We Are But Babes In The Web’s Woods

Susan Murphy of Jester Creative reflects on the invention of the World Wide Web and concludes that we haven’t figured it out yet.

Though we originally took the Web to be a simply a means of presenting information, Berners-Lee actually invented the Web as a means of communication and collaboration. 12 years after its rise in popularity, we are finally figuring that part out.
Nearly 20 years passed from the time Bell invented the telephone until it was mainstream. The Web is no different. You see, the Web, like the telephone, was not something we knew we needed. That means we need to figure out what to do with it now that we’ve got it. It’s a process.

I participated in this “process” just last night, as I tried to explain to my mom why static Web sites are a dead end. She asked me why, since she visits them to glean important information, not to “interact with the brand.”
I wish I could say my answers were solid, but they weren’t. The Web is a malleable tool. For some, it’s a library (a place for research and quiet reflection). For others, it’s the town square (a place for meeting and greeting and the hawking of wares).
From a business perspective, it’s clear that the learning has barely commenced. For every Zappos, there are countless others who haven’t a clue. In fact, I’d venture to say that 99% of the brand sites in existence are nothing more than online brochures, even today on the eve of 2009. It seems to me there’s a mountain of opportunity there, not just to turn these static sites social, but to do things and create things we haven’t even thought of yet.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. The website was the first marketing medium whereby clients did it without a goal. Imagine a client coming in and saying: we need a billboard.
    But they came through the doors screaming we need a website, never wondering why. And thus, we created mountains of shitty online brochures. We still do, now we just “update the look”.
    2009 should be the year many of them pull the plug and consider a better way to spend money.
    One final note: clients never wanted the copywriter to write the website. They almost always provided the content for the online brochure.

  2. Wow, what a great freakin’ way of labelling Twitter! I just had a customer ask me yesterday what Twitter was (he had only heard of it in the news thus far). I said it was a social meeting site, but not for dating. I couldn’t find the right way to explain it to him. He said it was ok, that it sounded like something for young’ins like me, not old foggies like him. Now I have the better way to explain it when he stops by next. Thanks!

  3. Re: “…it’s the town square.” (I forgot to give context to my comment. Sorry.)

  4. The Web is whatever you want it to be. That’s where so many people get hung up. Everyone wants to define it and create best practices for how it should be utilized. Different companies/enterprises have different needs for websites. Everyone doesn’t need a social media component any more than everyone doesn’t need a print ad or TV spot.

  5. all this brand conversation. over christmas i was introduced to a couple brands by my daughter in law. A couple times it was stated, all the college kids are wearing/using them…just look. I get so tired of brands.
    okay so maybe i knew what they were speaking about, but i didn’t know the brand. afterall i am already a grandmother. we don’t file this type of info because we don’t care that much about facebook. We are the niche you don’t have to worry about. Not enough money for ourselves, let alone to spend on brands.
    anyway, yes, i kinda got tired of brand talk. I just wish that instead of college students knowing every brand available, they might just be able to label 10 trees on campus. Afterall I live in a place where Herman Wells grew a university to a large and beautiful campus. and also supported Kinsey with academic freedom.
    we’ve come so far so fast when many students only know what a maple and an oak is. The elms, hickories, beech and sycamores are standing still in this big interactive winds crying for attention, too. and to know them is to love them even if they are old and stagnant. that knowledge— or identification, better said— you can all obtain either from daily walks in nature or a stagnant website.
    anyway yea wiki wells:

    Despite rapid expansion and increasing demands for space and physical plant requirements, Wells remained a staunch proponent of the environment. He strongly advocated the retaining of tree and green space throughout the campus. He once said, “To cut a tree unnecessarily has long been an act of treason against our heritage and the loyalty, love, and effort of our predecessors who have preserved it for us.” As a direct result of these efforts, the Indiana University campus is often considered one of the top five most beautiful campuses in the nation.