Why The Future Of Online Work Shouldn’t Be Searched For In A Browser
Very recent article featured on Forbes about Sidekick — The fastest browser built for work.
Sidekick is launching on Product Hunt today, you don’t want to miss it!
In the wake of Covid-19, online work is skyrocketing. In nearly every industry, companies are moving their workforce and data to the cloud at record speeds. Freelancers are also flocking to the web and setting up virtual shops in the surging gig economy. And it seems like every day, startups are developing new features in their web applications that enable us to create, communicate and collaborate better on the ever-expanding web.
Yet as it stands today, the only way we can access any of this is with a browser.
This concept alone should make us pause. Browsers are great at accessing the web, but they’re not built and optimized for working on it — and they never will be. The crux of the problem stems from their business model, which significantly determines what they can and cannot do.
A browser for everyone is a workspace for no one.
Modern browsers have built an incredible foundation for accessing and viewing the web. They have also been able to pump millions of dollars back into their software because their business model has proved to be very profitable.
This model is simple. Browsers get search royalties from the built-in search engine they use by default. This model has enabled them to be light years ahead, but at the same time, it has also forced them to build a product for the broadest audience possible — the entire planet. And with Gartner, Inc. estimating that around 13% of the population is comprised of knowledge workers (1 billion out of 7.75 billion), they have no choice but to work in an environment made for browsing.
For this reason, browser makers can’t afford to optimize their interface for online work. If they were to launch features specifically for working, they would have to complicate their user-interface (UI). With the slightest changes to their UI comes the possibility of millions of people switching to a more user-friendly browser. A decline in users would translate into a drop in searches and, ultimately, millions of dollars in lost revenue — a risk that even the most daring CEO would be hesitant to take.
For example, if you use the address bar to try to search for something you’ve worked on recently (e.g., design, product, launch, a colleague’s name, etc.), your browser will most likely send you to its monetizing search engine rather than helping you find the right document, app or contact.
If the browser as we know it isn’t the ideal online workspace, then what is? To better answer that question, we have to take an in-depth look at how we work online.
The diversification of SaaS apps is transforming online work.
Over the past 10 years, scores of businesses have been trading their desktop programs for cloud-based software as a service (SaaS) applications. While many of these apps claim to be an “all-in-one” tool, today’s companies have an average of over 130 unique SaaS apps, with the employees using at least eight of those apps daily.
On any given day, knowledge workers can only accomplish a set amount of tasks. Once these hours are up, so is the capacity to do more work. If they spend their valuable time (and energy) fumbling through a fractured work environment, their ability to reach their work goals is severely crippled. That means having a way to juggle multiple SaaS apps effectively will be a crucial element of the future of online work.
Bringing together apps is only part of the solution, however. What about being able to collaborate with and secure access to cloud resources and build basic data loss protection practices? Developers would need to build such a solution on a platform that could solve these challenges. That platform must be a browser. However, for the reasons mentioned above, it would need to have a very different business model than the current browsers to focus on development toward online work instead of online browsing.
Shifting to great online work means shifting our mindsets.
Companies that want to succeed in an online environment must change their mindset about online work first. By mentally stepping back from our web tools (for a moment), we can start to envision just what a perfect digital workspace for work might look like. Here are the three key elements of that space we must examine:
• Security: Your employees are accessing your cloud resources in a browser. Through this endpoint, companies must be able to implement zero-trust policies that would restrict access if an online environment is not secure. Companies must also prevent transferring access credentials to other less secure browsers like a home desktop outside your organization’s security perimeter. Enterprises will need to extend their security systems to the browser level and embed authentication and policies exactly where the work happens.
• User Experience (UX): Your employees’ ability to focus on their job is directly connected to their digital workspace. That workspace will look very different among the different roles in your company. Yet oftentimes, employers underestimate the power of a well-organized interface and the ability to express playbooks through it. Soon enough, the browser will be the new office. Understanding this element of productivity is a critical mindset for all company leaders.
• Search: Text search in the most natural navigation interface has the potential to transform how we work online. Right now, we best know this concept through ad-serving search engines. In the future of work, however, search will be able to focus on an employee’s documents, communication channels and even company resources.
If a browser isn’t the solution, what is?
Knowing that browsers won’t evolve into efficient work environments on their own, I believe that leaves us with two choices. Either we have to individually build our own work experience in a browser through a bunch of extensions, or someone must create a different kind of operating system that lets go of the search-monetization business model and adopts one that puts the user at its center.