Is the web really dead?

In the last two weeks, both Wired and The Economist have run cover stories about the web (as we currently know it) being dead. The old web, as both articles suggest, consisted of users visiting sites directly and interacting with them via their computer (and later mobile).

Currently, though, there is a growing behaviour that shows that many users are more interested in simple, intuitive applications over sites and endless searching. Think about it. If you are an Apple user (either via an iPod, iPhone, iPad or iTunes), you are willing to pay a small premium to access the content that you want right now.

This seemed to start with the $0.99 song. I remember when I was young surfing Napster for hours downloading as much (illegal) music as I could. It was exciting because it was free and the site had almost everything I could ever want. But when some of the tracks downloaded, they weren't what I wanted or the quality was bad. Sometimes the download would just stop (a user turned off their computer) or I'd be placed in a queue that never seemed to move.

Thinking back on this - it was a hassle. I'd get home from school and literally start crawling the web (via Metacrawler in those days) looking for new albums.

Now when I get home, I go to a closed, seemingly safe network called iTunes and access almost any content I want. Even though it costs me money every time I do it, I'm willing to pay it. It's convenient, immediate and high quality.

In this experience - a download on iTunes - I don't use the 'old web'. I go straight to a desktop (or mobile) application, find what I want and download and then watch it from my TV. I still use the web, but I don't go to a website; this experience essentially defines the current debate on the future of the web.

Think about the services that you actually use on a regular basis - Twitter (through an application like Tweet Deck or Twitter mobile), Google Maps (via an application on your BlackBerry), FlipBook, Instapaper, Foursquare - all experiences that start from an application. Sure, the infrastructure that they are using is still the web. But the way into them for a user is different.

As a brand, the challenge of connecting via the old web (and the new) continues to be daunting. Advertising within Apps (via networks like iAd) are emerging and will grow in the coming years but are still relatively untested.

There are no clear conclusions but as a die-hard web guy, the app economy is the one I spend my spare time searching on. I look for great experiences and to be honest, a great experience can't be contained to a site anymore.

What do you think? Is the web dead?