Friday, January 30, 2009

Phases of the 'net

It would be my view that the history of the 'net can be described by breaking it into a number of phases. These phases aren't cleanly distinguished from one another - you can't say that one ends here and thus the other starts - nor are they intended to suggest that the last few decades can't be broken up into other differentlt flavoured segments. Not alone is there more than one way to skin a cat but you can use a dog or bonobo if you prefer, and instead of skinning it you could just stroke it. This is all just a means to take a semi-logical speculative look at the future.

The first phase of the net was primarily focused with connecting things, and people and places. This manifested in the development of URLs, Mosaic and so on. Following on from this, the 2nd phase, once people were able to link to one another, this phase was when people concentrated on the creation of vast amounts of user generated content, much of it rubbish or duplicates of what already existed admittedly. But for all that still very necessary. People were made to get to places, now they needed places to go and reasons to go there.

The 3rd phase which is the one we've seen over the last decade or so was next addressed to the problem of finding that content, or sorting the wheat from the chaff- in essence search. Finding what you wanted to find. You're no longer doing Lewis and Clark cross country discovery journey across the country but are focused on going from downtown Boston to the Drake hotel in San Fran. How do you do that?

Still for all the indexing and vast trawling and spidering that has gone on we are still left with a problem. That is that Google or whatever search engine you use might well find what you're looking for, but will you actually recognise it when it is shown to you? It's why something like Searchme or CoolIris is a sexier prospect than Cuil for the common or gardener user because it mirrors more closely how we as people already flick through artefacts when searching for things that we don't know about. That Cuil might find what you're looking for is less important if you can't recognise that they've found it.

In my opinion, there are two broad types of search. There is the looking for your keys type - you know what it is you are looking for but not quite where it is - and then there is the looking for a present for your nephew if you're an aunt - you know sort of what might suit but don't have a solid idea in your mind.

This is why I reckon that the phase we're heading into now or are already in is mostly about presentation. Showing us what is there. Of course, this is all conjecture on my part, and I'm sure that others are or have already written about it in more depth or greater insight. It is odd how the desktop is still just a mess of a thing, though the likes of BumpTop are seeking to do something around that. We have had connecting, making, finding and now showing. Where after that? I think deciding comes next. How do we choose...

The personal aspect for me in this idea is that I think I've found a way to marry my concerns about the expression and fostering of opinion via blogs and also how to present divergent views in such a manner as to allow a genuine exchange of views to take place, and for those who are reading those views to be able indicate support or dissent for all or merely part of the content. Rather than a Parliament, might we one day talk perhaps of a visualment or scribblement, or just pure divilment! Anyway, the idea would be that there will be more come from The Afterword at some point. Just not quite yet.

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