Internet consultant and founder & Co-Editor of ReadWriteWeb, Richard MacManus, asked this week, “Is the Website About to Become Extinct?”

His question was prompted by the Digital Archaeology exhibit at the annual Internet festival in NYC.

It charts the evolution of websites and web design over the past 20 years: from the first ever website in 1991, the CERN site by the Web’s inventor Tim Berners-Lee, to the highly interactive 2010 HTML5 music video for Arcade Fire by Google. Each of the 28 websites in the exhibition was displayed on a computer and software of its time, which brought back a lot of memories for this old 1990s webmaster!

I spoke with the exhibition’s curator, Jim Boulton, and Abbie Grotke, the Web Archiving Team Lead from the Library of Congress. We discussed how web design trends have evolved over the years, along with the difficulties of archiving increasingly interactive and social content on modern websites. Indeed, we touched on the possible extinction of websites within the next few years!

Jim Boulton, a partner at Story Worldwide and course director for The Chartered Institute of Marketing, really questions whether we’ll have websites going forward.

In a few year’s time there won’t be such a thing as a website. With the rise of the social Web, now online experiences are built around the individual rather than around the organization.

So whereas websites are destinations that you go to to find information, the current era is increasingly about information coming to the individual – who interacts with it on devices like smartphones.

Just this week Google announced they will start indexing content by author, in addition to indexing by website or source.

The reason for Google’s decision?

…[A] way to connect authors with their content on the web. We’re experimenting with using this data to help people find content from great authors in our search results.

People turn to those they trust for information, news, and insight. They’re doing so at the expense of organizations.

Shared news and information on Facebook and Twitter is clear evidence of this. Blogs published by individuals or a group of individuals, not companies, are another example of this change in behavior.

I’m in agreement with MacCanus that I cannot see destination sites going away anytime soon.

But I do see a declining importance of company and law firm websites as the web becomes more social and people turn to individuals and the ‘social web’ for information.