Web Office: Bye bye paper?

Richard MacManus at ZD Net Blogs has a great post about the coming web office, in which he argues that Google is much better positioned to succeed at creating a web office – simply because it’s a native web company, and Microsoft is not.

Note: the web office is coming, but not coming soon – as MacManus states:

My basic Web Office premise is that office software will slowly but surely migrate to the Web.

As I was reading his post, something occured to me about printing.

Printing has been one of the things that an installed, desktop software tool has always been better at than anything web. And actually, that might continue to be true.

But I wonder: how important will printing be? I think that when we are working on some kind of web office application, printing will actually, finally, long-awaitedly go (mostly) away.

Printing will be replaced by publishing.

Why print when you can just publish? And the web office will publish automatically, bloggishly. RSSishly. Mashupishly.

I don’t know anyone who is web-savvy who prints out web pages anymore – something I saw a lot of just 5 or 6 years ago. Bookmark it. If the page moves, Google still has a copy. If Google doesn’t, maybe the Wayback Machine does. Really paranoid? Save it to your hard disk.

I think the same will happen with documents. Why do you print? Well, sometimes I print to give myself a better view of what I need to edit. That may not go away. But mostly I print to share.

When sharing’s built in, printing goes away. And when work is done online (web office), you publish instead of printing.