Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Social Web

Something struck me a few moments ago.  Websites like Facebook attempt to create a "Walled Garden" for the internet.  It is meant as the single space one goes for all of their daily activity.  Once in this garden, you are compelled to do everything that once normally took place outside such garden.  You gather information, share your life, communicate, and even play within this walled garden.  Outside of that walled garden is represented as some form of "wilderness".  A wilderness one is no longer brave enough to venture out of.

In light of that, is Google as much a "walled garden"?  In a sense, it is more of a community without the walls.  You are encouraged to explore beyond the boundaries of the sanctitude, but encouraged to also bring back your discoveries to show other as they may venture out and bring forth.  It could also be argued that Google presents this as merely an illusion, as you are once again kept within an invisible walled garden.

The reason I bring this up is that this strangely resembles the early days of the internet when it was introduced as a medium for the common masses outside of education and military purpose.  AOL is the first example many will recognize, however there were others.  AOL established this walled garden with the concept of its OWN dial up service tied to their proprietary browser.  If you were not part of this walled community, your experience on the World Wide Web (now simply considered the Internet) was chaotic at best.  You would stumble upon what you wanted either by mere happen chance, or via a determined search using AOL Search, or Yahoo Search.  Google Search was not an option at this time, as it was not incorporated until 1998.

Today's internet is not much unlike the internet/world wide web of 20 years ago.  Why is that?  Is it a matter of ease?  Is it a matter of access?  Perhaps it is more of a matter of sharing, and communication?  Perhaps, and by far the most likely, an entanglement of all of the above.  People want easy.  They strive for access.  We need community elements.  Honestly, social networking is nothing new.  It is simply more refined, and deliberate.  It isn't a matter of companies like Facebook, or Google, that put us here.  It is we that put ourselves here.

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