What is the role of an authoritative voice in the information cornucopia we call the Internet? Are authoritative sources still authoritative? More channels and more sources of information exist than ever. Who do you listen to? Equally important, who listens to you?
The Web is a living, dynamic, constantly changing place. In a recent "Wired" article, Kevin Kelly claims a new blog comes online every two seconds. OK, so most of them are probably teenagers sharing their post-modern angst or entirely normal people talking about entirely normal things. But if a new blog lights up every two seconds, that would be 30 every minute, 1,800 every hour, and 43,200 each day. There must be new, interesting, cool, or at least funny ideas emerging out there all the time.
A couple weeks ago, I spent some time at the Web 2.0 conference. Though the premium content required registration (in other words, you had to pay big bucks to attend the panels), the rest was open. To his credit, and true to the openness philosophy he advocates, Tim O'Reilly left the event floor in a swanky San Francisco hotel pretty accessible to us mere walk-ins. The conference had good energy. And though I'm not a big fan of the Web 2.0 label, consensus was the Web is evolving faster than ever and attendees were there to help that evolution along. But evolving where and into what? That, of course, is the million-dollar question.
Most of the new consumer Web applications I've seen -- and a plethora of them have increasingly silly names, such as Ning, Rollyo, and Jeteye -- are uneventful and uninspiring. The hot thing to do is out-Google Google by building a better flavor of search with a user experience that looks just like... yes, you guessed it, Google. It's not clear to me why Google, with $5 billion in its coffers and some of the industry's brightest minds on its payroll wouldn't be building a better flavor of search. But what do I know?
Luckily, Web 2.0 isn't just about building better search. Here are some other themes that are worth paying attention to:
How can you find out who's saying interesting stuff and discovering the things you're interested in? Will there be a super search engine that constantly matches you interests, or will you listen to voices and sources that come to you in other ways? Will you become such a voice for others to listen to? Will channels emerge (again) as a mode of tuning in to the Web? In the post media soup merger -- Web pages, images, video and audio podcasts, and so forth stirred together in one big stew -- how do I pick out the stuff I care about and share it with others?
Think of the power of 1 billion Internet users choosing the things they like. A powerful natural selection process is happening in which large groups of people participate, even if only by picking their favorites and voting by doing. The difference, of course, is we can see what the readers are doing and how they're voting in great detail. That's powerful. That's what I want to listen to.
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Hans Peter BrØndmo has spent his career at the intersection of technological innovation and consumer empowerment. He is a successful serial entrepreneur and a recognized thought leader. His latest company, Plum, is a consumer service with big plans to make the Web easier to use. In 1996, he founded pioneering e-mail marketing company Post Communications. His recent book, "The Engaged Customer," is a national bestseller and widely recognized as the bible of e-mail relationship marketing. As a sought-after keynote speaker, he has addressed more than 50 conferences in the past three years, is often featured in national media, and has been invited to testify at two U.S. Senate hearings and an FCC hearing on Internet privacy and spam. Hans Peter is on the board of the online privacy certification and seal program of TRUSTe and several companies. He performed his undergraduate and graduate studies at MIT.
March 19, 2014