Do you remember the world before you could browse the web before you could google, shop online, or rent an apartment on Booking.com and Airbnb? The web has become such a major part of the modern world that it seems almost impossible to get through the day without using it. It is exciting to think that in ten years time the same might apply for the current state of the web. The web is approaching a new stage – call it Web 3.0 if you want – that will change not only the user interactions, and the user experience, but its whole appearance.
What is the future of web browsing?
On March 1, 2016, version 1.0 of the WebVR API proposal was announced. WebVR is a term encompassing different techniques that make VR accessible via a browser. It empowers every web developer to create 3D VR experiences and share them with the world simply with a link. Why is this so awesome? Imagine being able to browse the web in VR – not seeing static 2D websites, but walking inside dynamic 3D spaces. I will go through four of the ways in which I believe WebVR will change web browsing in the upcoming years.
Four ways in which WebVR will change how you browse the web
3D experiences instead of flat 2D
I already mentioned number one – real virtual experiences instead of flat websites. Virtual Reality creates a high level of immersion. The research by YuMe and Nielsen shows that the emotional user engagement increases with 27% in VR compared to a flat screen! It seems that VR is a perfect medium for brands and companies that want to create a close to real-life customer experience.
For example, imagine instead of scrolling through an online store being able to walk in a sunny spacious boutique at the beach and see each model in 3D, touch the texture, and try it with some other items you want to buy. Another case would be choosing a hotel room / Airbnb for a vacation. Instead of looking at pics, you could just put your VR headset and take a 360 Virtual tour around the apartments to make sure they offer exactly what you are looking for. Both experiences can be done with WebVR. Using a WebVR website is very similar to using a 2D website – you open a VR-ready browser, put your headset on, type in a url, and enter a space you want to visit. The 3D content of the website is what makes the huge difference.
Personal productivity boost
Another big game changer will be the ability to customize the browsing experience yourself. Think about how many tabs and apps you have opened while reading this blog post – slack, email, calendar, twitter, notes, music, some articles, etc. Many users have two or more monitors to organize their working environment efficiently. The VR browser does not need to be flat, it can be split into parts. You will be able to entirely customize your browsing sessions – place the parts that you use regularly in the front and hide those that you currently do not need. A number of researches prove that the ability to design your own work environment can lead to higher efficiency. Thus, if you are able to customize the scenery you see, the VR browser experience, and how you organize information, most likely you will become more productive.
Optimize information flow
Something I’ve just mentioned is the need to efficiently organize information. On average, power users keep more than 24 tabs opened at the same time. Very often users keep so many tabs to save information they want to refer to later on like a relevant article, for example. You can bookmark such articles and close the tab but organizing tabs in logical patterns is currently quite challenging. A simple example is that there is no way to show the path through which you reached a particular piece of information and how it relates to all other bookmarks you have saved. In the VR browsers of the future, you will be able to “save your browsing sessions,” meaning keep clear interconnections between the information you find on the web.
Not long ago, I moved to a new flat and I had to furnish each room, so I organized hundreds of websites with design ideas, references, articles, items, and price comparisons in a huge excel spreadsheet with links to each piece of information. In the VR browser of the future, I imagine being able to structure this information in the form of a physical item, for example, cube where each wall contains relevant information about each room. I will be able to spread the cube in front of me in VR, add new links and correlate web pages, images, and even citations of pages.
The UX of the 2D browsers is based on metaphors. For instance, you know that a blue underlined word can lead you to a different website offering additional information. However, in a 3D world, the hyperlinks could be represented in a different way. For example, they could be a door or a portal, through which you can step in the new website. Also, if you want to favorite an online store you regularly visit, you could keep it in the form of a bag in your VR home environment.
How soon could we have the VR browser of the future?
If you are excited by what you’ve read so far, you probably want to know when you will be able to try a VR browser. WebVR is a developing technology that needs several years to reach a stable, mature state. A lot of web developers are already creating content with WebVR and others, like our team, are building fast VR browsers. However, it is clear that it will take some time to get to a point where the VR web matches the current number of 2D websites. Our goal for the next step in bringing the web to VR is to show most of the modern 2D websites in VR, so the users will have more content to browse, while gradually adding 3D elements. If you want to learn more about WebVR and VR browsing, subscribe to our newsletter.
Author: Billy Vacheva, Twitter