Oh Tim Berners-Lee, what did you do? When he invented the World Wide Web back in 1989, do you think he had any idea what it would become? The internet is such a divisive topic. For every person who says they love it, you will find there is probably another who will point out its shortcomings. However, regardless of your take, there is no arguing that it now plays a huge role in many people’s lives.
From looking up quick facts on favourite films to double-checking how to boil an egg (we’ve never done that – honest), it is incredibly difficult to remember what a world without the web looked like. It is a vast ocean of content and many of us simply take for granted that we can, in the words of Arcade Fire, access everything now. This information overload has perhaps unsurprisingly led many people to seek a little bit of a timeout now and then, with research by Ofcom showing that around 30 percent of internet users in the UK tend to enjoy an occasional digital detox by heading to places without web access or leaving their devices at home. Whisper it, but it looks like being offline is making a comeback.
Big brands following suit
Interestingly though, it is not just the general public who are spending more time back in the real world, with some pretty major brands also coming to the conclusion that an offline presence still has a lot to offer. In fact, it has really felt like 2017 has been the year when the worlds of online and offline have really started working in harmony.
Take Amazon, for example. Famed for their online retail services, which allow us to buy all kinds of things from video games to graphic novels, their Prime membership also offers access to a host of movies and music to stream. However, being one of the web’s greatest success stories has not stopped the company from recently opening up a growing number of offline shops in the US to sell books, electronics and small gifts. Fortune reports that while their offline outlets are highly unlikely to ever challenge their online business in terms of revenue, the aim is to provide a different experience to consumers. For the first time, people have a chance to talk to a salesperson about what they would be getting from their Kindle or Echo, while they can also try these gadgets out before taking them home.
Taking the step gives Amazon the best of both worlds and it is something that is seen across a range of sectors. This combination of offline and online is simply everywhere – from grocery, with the likes of Walmart offering people the chance to buy online or in-store, to even gambling,with London’s famous Hippodrome Casino close to Leicester Square also boasting an online site where gamers can get their fix of blackjack, slots and other games. Furthermore, while some companies like Casper or BARK have not been able to develop an offline presence and open their own stores, they have still struck deals for products to be showcased in multi-brand outlets such as sites like Target. The likes of Rent the Runway have even pushed this marriage of offline and online further, by asking customers to ‘check-in’ at kiosks at the entrance to their new offline shop so that sales assistants can provide a personalised experience and help them quickly find what they are looking for.
Gaming switches back to reality
Arguably the biggest success in video gaming in recent years, Pokemon Go, has also been about bringing gamers back towards reality. After years of stereotypes about gaming being a pastime for teenagers who never leave their bedrooms, here was a game based around augmented reality that was all about getting out and about to find virtual creatures – and make friends in the process.
Pokemon Go is huge, with developer Niantic claiming back in February that it had been downloaded 650 million times since its launch in the summer of 2016. It was also estimated at the same time that players – known as trainers – had walked an incredible 5.4 billion miles while playing the game, which amazingly equates as the journey from Earth to Pluto.
Another big gaming launch in recent times has been the Nintendo Switch, which became the fastest-selling console in the gaming giant’s history very quickly despite some concerns about its price tag. While the hybrid system is most famous for allowing gaming both in the home and on the move, it offers so much more than that. So many rival systems are based on heading online to take on friends, but the Switch’s control system and the ability to split its controllers for two-player gaming actively encourages people to play in-person. After all, if you’re going to beat someone at a game, isn’t it sweeter to do it to their face?
The offline phenomenon has even hit TV streaming too, with Netflix introducing the option for viewers to download programmes to devices to watch while they have no connection last year. It’s a neat trick and one which means that the biggest web-TV service in the world even realises we all need some time off the web sometimes, although quite why people are watching shows in public toilets we will never know.
Stronger than ever
When all of these recent developments are considered, it seems that the relationship between the offline and online world is perhaps at its strongest and most harmonious ever. With so many innovations being seen, it is also likely that this will only improve as top brands in pop culture and beyond discover new and innovative ways to combine the two. Whether you are online or offline in the coming months, there is sure to be plenty to look forward too.