AI Is The New UI: How The Web As We Know It May Have Its Days Numbered

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TRANSITIONING FROM HTML TO LLMs

The current advancements in generative artificial intelligence (AI) are not merely enhancing the operational models of companies; they are poised to redefine them fundamentally. This paradigm shift, which we may only be beginning to witness, suggests a profound transition in the way web interfaces are conceptualized and utilized. From a hypothetical perspective, AI tools such as ChatGPT are projected to potentially become the primary, or in some cases, the sole interfaces for web access in the foreseeable future. This transformative shift would be characterized by communication predominantly managed by AI-driven chatbots. These chatbots would operate on a framework that integrates and synthesizes data from diverse sources, including travel websites and other sector-specific platforms.

A notable instance of this emerging trend is the recent implementation of OpenAI’s APIs within Booking.com’s AI Trip Planner. This integration, while initial and somewhat modest, is indicative of a broader movement towards AI-centric operational models. It posits a future where AI tools like ChatGPT could transcend their current roles as mere processors of external data. Instead, they could evolve into primary aggregators and distributors of information, particularly in sectors like travel. Such a development would signify a pivotal reversal in the traditional digital ecosystem – a move from a dynamic where platforms like Expedia are augmented by OpenAI’s APIs, to one where OpenAI’s capabilities fundamentally drive and shape the Expedia platform. This evolution could herald a radical transformation in the architecture and interface of the World Wide Web as we know it. In this envisioned future, the conventional practice of navigating through multiple websites or proprietary applications could become obsolete. Users might shift to interacting exclusively through one (or several) AI-powered chatbots. These chatbots, not unlike “superapps,” would parallel platforms like WeChat in their multifunctionality but would be distinct in their foundational technology, leveraging the capabilities of large language models (LLMs) rather than traditional app-based frameworks. This change represents a transition from an informative web, reliant on standard HTML-based user interfaces and search engine optimization (SEO) strategies, to a generative web. This generative web would be underpinned by the sophisticated algorithms of LLMs and driven by a new paradigm of search AI (SAI), marking a significant departure from established web interaction methodologies.

IN VINO VERITAS

Of course, I keep adopting my usual Socratic approach in contemplating the potentialities of AI integration, and the concept is still forming in my mind. Here’s how this thought emerged: I recently bought a bottle of wine and wanted to check its quality. After failing to find information through Google Lens, I begrudgingly re-downloaded Vivino, an app I seldom use and frequently uninstall. This experience sparked the idea: what if ChatGPT integrated Vivino’s APIs? Imagine scanning a wine label and getting results directly from ChatGPT. Envision a centralized AI bot, powered by a myriad of APIs, with the World Wide Web as its foundational infrastructure and ChatGPT acting as the user interface. This amalgamation could mark a significant shift from the traditional reliance on websites and standalone applications to a more unified, AI-mediated web interaction. Ideally, a user could scan a wine label, receive an immediate evaluation of its quality, and then seamlessly transition to inquiries about the wine’s provenance, suggestions for travel destinations related to its origin, recommendations for local activities, and even tools for communicating with locals, all facilitated through a single AI interface. Projecting this trajectory forward, I speculate that within a span of five years, the landscape of the Web might evolve into an entity akin to Perplexity – an interconnected, AI-driven ecosystem. This evolution would not merely be a technological advancement but a redefinition of how we interact with the digital world, converging specialized functionalities into a cohesive, AI-centric user experience. A future where the boundaries between individual applications blur.

WAY TOO MANY APPS

Generative Pre-trained Transformers and LLMs have gained prominence as flagbearers of AI’s potential in the B2B sector. Yet, at least in my personal opinion, the true essence of this technological evolution resides not merely in the user-facing applications like ChatGPT but in the underlying APIs that power them. In this scenario, the proliferation of digital devices, aptly encapsulated in the acronym WTMD (Way Too Many Devices), extends beyond physical gadgets to encompass the vast array of websites and applications. This saturation of digital resources posits the emergence of a bot-based aggregator, which might be the natural progression in the digital epoch. The trajectory of digital evolution has seen a shift from web-based platforms to mobile applications and is now possibly veering towards AI-powered assistants. How this might differ from the Siri/Alexa paradigm (and its failure), you might argue? Despite Siri’s installation on over 500 million devices and its use by approximately 250 million smartphone users, ChatGPT’s voluntary user base of 100 million monthly active users presents a different dynamic.

CONSENSUS REALITY

The current norm of sifting through a multitude of websites and applications is a convention born out of digital evolution rather than an immutable reality. Tracing the historical trajectory, the digital landscape began with websites, which were then indexed by search engines. This led to the creation of metasearch engines, which in turn indexed these search engines. The advent of mobile technology brought forth applications designed to enhance user experience, subsequently leading to the development of app stores to organize this burgeoning ecosystem.

Today, we find ourselves in a meta-stage: constructing platforms to aggregate other platforms, which themselves are aggregators. With over 1.13 billion websites and 8.93 million apps (excluding data from wearables, gaming consoles, and IoT devices), the digital world is ripe for a transformative change. An AI-powered bot as an aggregator presents itself as a logical and necessary evolution in this context. In this future landscape, the distinctions between various digital platforms blur, fostering a more integrated and seamless user engagement with the digital world. Users, unshackled from the need to traverse a labyrinth of apps and websites, could access information and services through intuitive, conversational interfaces. This potential shift towards AI assistants as the primary medium of digital interaction could significantly alter how we access, process, and utilize information. It suggests a future where information consumption, decision-making, and digital interaction are streamlined -and perhaps more aligned- with human cognitive and conversational patterns. While speculative, this concept opens up exciting avenues for exploration and development in the realm of digital technology, potentially leading to a more integrated, efficient, and user-centric digital experience. Because “The Future” as Mickey Newbury used to sing, “is Not What It Used to Be”.

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