Connecting the dots: AI is eating the web that enabled it

Article by Tom Wheeler: “The large language models (LLMs) of generative AI that scraped their training data from websites are now using that data to eliminate the need to go to many of those same websites. Respected digital commentator Casey Newton concluded, “the web is entering a state of managed decline.” The Washington Post headline was more dire: “Web publishers brace for carnage as Google adds AI answers.”…

Created by Sir Tim Berners-Lee in 1989, the World Wide Web redefined the nature of the internet into a user-friendly linkage of diverse information repositories. “The first decade of the web…was decentralized with a long-tail of content and options,” Berners-Lee wrote this year on the occasion of its 35th anniversary.  Over the intervening decades, that vision of distributed sources of information has faced multiple challenges. The dilution of decentralization began with powerful centralized hubs such as Facebook and Google that directed user traffic. Now comes the ultimate disintegration of Berners-Lee’s vision as generative AI reduces traffic to websites by recasting their information.

The web’s open access to the world’s information trained the large language models (LLMs) of generative AI. Now, those generative AI models are coming for their progenitor.

The web allowed users to discover diverse sources of information from which to draw conclusions. AI cuts out the intellectual middleman to go directly to conclusions from a centralized source.

The AI paradigm of cutting out the middleman appears to have been further advanced in Apple’s recent announcement that it will incorporate OpenAI to enable its Siri app to provide ChatGPT-like answers. With this new deal, Apple becomes an AI-based disintermediator, not only eliminating the need to go to websites, but also potentially disintermediating the need for the Google search engine for which Apple has been paying $20 billion annually.

The AtlanticUniversity of Toronto, and Gartner studies suggest the Pew research on website mortality could be just the beginning. Generative AI’s ability to deliver conclusions cannibalizes traffic to individual websites threatening the raison d’être of all websites, especially those that are commercially supported…(More)”