Tagged: facebook

The internet is a bubble


Links. Photo by me.

No, I’m not talking about a valuation bubble as in the .com-days. I am talking about how we are using the internet, today in January 2012, roughly 17 years after its breakthrough.

The evolution of the internet can be split up in to three phases, each building on the previous. Each phase is defined by a verb, which is the default behavior of a user of the internet in that phase.

The first phase is the SURFING phase, when we went from place to place looking for text and images. Yahoo! even started out as a company that manually tried to enter all the web sites of the world in to a categorized index. How crazy doesn’t that sound today?

This was the era of the bookmark and the URL. Your homepage (if you had one) back then was often just a dump of your bookmarks from your Netscape web browser.

The second phase is the SEARCH phase and started around the beginning of the century when Google became the dominant search engine. For many people, Google became the internet. I personally use the search engine more times than I can count during a single day. It has become almost an extension to my mind, an extra mind that we all share. It’s almost as if we’re becoming the same individual on some level. Quite fascinating.

Keywords and links became the hard currency in this era since links signal trust and is used by the Google algorithm to give each page a weight, the Pagerank. Search Engine Optimization tricks were (are) used to optimise your place in the search result but it really just boils down to creating stuff that people like to link to.

The third phase is SOCIAL and the verb is RECOMMEND, as in retweet, like, +1, share etc. This is where the bubble comes in because in this phase the internet is no longer interconnected web pages but streams of data from our friends. In the phase we live in sort of a Matrix reality shaped by the recommendations and retweets or the people (or companies) we trust.

An endless stream of status updates, this is the bubble we live in.

This is the era of hashtags instead of links or keywords, because the hashtag is how you pick out the signal from the noise in that endless stream. This is a significant shift from the first phase, which was essentially a broadcast phase where content owners had full control over the web sites they wanted you to visit. A hashtag, on the other hand, is just part of the stream and you have as little control over it as you have over the water in a river.

We’re only at the beginning of the social phase of the web so it’s not a bubble in that sense of the word.

Surfing, searching and recommending. The first three phases of the web. What do you think the next one will be?

Twitter is my living room, Facebook my kitchen – how I use different social networks

I don’t remember exactly when I signed up for Twitter (my user number is 1756621 so at least it was back when Twitter had fewer than 2 million users) but I didn’t start to use it until earlier this year. Before that I got my microblogging needs satisfied by Jaiku, which Google later murdered made open source.

After having been through a couple of social networks, this time I wanted to try something different, so I set up two accounts. The idea was to have one for English speaking friends and one for Swedish speaking, to prevent pollution of the twitter feed and make a crude social segmentation.

After a couple of weeks it became apparent that this strategy didn’t work. I also noticed a change in my own tweets and the type of things I posted, as the number of followers started to grow.

The thing is, when you have 10 close friends as followers, you can post pretty much everything. They don’t mind. In fact, hearing about your indecision about what to put on your morning sandwich can make their day. It’s, after all, your friends. That’s what friends do: share everyday obstacles and stories.

The problem is: this sharing doesn’t scale well. It’s cute to hear 10 of your closest friends talk about their cats. It’s annoying when 400 people do it.

I also realised that Twitter and Jaiku are two very different services despite their apparent similarities. On Jaiku you often end up with long discussion threads such as this. They had depth. Twitter is short, fast, concise and to the point. It’s little fragments of insights, ideas, link tips and yes, one or two cat posts.

So, instead of having more than one Twitter account, I’ve decided to do the segmentation on the social network level. Right now I mainly use three networks and each network is sort of like a room in a house.

  • The kitchen: Facebook is my friends “people-I-have-dinner-with” list. On Facebook I’m a little bit more relaxed and post silly stuff like this:
    Facebook Status Update
    A rule of thumb is that everyone I friend on Facebook is someone I’ve met in person. Facebook is my private web feed.
  • The work place: LinkedIn is where I keep my professional contacts. Rule of thumb: people I’ve worked with or may work with in the future. More professional, a little stricter. Kind of my online resume.
  • The living room: Twitter is my general news feed and online conversation. I’m not even sure it’s a social network at all. It’s more of a discovery engine. It has replaced, or rather complemented, my RSS reader. Twitter is my public web feed.

Of course there are many overlaps between these networks and I’m sure my usage of these and other services will change over time (I wonder how Twitter will be used in the not too distant future when everyone from your fridge to your grandmother has a twitter stream) but right now this is how I live on the net.

These three rooms represents different parts of my personality and my life and I’m sure that division will not change, no matter what the Next Big Thing on the net is.

How do you use social networks? I know it’s common to post everything to everywhere, so am I wrong in dividing myself into different personas? What do you think? I’d love to know!

There’s also another dimension to all of this: the emotional bandwidth of the technology used. But that will be another post.