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:
- Data - One of the most necessary and least considered parts of content delivery is the content itself. He recommends changing the model from delivering "big lumps" of content to one where it's delivered in smaller pieces, which can be transmitted quicker, and which can be selected and arranged to suit a particular need.
- Client - A client application fetches the fragments of information and assembles the content into a whole. The Web browser is an example of that, but a web "page" is defined at too high a level: a person who just wants the phone number of a local plumbers shouldn't have to go to several different sites and assemble a list himself. The client should evolve to give the user greater control over the information he receives, and greater power to combine and present information fragments to suit his needs.
- Server - While here has been some attempts to make the Web more "dynamic", even sites that are data driven and customized to the user's perceived needs fall short of the task: their output, while "customized" to the user, is fundamentally no more useful than a static Web page to the user who is seeking specific information. In effect, the server still provides a specific set of information delivered according to the preferences of a provider, without consideration of the interests or needs of the user, and often with an eye toward subverting the user to the desires of the content provider, rather than serving the user's actual interests. Ideally, this should evolve to a server where the information is available in small fragments, without a forced method of logging in and navigating through content to get to the bit the user desires.
- Network - On the surface, the Internet appears to grant users access to a universe of information via a single standard set of protocols, when in reality, there are many underlying network technologies that are generally hidden from users, whose data is inaccessible except through a system that reacts to requests to fetch data and translate it into an accessible format rather than giving the user direct access to the complete store of data the system contains.
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.