Many people think the Internet and the Web are the same thing. They're not. The Internet is a piece of wire that goes from me to you and from me to 300 million other people in the world. The Web is software that I put on my end of the wire, and you put on your end -- allowing us to exchange information.
While the Internet (the wire) evolves gradually, the software on the wire can change quickly. Before the Web, other software was clamped onto the Internet. WAIS, Gopher, and Usenet were the dominant systems, and there were companies that were doing commerce using those software models. I call this the "executable Internet," or X Internet, for short. X Internet offers several important advantages over the Web: 1) It rides Moore's Law -- the wide availability of cheap, powerful, low real-estate processing; 2) it leverages ever dear bandwidth -- once the connection is made, a small number of bits will be exchanged, unlike the Web where lots of pages are shuttled out to the client; and 3) X Internet will be far more peer-to-peer -- unlike the server-centric Web.
This scenario could be marred by two threats: viruses and lack of standards. Once executables start to move fluidly through the Net, viruses will have perfect conditions to propagate. Standards, or rather the lack thereof, will block the quick arrival of X Internet. I can't see Microsoft, Sun, IBM, or other traditionalists setting the standards. The Web-killer's design will emerge from pure research, academe, or open source -- as did the Web.
What It Means -- No. 1: Web-centric companies get stuck holding the bag. They will wake up one day with hundreds of millions of dollars of legacy code on their hands. Yes, their brands will remain intact, but their technology will suddenly be very outmoded. Yahoo!, eBay, and AOL will find themselves competing with a new wave of commerce players that market, deliver, and service using the superior technology of X Internet. One of the upstarts