Clients, Servers, and Broadband

One definition for the term "broadband" is simply "more than you currently need" - and for most individuals, the capacity of residential access provides more bandwidth, in terms of the ability to download files of various kinds, than they presently need.

But download speed, alone, is not the sole cause of frustration when it comes to the Internet. Much of the "lag" is not due to download, but to the multiple steps that are involved in completing any given task: you must think in a linear fashion, do one thing at a time, and go back-and-forth whenever your way of thinking does not match the way in which information is presented.

The example he gives is buying ingredients at an online grocery store: having to navigate from the main menu down to each ingredient, fumbling about when you want red onions (looking under 'o' instead of 'r'), and generally going through a repetitive and boring process to do what is essentially a single task.

The author suggests that this points to a need for the "browser of the future" that will allow you to enter high-level instructions ("buy all the ingredients I need for this recipe") and attend to all the bothersome little tasks for you.

EN: My sense is that this is the suggestion of more technology to cure the problem, rather than stopping to consider the needs of the user and designing to suit them in the first place. A badly designed device is unusable regardless of the speed at which it loads and processes.

The author looks at networked communications as being the convergence of content, client, server, and network, and the need to put them together in an effective way to accomplish a specific goal. A bit more detail on each:

Considering the various elements of the system, it should be clear that the chief problem users face is not the speed of the network, but the "chunkiness" of the information, the clumsiness of their client, the stubbornness of the server, and the fragmented nature of the network.

Moreover, the author speculates that network intelligence is more important than bandwidth, and users might find their needs better served by a lower connection speed, provide that the system were smarter about the data it retrieves for them.

EN: While it's difficult to disagree with his argument about the problems with the present system, he is vague about what he proposes in its stead: someone ought to invent a client application that somehow knows exactly what we need, and the network and servers should be rigged to enable this client to find it better. Without a specific proposal, he's just exploring the problem, and per my earlier note on "design", I think he's digging in the wrong place.