Daniel L. Smith writes a fantastic essay on the splintering of the Interweb; how data on the net has gravitated away from centralized services (mailing lists, Usenet, etc.) and towards personal publishing (blogs, forums, etc.) and how that has resulted in a “splintering” of information and service on the Internet, giving rise to new tools and applications that were and probably should remain unnecessary, if it weren’t for this splintering.
He goes on to suggest that there will eventually be a tipping point, that “we will continue to have an explosion in the splintering behavior of communication on the Net for about another two years or so, and then we’re going to hit a big Tipping Point – people will get fed up with the myriad of online avenues, and many of them will quickly die out (uh, not the people). We’re still in the “cool, gee-whiz” phase, and that will get replaced with the “ok, we don’t want to have 50 different online identities anymore” backlash.” Interesting prediction … which lead me to leave the following comment on his blog:
Back in the day, a company set out to make the gnarly techno-elite world of “the Internet” accessible to newbies. You’re familiar with that company: it was called America Online.
What it sounds like you’re pining for is a modern day America Online to come along, integrate all the “noise” and “splintered assets” of the great Web 2.0, and produce a coherent view of it all as a product.
Can lightning really strike twice?
It will be interesting to see who can come along and build a service that reins in all the craptastic junk on the Interweb and makes it usable and useful to the every day person. I mean, I can’t seriously suggest to someone non-technical like my parents to “go download and install a RSS aggregator, set up a blog, go do X, Y and Z, then you’ll be able to fully enjoy the Interweb.” They need to be able to take a piece of removable media, stick it in a hole on their computer, and “just have access to it all.”
Good stuff. Keep on blogging.
Indeed, it will be interesting to see who steps up to the challenge of providing such a service, whether it be AOL or someone else. Or, if there is already sufficient momentum to make such a service impossible to create, which would be sad but unsurprising.