While I was house hunting a couple of weeks ago, I saw a house for sale that has a sign announcing that there was an "Open House" that weekend. I had no idea what an "Open House" was so I asked a real estate agent about it. I learned that during an "Open House", a real estate agent sits in an empty house that is for sale and literally has the door open so that people interested in the house can look around and ask questions about the house. The agent pointed out that with the existence of the Internet, this practice has now become outdated because people can get answers to most of their questions including pictures of the interior of houses for sale on real estate listing sites.

This got me to thinking about the Old Way vs. Net Way column that used to run in the Yahoo! Internet Life magazine back in the day. The column used to compare the "old" way of performing a task such as buying a birthday gift from a store with the "net" way of performing the same task on the Web.

We're now at the point in the Web's existence where some of the "old" ways to do things are now clearly obsolete in the same way it is now clear that the horse & buggy is obsolete thanks to the automobile. After looking at my own habits, I thought it would be interesting to put together a list of the top five industries that have been hurt the most by the Web. From my perspective they are

  1. Map Makers: Do you remember having to buy a map of your city so you could find your way to the address of a friend or coworker when you'd never visited the neighborhood? That sucked didn't it? When was the last time you did that versus using MapQuest or one of the other major mapping sites.

  2. Travel Agents: There used to be a time when if you wanted to get a good deal on a plane ticket, hotel stay or vacation package you had to call or visit some middle man who would then talk to the hotels and airlines for you. Thanks to sites like Expedia the end result may be the same but the process is a lot less cumbersome.

  3. Yellow Pages: When I can find businesses near me via sites like http://maps.live.com and then go to sites like Judy's Book or City Search to get reviews, the giant yellow page books that keep getting left at my apartment every year are nothing but giant doorstops.

  4. CD Stores: It's no accident that Tower Records is going out of business. Between Amazon and the iTunes Music Store you can get a wider selection of music, customer reviews and instant gratification. Retail stores can't touch that.

  5. Libraries: When I was a freshman in college I went to the library a lot. By the time I got to my senior year most of my research was exclusively done on the Web. Libraries may not be dead but their usefulness has significantly declined with the advent of the Web.

I feel like I missed something obvious with this list but it escapes me at the moment. I wonder how many more industries will be killed by the Internet when all is said and done. I suspect real estate agents and movie theaters will also go the way of the dodo within the next decade.

PS: I suspect I'm not the only one who finds the following excerpt from the The old way vs. the net way article hilarious

In its July issue, it compared two ways of keeping the dog well-fed. The Old Way involved checking with the local feed store and a Petco superstore to price out a 40-lb. bag of Nutra Adult Maintenance dog food. The effort involved four minutes of calling and a half-hour of shopping.

The Net Way involved electronically searching for pet supplies. The reporter found lots of sites for toys and dog beds, but no dog food. An electronic search specifically for dog food found a "cool Dog Food Comparison Chart" but no online purveyor of dog chow. Not even Petco's Web site offered a way to order and purchase online. The reporter surfed for 30 minutes, without any luck. Thus, the magazine declared the "old way" the winner and suggested that selling dog food online is a business waiting to be exploited.

Yeah, somebody needs to jump on that opportunity. :)


Thursday, March 1, 2007 3:34:14 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Don't forget the FiloFax. With Outlook (OWA) and Google Calendar and the ability to sync with your PDA and Phone who still carries a Filofax nowadays?

Thursday, March 1, 2007 4:54:31 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
movie showtimes.
Thursday, March 1, 2007 4:59:06 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
I dunno. I'm as wired as they come, but I still think open houses are useful. It's hard to get a real sense of a house just from pictures and "virtual tours" on the web; some things you just need to see.

And as for maps, I agree that low-grade and city maps are dead, but if you're going for a drive through the country on back roads, a De Lorme atlas is still your best bet.
Thursday, March 1, 2007 5:57:09 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
I think i have the answer on why there's no competition on ordering dog food online, you usually order really large (50 kg) bags (atleast we do, here in Sweden) and having one of those delivered would cost a fortune in shipping.

Just my first thought, however, im sure that it would be possible to create a local merchant online which delivers the bags to your door by hand.
Thursday, March 1, 2007 6:33:27 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
At least in the UK, yellow pages provider Yell.com does quite well. Small and medium business still pay them for inclusion ... and Google Maps UK uses Yell.com listings for its businesses finder.
Thursday, March 1, 2007 6:37:37 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Movie theaters will never die! there's something about going to the movies that I absolutely love. Of course, once I finally get around to buying that projector, surround sound system, stadium seating, and the house expansion to fit it all in, I might feel differently ;-)
Thursday, March 1, 2007 6:54:41 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
I think #5 (Libraries) on your list is over-stated. Instead, it's not libraries entirely that have been killed, it's encyclopedias or going to the library for research. Libraries still serve a great function in communities for the act of borrowing books to read vs. buying them.
Thursday, March 1, 2007 7:08:52 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
If I'm looking up an address from home (or a hotel room), I use Google Maps, but most of the time I need a map I'm actually walking, driving, or flying my plane. Paper's very convenient for that — I tried using web maps on my cell phone, but I wasn't impressed.
Thursday, March 1, 2007 7:44:07 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
lol @ including "libraries". You would NEVER know it by the fervor that the library zealots have for building MORE and BIGGER libraries. These self-serving "public servants" need to read your top 5 list.
Thursday, March 1, 2007 9:10:54 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
You're probably right on the first four examples but you're wrong if you think the Internet has made libraries less relevant or less important than they were five or even ten years ago. In fact the opposite is true, computers and especially the Internet have reinvigorated libraries all over the country. I did research on this topic for the Gates Foundation several years ago and found that public access computing programs often result in increased patronage, more diverse patronage, and even increased book circulation. More importantly, libraries play a critical role in providing access to learning and technology for children, low income families, immigrant communities, rural populations, and senior citizens. It is really quite amazing! There are a lot of great resources online (including your local library) but one that you might not find is called the Shifted Librarian.
Friday, March 2, 2007 2:13:12 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
"increased patronage"

Exactly. And thats the goal of every librarian in the country. They let the scope of their social program creep further and further away from their original goals... all in a desperate attempt to "increase patronage"... aka "keep my librarian salary active, even through the profession is utterly OBSOLETE".
Friday, March 2, 2007 2:20:23 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)

We buy our dog food from this place online. The price is high compared to your Atta-Boys - more comparable to pet store brands, but it is high quality, all natural, and smaller amounts are fed to the dog. The shipping is free, and we usually get it within 2 days of placing the order.

Friday, March 2, 2007 1:58:19 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Wow, steve, you're not bitter or anything... Librarians are doing a lot of soul searching about their future (or lack thereof), and it's not fair or accurate to characterize it as self-serving. Wouldn't they be irresponsible if they didn't re-evaluate their role in a changing environment?

Scott made excellent points about serving diverse populations. Libraries also are deeply concerned about long-term preservation of the cultural record, something that is at risk on the increasingly commercialized net.
Friday, March 2, 2007 7:29:07 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
"bitter"? That must mean you disagree with me. Otherwise, you would have said "passionate", I suppose.

I'm simply commenting that with the world changing invention of the internet... one would suspect things such as libraries to fade from view in favor of BETTER and IMPROVED capacities to store and retrieve information. But instead, we have an EXPANSION of the old-school library system (in the US, at least). My suggestion is that it is simply a social system that is living past its date of natural death, only kept alive (and growing) by the library establishment (librarians, etc) looking out for numero uno. Its time to DE-fund libraries, and spend the money where it can make a much bigger difference.
Saturday, March 3, 2007 12:10:10 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
What you're missing out on is the general quality of the information in a library. Granted, there are a lot of books that are outdated or misinformed, but if I've learned anything in the last 10-15 years, it's that there's definitely a plus side to getting information that was actually proofread and edited vs. gleaning reliable information from the internet. It's scary how much "facts" have changed with the proliferation of the internet.
As a side note, I must admit that I can't stand reading from a computer screen. For the most part, if I was going to read something worth getting comfortable with from the internet, I'd just end up printing it out (if I had a printer). Oh, and there's the fact that I'm not going to take my laptop down the street to the park, or curl up with it in bed, when I can have a nice handy paperback from the library down the street to take with me wherever I may roam.

/c0mput3rz R klng grmr
Sunday, March 4, 2007 5:57:14 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
I don't really think that the Internet have killed all these industry. Actually, the Internet has streamline the value chain in these industries. It is a matter of how the management is able to accept the distruptive changes in the society, espcially in a strategic planning.
Monday, March 5, 2007 8:35:03 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
I don't agree with libraries becoming outdated by the Web for the following reasons:

1. Libaries are more than for research. They offer a lot of entertainment material in various formats - books, CDs, DVDs, audio tapes, etc.
2. Public libraries offer this for free (property taxes don't count because you have to pay them anyway)
3. People who don't have Internet at home can use the Internet facilities at the library.
4. There are many books and other material available at typical libraries than which are available on the Internet (paid or free).
5. As others have said, sometimes it is easier to use a book than read it on a computer.
Tuesday, March 6, 2007 1:36:14 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
"They offer a lot of entertainment material in various formats"

Wow. So government's role is to provide ENTERTAINMENT material to the people? Thomas Jefferson would role over in his grave if he heard you say that. Talk about SCOPE-CREEP in a social service.

"property taxes don't count because you have to pay them anyway" technically, the taxes should be lower if libraries were no longer funded. yeah yeah, i know those folks would never return a dime to taxpayers though. But to defund libraries, should free up money for other social causes... causes that haven't been made obsolete by the internet and technology progress.

"People who don't have Internet at home can use the Internet facilities at the library"

"There are many books and other material available at typical libraries than which are available on the Internet"

Google and Microsoft are trying HARD to take that bullet away from you. And give them ONE PERCENT of library funding... and you wouldn't find a unique text at any physical library, than wouldn't be available to the entire world, via the internet.

"sometimes it is easier to use a book than read it on a computer."

again, what a horribly high price to pay, so that I can read my book on my counch, versus my desk chair. Seriously? Is it really worth the billion$ in library funds for that small convenience to that very small group of people? A library (physical or virtual) isn't created to cater to EVERY preference. They should provide the BASIC service. If your PREFERENCE is to read a hard copy... feel free to go to amazon and purchase it. But for a service provided by tax dollars, a BASIC service is more than enough.

How about we use ONE-PERCENT of the libary funds to pay for 100% of these internet connections? Deal?

krishna - the fact is that the INFRASTRUCTURE required for PHYSICAL libraries make them a terrible investment. Period. Its simply more economical to virtually distribute, then to physically distribute.
Tuesday, March 6, 2007 4:12:30 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
"CD Stores: It's no accident that Tower Records is going out of business. Between Amazon and the iTunes Music Store you can get a wider selection of music, customer reviews and instant gratification. Retail stores can't touch that."

Actually, retail stores have far better "instant gratification" than Amazon.
Tomer Chachamu
Wednesday, March 7, 2007 2:58:12 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
actually Tomer, neither cd stores or amazon give you instant gratification like bittorrent. And neither can compete with bittorent's price either. free.
Thursday, March 8, 2007 12:49:56 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Libraries aren't going anywhere. Libraries serve an important function as a community center where people gather to do all kinds of stuff from watching movies, to storytelling, to participating in financial seminars, and borrowing everything from MP3s, and DVDs to paperbacks. Libraries provide equal access to information for those who can't afford access any other way. Additionally, as someone else pointed out, many people still don't have a clue as to how to conduct research, or even use a computer.

Libraries fill this gap between those who are information literate, and those who are not. Also, many people (especially teens) just assume that anything on the Internet must be true. The credibility of the information is often suspect since sourcing is seldom provided. Librarians point people to better sources, with attribution. The digital divide is real, and again, many people simply can't afford access. Lastly, most of the information pre 1980 doesn't exist in any digital format whatsoever so libraries aren't going anywhere anytime soon.
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