My first day back at the office after a summer of working remotely featured a traffic jam of the sort that reminds me why I hate commuting: one car crash, a key highway closed, and no reasonable surface road alternative routes. There’s just nothing to do but suffer the consequences when that road backs up.
I had an early team meeting and was already scrambling to leave the house with a buffer of half the regular commute time. It wasn’t going to be enough. I dropped a note to my team, who’d all be participating from their locations (in other cities and countries), and warned them.
As I was driving to work, I thought about the fact that any one of my team, who know roughly where I live, and where the office is, could look at the Google Maps traffic status for the route and make a reasonable guess about my progress and likely delay. That works because Google Maps is a World Wide Web resource, and is uniformly accessible to everyone on the globe. That’s kind of a key feature of the Internet and its resources.
That kind of uniform access, where services don’t (in fact, generally can’t) pre-judge the boundaries of their service market, has been a hallmark of the Internet information age. It has been the leveler of playing fields. It has made obscure parts of the world accessible to all; kept people in touch with their home towns, opened small businesses to global markets.
The thought that chased that one through my brain was: how different it would be if each of my team had to download a traffic map app for my area in order to be able to check on traffic status. They wouldn’t do it. In fact, who’s to say that the traffic map app for my area would even be available in the iTunes store of another country? (Since that model more or less encourages pre-judgement of your target market).
As we rocket into the future of Internet-as-seen-from-your-mobile-device, I think it’s an important issue to ponder. Are we exiting the age of ubiquitous information and access? Is that a good thing?