that site, or on the rare occasions that you did, they would be idle, or simply anti-social.
One could, of course, say, that the rarity of quality people on the sites you actually cared about was due to the small critical mass of installation of those plug-ins (although, at the height of the dot-com boom, they had a fairly healthy user base going). If one of the big guys (Microsoft, AOL, etc), truly cared to make this a universal platform, I’m sure they could, and just ship a multi-user-web client with all their installs. And once the user base reaches a critical mass, one is sure to run across some like-minded people which are actually pleasant to converse with (i.e. not script kiddies, trolls and the like). Here’s the problem, however — there would be too many people using the clients by that point, and on most web sites, the technology would simply turn into copies of AOL chat rooms.
Imagine Slashdot, for a second, with this technology enabled (the message boards are noisy as it is, and that’s /with/ moderation and downvoting — a mechanism that’s very hard to do with real-time chat). Or any other well-visited site. Don’t think ‘polite customer support’ or ‘intimate conversation with the site’s owners and users’. Think of a large IRC channel, or a Yahoo Chat room, with all of its charms.
The impediment to a truly multi-user web experience is not technological (even today we have the tech infrastrure to achieve it), but social. The great challenge is how to avoid the crowds, the noise and the trolls, while at the same time finding interesting, coherent, pleasant people that share your interests. And if you think about it, existing technology of in-site chat rooms and message boards, coupled with email, serves this function fairly well.
it’s still a really dumb idea..