We are the Web

One of the best articles you’ll read this year is posted at Wired Magazine. Kevin Kelly’s (Kevin is cofounder of Wired Ezine and owner of KK.org) piece is about the internet, to be more specific would be a disgrace to this work of art. It concerns itself with the past,present, future, purpose, and revolution of the internet. It is lengthy, but this Toffler-esque essay is worth devouring every word. I’ve pulled out a few highlights but do yourself a favor and read this article. You’ll thank me.

I apologize for the length of this post but precious gems are rare.
Excerpts:

1995:
Time magazine explained why the Internet would never go mainstream: “It was not designed for doing commerce, and it does not gracefully accommodate new arrivals.” Newsweek put the doubts more bluntly in a February 1995 headline: “THE INTERNET? BAH!” The article was written by astrophysicist and Net maven Cliff Stoll, who captured the prevailing skepticism of virtual communities and online shopping with one word: “baloney. …”

2005:
The scope of the Web today is hard to fathom. The total number of Web pages, including those that are dynamically created upon request and document files available through links, exceeds 600 billion. That’s 100 pages per person alive.

How could we create so much, so fast, so well? In fewer than 4,000 days, we have encoded half a trillion versions of our collective story and put them in front of 1 billion people, or one-sixth of the world’s population. That remarkable achievement was not in anyone’s 10-year plan….”

“What we all failed to see was how much of this new world would be manufactured by users, not corporate interests. Amazon.com customers rushed with surprising speed and intelligence to write the reviews that made the site’s long-tail selection usable. Owners of Adobe, Apple, and most major software products offer help and advice on the developer’s forum Web pages, serving as high-quality customer support for new buyers. And in the greatest leverage of the common user, Google turns traffic and link patterns generated by 2 billion searches a month into the organizing intelligence for a new economy. This bottom-up takeover was not in anyone’s 10-year vision. …”

“No Web phenomenon is more confounding than blogging. Everything media experts knew about audiences – and they knew a lot – confirmed the focus group belief that audiences would never get off their butts and start making their own entertainment. Everyone knew writing and reading were dead; music was too much trouble to make when you could sit back and listen; video production was simply out of reach of amateurs. Blogs and other participant media would never happen, or if they happened they would not draw an audience, or if they drew an audience they would not matter. What a shock, then, to witness the near-instantaneous rise of 50 million blogs, with a new one appearing every two seconds…”

“What happens when the data flow is asymmetrical – but in favor of creators? What happens when everyone is uploading far more than they download? If everyone is busy making, altering, mixing, and mashing, who will have time to sit back and veg out? Who will be a consumer?

No one. And that’s just fine. A world where production outpaces consumption should not be sustainable; that’s a lesson from Economics 101. But online, where many ideas that don’t work in theory succeed in practice, the audience increasingly doesn’t matter. What matters is the network of social creation, the community of collaborative interaction that futurist Alvin Toffler called prosumption. As with blogging and BitTorrent, prosumers produce and consume at once. The producers are the audience, the act of making is the act of watching, and every link is both a point of departure and a destination. …”

“There is only one time in the history of each planet when its inhabitants first wire up its innumerable parts to make one large Machine. Later that Machine may run faster, but there is only one time when it is born.

You and I are alive at this moment. …”

Our Machine is born. It’s on.

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