Here is my three-line summary of what has been happening to the internet. Repeat after me:

The internet is diverging in many new applications. This divergence creates many new products and business opportunities. Many of these new markets leverage the fact that the internet connects millions of people that want to learn, communicate, and have fun.

It really is that simple. Web 2.0, user generated content, the collective intelligence, the long tail, and social networks are just phenomena (and buzzwords) that illustrate this compact summary.

My one-line summary reads:

The internet is becoming less of an information retrieval system and more of an entertainment platform.

The same happened -- or is still happening -- with radio, television and telephony (mobile phones).

Comments

Andrew Gearhart (not verified):

Arguing opinion may be a moot point... However, I think to degenerate everything that the Internet is into an "entertainment platform" rather than an "collaboration platform" is more than a little on the narrow side of views.

The thing I could agree on is that the most visible part of the Internet right now is entertainment segments. While the Internet may continue to be visibly dominated by entertainment segments, I believe that the true dominating use element will be optimizations of business processes to function via the Internet. Things like financial transactions, video conferencing and other communication means. What we have right now with regard to communication and collaboration tools, while vastly better than they were even a few years ago, are infantile compared to what we're likely to have in the future.

I believe collaboration is what the Internet will be about. The first step is for people to get used to that idea. Eventually, we'll learn how to make it efficient and useful collaboration.

Klaas Bals (not verified):

I think the internet is just a 'virtual' part of the 'real' world and the day-to-day life.

I think the internet is about everything the real world is about. If you look at the world being mostly entertainment, the internet probably is as well. If you look at the world being mostly hard work, the internet can be that too. Just as the 'real' world, the internet is also about information retrieval, shopping (both entertainment as just necessities), doing work, buying houses, stealing and crime, love and hatred etc. It just depends on the eye of the beholder.

My one-line summary would read:

The internet is becoming less of an information retrieval system and more of an integrated part of the day-to-day world with all aspects of that world.

ivan (not verified):

Hi Dries -

I read this and I agree with the comment that reducing the role of interactions to entertainment or fun ... well I find it a bit limiting - sacrifice, collaboration, duty, discipline, hard work etc ... these are words I would associate with collaboration and community building like the barn raising that used to happen in the states.

Making those more socially enjoyable and rewarding is fun - but life and the role of the internet in it seems to be about more than just the pursuit of pleasure or fun.

Perhaps it is a generational thing though I hope not - but gratification as the ultimate motivator for social activity in any forum seems a model too shallow to be worthy of our deepest human motivations.

Is this idealistic? I just know that the extraordinary talents of those building these tools, while they should be enjoyable, might be driven as well by something more than just their own enjoyment - or perhaps it is that the source of their enjoyment is the core of a deeper more communal identity and desire.

In any case cheers ...

Ivan

Dries:

The internet is a little bit of everything, and will always be a little bit of everything. However, when asked what the internet 10 years from now will be about, I'd say that "entertainment" is going to be more important than "collaboration" -- both in terms of bandwidth, revenue and user base. Now I think of it ... this is already the case: porn is the number one business online.

Ivan (not verified):

Ha point taken -

but I would argue that the most prevalent use of the internet is still e-mail -- and how much porn e-mail is there (please exclude all my personal e-mail from this metric ;-))? That is a communications technology not a broadcast and content consumption technology ... of course is e-mail more readily monetizable? And are its revenue streams as visible? It's a different model of course, but I think that more and more the number of info transactions for the number of users is the key metric (perhaps additionally size of transactions as measured in data payload?). I don't know ... but it seems that this model is what marries Metcalfe's Law with the user-driven content stuff -- are we just talking about collabtainment? or perhaps communitainment? Common, there has to be some snappy word here for meme initiation.

On the other hand I guess I'm an anachronism -- I would rather that entertainment (because this word connote superficial activity to me) be not so central to our models of communication -- but perhaps -- pleasure seeking is the ultimate motivator for our comms architectures. On the other hand perhaps I should remove the pejorative association of superficiality and passivity with the notion of entertainment that this richer model of interaction suggests that the creative act is what is enjoyable fun and entertaining.

And just because this quote is funny:

"I don't know why we are here, but I'm pretty sure that it is not in order to enjoy ourselves." -- Ludwig Wittgenstein

I've left it as a closing thought.

mixel (not verified):

Following the conversation of Dries and Ivan:

It seams Dries is talking about quantity of internet use, like YouTube, MySpace and yes ... porn. Ivan, if I'm correct you're talking about quality of communication. From my research on innovation, I really feel the need to react. The biggest problem is that we use our existing knowledge to predict the future. However, when you look at any past attempt to imagine the future you would laugh at the results (did you see the '50-movies on innovation for 2000?)

Personally I think you have to find a contradiction (with your knowledge) that works. Take the whole Web 2.0, why is it called that way in the first place? Some companies where doing-well during the dot-com crisis and we are learning form it. So my question is: what are the contradictions that work today? My answer would be "Open Source is big business". This may be clear to us, but it isn't for most people. I try to understand what the world would look like when Open Source becomes mainstream.

Today I found a interesting example of "ad hoc" fund raising for the Drupal project module. It makes me think of a project I'm involved in called pajamanation (a kind of eBay for work). Thinking back on DrupalCon-BarCamp-GovCamp the "ad hoc" way may become a buzz word soon.

For a long-term change I'm looking at the current brain-interface hype coming to us and I'm trying to create a combination with the internet that would be a contradiction ... maybe it will work. ;) For me the future is fantasy and I'm not talking about entertainment.