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The World Wide Web's days are numbered, Forrester Research claims. The Internet may have taken off, mostly around the Web, but the next step of its evolution will see expansion beyond the browser, the company reckons.

The Web's replacement is an executable Net with throwaway code downloaded as and when you want to use it as well as millions of every day devices connected to the Internet (the old more-Barbies-than-PCs linked to Net idea).

Normally, we'd give such a headline-grabbing assertion short shrift, but Forrester is an excellent research company which is unafraid of extrapolating its findings to review the future of markets.

It knows it's putting its reputation on the line with this report though, so the big guns have been pulled out.

"The problem with today's Internet is that it's dumb, boring, and isolated," said the company's CEO and chairman George F. Colony. "News, sports, and weather imparted on static Web pages offer essentially the same content presented on paper, which makes the online experience more like reading in a dusty library than participating in a new medium. Now that the novelty has faded, business executives and consumers are going back to reading newspapers and watching TV. Ultimately, the Net hasn't truly become a part of our real worlds."

The executable Net - termed X Internet by Forrester - will consist of quickly downloaded, disposable programs loaded onto PCs and handhelds, and move away from today's transactional Web services.

"Executable applications will give users tools to experience the Net in more entertaining and engaging ways. For example, imagine a corporate buyer navigating a virtual marketplace with a Doom-like user interface - buyers could simply shoot the deals they want. That's a far cry from today's Web," said Carl D. Howe, research director, principal analyst and leading middle initial man at Forrester.

Howe actually gives quite a good analogy as to why the Net will change. "It's a little like the early days of television when programming was just radio with pictures of announcers."

As for the millions of Net-connected devices, the report reckons anything that runs on electricity will eventually have a Net link. This will allow Internet devices that "that sense, analyze, and control the real world". And there'll be 14 billion of them by 2010.

"Extended Internet devices will provide real-time information about what is going on and provide knobs and levers for companies to control their businesses," said Howe. "A data centre business in California might combine real-time data from both the power company and customers to reduce the power consumption of their air conditioners when power demand peaks - all through extended Internet devices."

So there you go. Maybe Berners-Lee was given that Royal Society fellowship too soon. ®

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