The good old web • 8 March 2008 • The SnowBlog
The good old web
Some days I miss the Internet of ten years ago. In those days I used to be able to order a book from Amazon and get it the next day. Every week that went by brought some new, cool online service. And best of all, everyone was talking about the 'last mile' and how to make it less of a problem. Getting things delivered to people's homes would need a new infrastructure. Couriers would re-invent themselves, home builders would install little outdoor safes where your purchases could be stored until you got home. Concierges would enjoy a renaissance. In those days we were only a couple of years away from solving all those home delivery niggles. But stuck here in 2008 the outlook is a lot less promising. No one has any solutions to last mile problems any more. And the online firms have turned Web buzz into business as usual. My order might take five days to process. My delivery might take two weeks to arrive. The postage and packing might cost more than the contents. The thing is, I really want my book order that was 'completed' on Monday to arrive. But I can't complain to Amazon yet because the order delivery 'estimate' runs for another ten days. But if a book takes two weeks to turn up, the chances that I will have walked past a bookshop selling it become very high. I call that likelihood the Encounter Frequency. If you have to wait too long for something, you'll probably encounter it naturally on your travels, either when you visit a big supermarket or a regional shopping centre. Bestsellers have high encounter frequencies; you pass them everywhere. Esoteric books, like the one I've ordered, you stumble upon less often. But if my book doesn't arrive by the next time I go into London, there'll have been no point in me ordering it online and paying for shipping. I could have read it on the train on the way home. And I'll be even less likely to order online next time. Roll on 1999, I say.