Saturday, June 7, 2008

The Future of the Internet - Part 1

The Future of the Internet - Part 1
Disclaimer: This is just my ramblings it helped me get it straight in my own mind. Read it or don't agree or don't but either way comment I would like to see what people think.

What do Wikinomics, The Wisdom of Crowds and The Tipping Point all have in comon? Three different books by three different authors.

Today as I was reading in Time Magazine this picture grabbed my attention right off the bat with an article entitled "Who Will Rule the New Internet?".

Google, facebook and Apple three of my favorite internet platforms. All three I use daily and I am willing to bet there are many of you that do too. If you don't you should.

What I found most interesting was while the article proposed to determine who is the leader in the "Internet Revolution" it really seemed to be more a question of who is leading the "Social Internet".

This made me realize that this is what the internet is in reality fast becoming, though not even in the way I would have first thought. We are being used by companies to, as Malcom Gladwell puts it in his book, be connectors and mavens not unlike Paul Revere but as advertisers for companies.

First lets explore these three books one at a time.

Wikinomics by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams
The word "wiki" means "quick" in Hawaiian, and here author and think tank CEO Tapscott (The Naked Corporation), along with research director Williams, paint in vibrant colors the quickly changing world of Internet togetherness, also known as mass or global collaboration, and what those changes mean for business and technology. Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia written, compiled, edited and re-edited by "ordinary people" is the most ubiquitous example, and its history makes remarkable reading. Methods for exploiting the power of collaborative production are outlined throughout, an alluring compendium of ways to throw open previously guarded intellectual property and to invite in previously unavailable ideas that hide within the populace at large. This clear and meticulously researched primer gives business leaders big leg up on mass collaboration possibilities; as such, it makes a fine next-step companion piece to James Surowiecki's 2004 bestseller The Wisdom of Crowds.

The Wisdom of Cowds by James Surowiecki
While our culture generally trusts experts and distrusts the wisdom of the masses, New Yorker business columnist Surowiecki argues that "under the right circumstances, groups are remarkably intelligent, and are often smarter than the smartest people in them." If four basic conditions are met, a crowd's "collective intelligence" will produce better outcomes than a small group of experts, Surowiecki says, even if members of the crowd don't know all the facts or choose, individually, to act irrationally. "Wise crowds" need (1) diversity of opinion; (2) independence of members from one another; (3) decentralization; and (4) a good method for aggregating opinions. The diversity brings in different information; independence keeps people from being swayed by a single opinion leader; people's errors balance each other out; and including all opinions guarantees that the results are "smarter" than if a single expert had been in charge.

So the way I see it companies are able to harness a free workforce that is smarter and more effecient than anyone or team they could have hired even with the best resources like say... Microsoft. You see where I am going with this yet?

Look at companies like Mozzilla, which produces firefox a completely free and open sourced web browser. If you are not already using it I recommend you give it a try. Version 3 is out today and expected to break the world record for downloads in one day.

Both facebook and Google have very open sourced platforms which allow others to write applications for them and then let anyone on their network use them free of charge. And just in the last couple of weeks both have taken steps to become even more "open".

Apple is not so "open" in fact they might be the opposite of open which is one reason why it has taken them so long to become such a house hold item. When personal computers were first becoming truly personal and affordable Apple only allowed their own software to be used on their systems while the rest of the industry was built around a shared standard. Open if you will. This could prove to be their down fall once more or prove to be smart because they can better control the quality of there product or even programs that run on their products.

Yet all three are I believe are using and working to exploit even more efficiently the principal found in "The Tipping Point". Advertising

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
Little changes can have big effects; when small numbers of people start behaving differently, that behavior can ripple outward until a critical mass or "tipping point" is reached, changing the world. Gladwell's thesis that ideas, products, messages and behaviors "spread just like viruses do" remains a metaphor as he follows the growth of "word-of-mouth epidemics" triggered with the help of three pivotal types. These are Connectors, sociable personalities who bring people together; Mavens, who like to pass along knowledge; and Salesmen, adept at persuading the unenlightened. (Paul Revere, for example, was a Maven and a Connector).

The Apple Ipod was the Tipping Point for Apple, it allowed millions of people and maybe even more importantly youth (Connectors and Mavens) and that was it they are now becoming the preferred producer of Computers, Music Players and even Cell Phones. Also why I believe they market so heavily to college age students, get em while they are young. Ask anyone who knows me and I have probably tried to sell them on Mac.

Just think how many companes out there are trying to find this tipping point.

Thats where Google and facebook come in. Both completely free products but as we have all learned there is no such thing as a free lunch. The owners of Google and facebook are both literally multi-billionaires. How did they manage that with a free product?

Captive Audience.

If they can keep us on their sites we are a captive audience ready to be bombarded with advertisements. If they can take it a step further and know what it is we are intrested in by say ready our emails ad seeing what we talk about with our friends well then they can give us more relevant advertising.

If you are a business owner would you rather play a commercial on tv to millions and have it relate to just a few. Or would you rather spend you money pointy your adds directly at those who you know are interested in your product? And maybe more importantly advertise to you in the moment you are thinking about said product.

Well lets get to the point of this thing. The next company that will rule the net will be the one who will be able to harness the power or crowds and let them advertise or sale products for them for free.

Thats what happens when you and I find something online and like it then tell our friends about it. Google and Facebook are developing ways to do that even more conveniently. You can hardly find something online that doesn't have the ability to share it with others.

So who ever can pull in the largest number of friend groups and allow them to share things (Products) easily will win the Internet. They will create tipping points by harnassing crowds with connectors mavens and salesman.

Is this good or bad? You tell me.

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