The Fabulous Disappearing Internet

Will 2005 be the year we forget about the Internet? Thanks to always-on broadband connections at home and at work, plus simple and fun phone-based applications, “going on the Internet” isn’t such a big deal.

In the early days, people sat and listened to their modems going through the authentication ritual, keeping their fingers crossed that they’d get a connection and be able to use the Web browser before the connection dropped. Now, connectivity is such a given that many people may not realize when they’re “on” the Internet and when they’re working within the desktop.

In a study released Tuesday, Nielsen//NetRatings, the Internet audience measurement and analysis vendor, reported that three out of every four home and work Internet users — a full 76 percent — access the Internet using a non-browser based Internet application. These include media players, instant messengers and peer-to-per file-sharing apps.

“It’s become harder to distinguish when you’re on the Internet, blurring the lines between what’s sitting on the desktop and what’s coming from the World Wide Web,” said Abha Bhagat, senior analyst Nielsen//NetRatings.

The top five non-browser Internet applications used in November 2003 were Windows Media Player, AOL Instant Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger, MSN Messenger Service and Real Player, according to Nielsen//NetRatings.

While his company doesn’t track wireless Web access, Jack Lyness, senior vice president for Internet marketing firm e-agency of Oakland, Calif., thinks camera phones have done the most to “disappear” the Internet from consumers’ consciousness.

“In terms of our perceptions, the Internet in all its various incarnations will soon become as ubiquitous in our modern, everyday life as, say, electric power, running water or written words,” Lyness said. The Internet is fast becoming part of every tool and toy we use, to the point that eventually, we won’t think about it.”

“The key thing about ubiquity,” Lyness said, “is that you don’t have to think about it. The cell phone has put connectivity into your hand. And I think cameras are what call people’s attention to the fact that this isn’t a telephone any more.”

While phones have let users access and even download applications for years, the phone as an Internet access tool hasn’t taken off, Lyness said, because it seemed to hard to have to consciously make the connection.

“Telephony was the killer app for [Internet-connected] cell phones, just as e-mail was for the desktop.”

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