Nick Carr's Wishful Thinking: Internet Consolidating Just Like Old Media
from the the-big-three dept
Although the internet has had a democratizing effect on media, few people are romantic (or naive) enough to think this means that everyone can now be heard equally. And, as people are realizing, the traffic share of the internet's top few destinations has been expanding. In 2001, the top 10 internet destinations commanded 31% of all traffic, a number which has risen to 40%. The conclusion that Nick Carr makes is that the internet has failed to live up to its promise as an "open, democratic medium" as the top sites come to resemble the major media networks of the past. But even if you accept the data at face value (and there may be some reason to doubt this due to things like RSS feeds) Carr's conclusion doesn't necessarily follow. For one thing, the internet's top 10 destinations today aren't the same ones as they were in 2001. So not only is the top of the heap much more fluid than in broadcast media, but it's a mistake to even talk about the "top 10" as an entity that ebbs and flows. Imagine if he'd written this article in 2001; he'd be talking about the unassailable dominance of Yahoo, while sites like MySpace and Facebook (who he now complains are dominating) were still years away from existing. As a corollary to this, the underlying reason for the consolidation of internet traffic is totally different than the reason there were only 3 major TV networks for so long. While internet users may swarm around certain hot sites, it's still due to their choice, not due to constraints. Finally, even within the popular sites, content is delivered from a wide variety of sources. Google dominates the search space, but users don't go there to get information that Google creates. When people go to MySpace, they're not there to be fed content from MySpace, but to communicate with their friends. So while the underlying traffic analysis is interesting -- and it will be worth following this trend to see whether it continues or not -- it doesn't follow that the internet now simply resembles other media forms.