Thursday, 2 April 2009

New Order

The New Order of the Web

The web is becoming a platform for participation, rather than a medium for delivery. It is a paradigm shift in thinking, communications, connection, engagement and expression. It seems to have a life of its own as it morphs into a new order, changing how we work, engage and communicate.

The first generation of the Internet was about delivering information. In that arena, a cohesive focus became how to organize and search for information. Search became the driving force of the Internet. Soon, web applications expanded to include information processing, with applications like e-commerce and travel bookings. Later came expert systems, where smart processes analysed behavior and delivered tailored results (see htp:// Information became packaged with process to create knowledge services.

I wrote some time ago about ‘search at a crossroads’. That crossroads is here now. Searching is no longer just about finding content. It is about information, its source and its relationship to your own personal network. It is about knowledge.

The new crossroads is the evolution of the Internet. Unlike the previous incarnations, it is not here by grand design, but by evolution itself. The web has morphed into a huge ‘small world network’, connecting services, applications, people, places, ideas and knowledge in unforeseen ways. Adam Smith once spoke about “the invisible hand that guides the market.” The Internet’s invisible hand is evolution, not the balance of demand and supply.

Peter Hershberg, Managing Partner of Reprise Media, points out that YouTube, Twitter and Facebook all started out with simple objectives and have evolved to something much more:

YouTube started as a service that allowed people to post videos, but has since become the de facto place people turn to when they want to find video content on any subject imaginable. Twitter started as a way to issue personal status updates to your friends, but is morphing into a search engine that allows you to tap into the ‘now’ - what's going on now? What's the groundswell of sentiment around a topic? Facebook began as a way to see more information about people you were going to school with. Now, it's become a way for friends to share interests by becoming Fans of brands and lifestyles and posting articles, opinions and information”.

This evolution has created a network, never conceived and still not defined. It is a work in progress. But it is clear that form, function, process and context have changed and all parts are merging almost at the speed of thought.

Web design and marketing, once about ensuring that people could find your website, is now also about your website finding people. It’s about reaching out to people where they already are, i.e., participating in a personal social network. It’s about adding value by interacting with these networks of people in a meaningful way.

There are over 400,000 independent developers building Facebook applications to harness this. One is Oodle, who helped Facebook with their marketplace classified ads application. I used it recently to list my house for rent and within a week I could have rented it twice.

In another example – I used a knowledge service, to find the professional help we needed. It was a database of Internet professionals classified by skills and experience. There are users’ reviews and ratings of services and skills to help you select the right person or team. But I wanted to know more about the person behind the professional. The system did not help me with that, so I turned to Facebook and LinkedIn to see who their friends were and what they liked. I don’t think Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, ever thought of that use originally. We still don’t know how it might be used in the future.

At AXSES, we have built our Travel Platform into a Facebook application. It allows arcRes users to publish specials as well as rates and web content to Facebook. All this information on Facebook, as well as the ability to get holiday quotes and to book, is managed from the arcRes admin system, which also manages information on the user’s website and a network of other marketing channels. Facebook is a different type of channel – one where meaningful participation and shared knowledge is the driving force.

Knowledge is an evolutionary force. It evolves personally and socially at community, global and spiritual levels. When Ford built the first car in America, German engineers were separately developing a similar invention. The world of knowledge evolves as we do. Along with it, the knowledge highway, media, publishing, communications and marketing are changing.

See the man who developed the web (Sir Tim Berners-Lee) talk about this

Our resources of who uses what and how on Social Media: see

Jeff Besos (Amazon), a really fun and very useful analogy of the internet.