The internet is a clusterfuck of communication, information and entertainment.
Since the dawning of the web, we have searched for the best way to organize this chaos. Rulers emerged with the best ideas for solving these challenges.
Then the internet evolved. Those rulers were dethroned.
If you want to thrive online, you need to understand whom sits in the current thrones and how to navigate the kingdoms fighting for power.
Chapter 1: The Dawning of Internet
When the internet was first born, web pages roamed free. Email was the primary means of digital communication. There were no boundaries. The possibilities were endless. The internet filled up with pages of information and entertainment.
The first challenge quickly emerged: how can we organize these websites so people can find content?
The solutions began to take shape in two parallel paths. Nobles and scholars banded together in the realm of communication. They focused on improving communication online to share websites.
Meanwhile, trade routes were formed in the realm of catalogs. They built portals to organize content and distribute links to websites.
Chapter 2: The Rise of Catalogers
In the realm of communication, email and forums were the best solution for sharing web sites. These tools enriched the internet experience, but they didn’t offer the same utility for accessing content as portals.
Portals emerged as the focal point of internet access, and propelled the likes of Aol and Yahoo to the throne. Portals allowed these kingdoms to control the content published and organize links for access to other websites. These kings owned the trade routes, and through display advertising, they were able to tax the exchange of attention.
While the portal kings established their territory, a band of scholars were plotting a revolution. The revolutionists thought the portals limited the internet experience. A massive trove of web sites were hard to access behind the portals. The revolutionist designed a new form of catalog. A system that would rank websites for people searching for specific content. They used links between websites to score websites and identify the sites with the best information, and they gave the people access to these ranks based on simply typing in keywords. People loved this approach to accessing content. Google toppled the portal kings, and secured the throne in the realm of catalogs.
Google gave the marching orders for all the web sites in the land. If you wanted people to visit your web site, you didn’t have much choice but to obey Google. They now owned the majority of trade routes. Google’s advertising services taxed some of the better routes, but they also offered free routes for the most compliant web sites.
Chapter 3: The Rise of Communicators
In the realm of communication, speed and networking motivated the development of new communication channels. Instant messaging allowed for real-time communication. Chat rooms allowed for groups to hold discussions.
Communicators offered unique ways to connect people, but the realm of communication didn’t threaten the realm of catalogs. The exchange of information occurred in small, closed networks. In order to compete with the realm of catalogs, communicators needed a way to open the communication between folks. Communication needed to shift into the shape of content.
Platforms made this transformation possible. Platforms simplified publishing content. You no longer needed to build a website. On a platform, you could build a web log – a.ka. blog. Blogs allowed people to publish their thoughts and feelings. Social networks evolved from the personalization of blogs combined with the idea of networking them together. Myspace and LiveJournal formed kingdoms.
Portals failed to offer a complete representation of the internet’s content, so Google rose to power. Early social networks failed to represent the genuine relationships occurring offline, so Facebook rose to power.
Facebook’s emphasis on true identity rather than an online alias revolutionized the realm of communication. Facebook’s pursuits of replicating our real world relationships invited multimedia elements to the platform. The experience was enchanting. Residents of the Facebook kingdom were under a spell. Facebook not only stole the throne of communicators but for the first time, the realm of communicators matched wits with the realm of catalogers. Facebook’s scale gave it significant influence on access to web sites seeking attention. Facebook carved new trade routes for web sites to consider.
Web sites were the first resource the realms fought for, but the rise of the communicator shifted the focus from web sites to overall attention.
Chapter 4: Web Sites Starve as Platforms Prosper
The realm of catalogs also discovered platforms to be a significant turning point. Internet access became faster and faster. New forms of media like pictures, sounds and video could now be published. The new forms of media outpaced most web site developer’s abilities, so catalogers created platforms to easily publish and host the content. Youtube created a kingdom for video. Napster created a (illegal) kingdom for music. Flicker created a kingdom for your pictures.
These platforms made it easier to publish content than your website, and it gave people less of a reason to visit your website. Web sites were under attack.
Chapter 5: The Battle of The Realms
Small kingdoms in both realms continue to fight for power, but they are often outmatched or choose to form alliances with the current kings.The lack of immediate threats to the throne creates an unprecedented battle. For the first time, the realm of communication is battling the realm of catalogs. They are pillaging ideas from one another. They are raiding territory from one another, and in doing so, they are converging. The line between the realms is starting to blur.
The lack of immediate threats to the throne creates an unprecedented battle. For the first time, the realm of communication is battling the realm of catalogs. They are pillaging ideas from one another. They are raiding territory from one another, and in doing so, they are converging. The line between the realms is starting to blur.
Information and entertainment are discovered on platforms that both catalog and communicate.
Also published on Medium.