End of Web’s golden era, thanks to iPad, Droid and others

As mobile Internet gadgets multiply, so does device-specific content. For example, popular mobile Twitter app Tweetie is available only on the iPhone, while the GMail application is only on the Droid. And if you buy an e-book for the Amazon (AMZN, Fortune 500) Kindle, you can’t read it on your Apple iPad.

At the same time, more and more online content is password-protected, like most Facebook profiles and some newspaper articles.

It’s a tangled Web they’re weaving. Simply put, the Internet we once knew is shattering into pieces. It’s the end of a golden age, according to Forrester Research analyst Josh Bernoff, who recently coined the term “splinternet” to describe this phenomenon.

“It reminds me of the early Internet provider battles with AOL and CompuServe,” said Don More, a partner at Internet research firm Updata. “There are going to be winners and losers.”

In those early days of the Web, users viewed content using those specific systems; that is, AOL users saw only AOL content. Then the World Wide Web became an open platform. Now, mobile devices are splitting up the Web again.

“You can’t put Humpty Dumpty back together again,” Bernoff said. “The stability that helped shape the Web is gone, and it’s not coming back.”