The Uncertain Internet

from the predicting-what? dept

A good article from Michael Malone with a few scenarios concerning the future of the internet. First, however, he points out that no one has been successful predicting the future of the internet, so you shouldn’t take him too seriously. Then he suggests a few scenarios of where the internet can go, with the main focus being on the “walled garden” scenario that seems so popular these days. That’s the one where AOL-TW and Yahoo-someone set up their own private internets and only silly people who live in the past will need to venture beyond their walls. Of course, people made similar predictions to this about AOL and MSN a few years back, and that never happened… I don’t see why it’s more likely to happen now. One of the nice things about the internet is that there is so much varied content out there. I don’t think very many people really want to stay within a nice cozy walled garden all the time.

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Comments on “The Uncertain Internet”

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Gary Boone (user link) says:

Hmm. You mean like a library?

I don’t think very many people really want to stay within a nice cozy walled garden all the time.

Really? Let’s try some substitutions:

  • I don’t think very many people really want to stay inside and watch tv all the time when there are books and theaters and parks all around.
  • I don’t think very many people really want to stay within a nice cozy bookstore when there are discarded newspapers and flyers all over the sidewalks.
  • I don’t think very many people really want to stay within a nice gated apartment complex when there are basements for rent all over the city.

The point is that one value that businesses can add to user experiences is precisely the separation of high-quality from mixed-quality.

In the early Internet, the proprietary services couldn’t possibly provide the amount of information that the rest of the web offered. They were therefore forced to choose between opening up (AOL) and remaining closed (Compuserve, Prodigy) to the net. The closed networks quickly died.

But today’s users now realize that they don’t want access to everything. They’re totally overloaded by the information glut. These users, it seems to me, would gladly sacrifice a lot of good information in exchange for just good information, less junk, and much less work to find it.

So AOL will likely succeed if they can provide the value-add of providing high-quality information within their closed network.

The achilles in this view is that “high quality” is in the eye of the beholder.You and I love the ability to search for information that is timely, relavent, correct, or however we define our needs. The public at large, however, may be more satisfied by production quality than content quality. If so, AOL will succeed at providing a “high quality” product that people will pay for as superior to the “low quality” Internet.

Another implication of this view is that the dreaded “tv-ization” of the net happens not because users become passive absorbers of pushed information, but instead because they become tranquilized clickers in a sterile hyperlinked closed garden.

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