I’ve often said it, and I’ll say it again. The real value of social media lies in the ability for anyone to interact over anything. It is the interaction that creates the value. Smart people like Tim O’Reilly will tell you that web 2.0 is about the web becoming a platform. That data is becoming more important than software. And that network effect determine value.
Clay Shirky is interviewed by the Guardian about his view of the next decade. Not a great in depth interview, but an ok read. In it he predicts newspapers will disappear (wow), and that books will be printed on-demand. I do like his final statement:
What does the next decade hold? Mobile tools will certainly change the landscape, open spectrum will unleash the kind of creativity we’ve seen on the wired internet, and of course there will be many more YouTube/Facebook-class applications. But the underlying change was the basic tools of the internet. The job of the next decade is mostly going to be taking the raw revolutionary capability that’s now apparent and really seeing what we can do with it.
Kevin Kelley talks about the development of a new kind of mind:
It is hard to imagine anything that would “change everything” as much as a cheap, powerful, ubiquitous artificial intelligence—the kind of synthetic mind that learns and improves itself. A very small amount of real intelligence embedded into an existing process would boost its effectiveness to another level. We could apply mindfulness wherever we now apply electricity. The ensuing change would be hundreds of times more disruptive to our lives than even the transforming power of electrification. We’d use artificial intelligence the same way we’ve exploited previous powers—by wasting it on seemingly silly things. Of course we’d plan to apply AI to tough research problems like curing cancer, or solving intractable math problems, but the real disruption will come from inserting wily mindfulness into vending machines, our shoes, books, tax returns, automobiles, email, and pulse meters.
And he agrees with Tim on the importance of network effects:
We see evidence for that already. A farmer in America–the hero of the agricultural economy–rides in a portable office on his tractor. It’s air conditioned, has a phone, a satellite-driven GPS location device, and sophisticated sensors near the ground. At home his computer is connected to the never-ending stream of weather data, the worldwide grain markets, his bank, moisture detectors in the soil, digitized maps, and his own spreadsheets of cash flow. Yes, he gets dirt under his fingernails, but his manual labor takes place in the context of a network economy.
I do not pretend to be as smart or experienced as these people. But I think we can safely say that underlying many of these developments there is one major driver. Many of these technological developments have been driven by the human need for interaction. The success of web 2.0 isn’t data. YouTube didn’t become the largest video portal because it stored video’s. It became the largest one because people could share and interact over these videos.
I see that behavior everywhere. Take Friendfeed for example. The most important aspect of Friendfeed isn’t content aggregation imo (that’s actually not important at all as content aggregation lacks intention). It is the ability to interact over the content. I suspect many users engage in conversations on Friendfeed without actually having seen the original piece of content that sparked the conversation.
It isn’t about ‘always on’ either (this used to be the mobile mantra). People do not buy mobile phones with cool technological features so that they can be ‘always on’. The mobile handheld may be a good way to be ‘always on’, but underlying that technical capability I have always felt the underlying need was a fear of not being there when it happens. It allows you to track what is happening and interact any time you feel like it. Interaction is what makes life fun.
I do believe that the nature of the interaction will evolve. Right now it is a very public interaction. Half of the Internet population is on Facebook or MySpace by now. Conversations are taking place everywhere and with anyone. While that will remain, I also think there will be an increased need for more private interactions. Instead of talking with thousands of people all over the world you really do not know, we will see more and more possibilities to allow you to interact with the people you really now and care about.
As a result of this I think we may see a decline in the growth of these huge social networks. If everyone is there, it is simply not as interesting anymore. People will revert to smaller, more private environments in which they can interact whenever they want with their friends, family, colleagues etc.
What do you think?