The hyperlink has grown up

iPhone Multi-touch InterfaceDuring my interminable search for great content online, I started thinking just how much the web has changed since the first time I heard the irritable noise of a modem trying to “shake hands” with a host. This line of thinking is by no means new or unique, but it was a moment of realization for me which made me think about just how far things have come — and now I wonder just how far things will go.

I once read that the ubiquitous hyperlink is the root of the web as we know it. Its simple concept has made the globe a much smaller place, transcending countries, languages, and cultures — and forming a truly global community. As I thought about this, the success of social networking sites like Flickr, MySpace, and Facebook became so clear to me, and the thought hit me that the web has grown up to be so much more than a tool to connect documents on a screen — it connects people.

Worldwide economies depend on these connections, and our everyday lives are engaged in a never-ending conversation through email, instant messaging, and blogs. To think back to the early 90’s and the infamous .com age, it is now so obvious why things failed (hindsight is always 20/20). Back then people saw the web as a storefront, and everyone’s biggest concern was how to get a shopping cart set up or how to separate you from your wallet, all without thinking twice about the brand promise or the real interaction with the user.

Today, we see things in a much different (and smarter) way. Websites are primarily concerned with engaging the user through relevant content, user-friendly navigation, well-thought out design (for the most part), localization, targeted advertising, and a whole toolbox full of proven techniques to deliver on the brand promise — all with measurable results.

Where things go next is anybody’s guess, but I think it’s safe to say that the idea of connecting people is here to stay. The way we interact with technology will change, and in many ways, that revolution has already started (think multi-touch a la Minority Report, or better yet, watch this).