Here’s the thing: the Net’s killer app has always been other people. There are side benefits, like access to all the world’s information. But the links that matter aren’t between pages but people, and they’re strong and rich and subtle. Multiply the infinite flavors in human relationships by a thickening bundle of means-to-connect; that product is what’s new and what’s good and what’s exciting. People who are looking for the Next Big Thing are mostly looking in the wrong places. And anyway, you don’t need to look, it’ll find you.

History · During the early years of the Web, I used to run this thought experiment: “Suppose they banned email; would it be worthwhile keeping the Internet running just for the Web?” The answer was, well, maybe. “Suppose they shut the Web down and all you had was email; keep it running?” The answer was yes, obviously.

It’s not quite the same today. Google did what they said they would, figured out how to provide access to all the world’s information; which is another good reason for the Net. And guess what, that news story is more or less over. I just don’t believe we’ll see dramatic improvements in search quality, and the balance of forces is such that anyone who husbands good information now sees it as their responsibility to put it where Google and friends can find it.

Simultaneously, email’s importance fades; the young use it less and less. But the volume and intensity of conversation keeps cranking up, it’s just moved onto chat and blogs and wikis and Facebook and Twitter and Flickr and so on and so forth.

Coffee Shop · It feels pleasant to step into my local on the way to the office (double latte in my own cup). Yeah, it’s warm when cold outside, shady when sunny, smells of coffee and baking. But that’s background; what matters is the faces I recognize and others I don’t, and always, always, the buzz of conversation.

That’s what the Net’s starting to feel like. I’ve got my email (two accounts) and my chat (a half-dozen) and IRC (three rooms, usually), and now Twitter. Each has its own combination of latency and message size and one-to-one-ness or otherwise. Wouldn’t want to be without any of ’em.

What about Facebook? I don’t know; clearly, it’s just the thing for getting your college dorm or high-tech mixer set up. But for me, the value is in promoting intimacy, seeing what my friends are doing. And Twitter hits that 80/20 point, bringing me that news without all the Facebook bullshit and lame groups and dorky apps and stupid ads and data lock-in. So recently I don’t Facebook much.

The Next Big Thing? · Two fearless predictions: it’ll be about a new way to connect to people, and it won’t show up first on either Techmeme or TechCrunch. What actually got this post going was a Twitter exchange. I posted Techmeme is boring. The real news is elsewhere in places they're not looking and Scoble pushed back I read 800 feeds and TechMeme doesn't miss much.

I dunno, I go there and see the same stories about the RIAA and Paul Graham’s latest essay and what Apple might be doing, the same stories that are on Slashdot and Ars Technica and boring old ZDnet too. Plus a smattering of whatever Scoble & Winer & Arrington & Calcanis and their posses are up to. Plus all these vendors trying to convince everyone that they need “Rich” Internet Applications. (I think rich interaction is about people not animated vector graphics, but what do I know?) There’s nothing wrong with it. But also nothing I’m not getting already.

TechCrunch? The top story when I last checked was “Pixsy To Power Search On Veoh”. I’m containing my excitement.

It seems there’s an inward-facing circle scattered around San Francisco and its peninsula; they’re smart and experienced and money-hungry and very alert. But when the next big thing comes along (and I love this business, because I know it will) you won’t have to rely on the professional noticers to tell you because it’ll touch your life directly. Probably by opening another conduit for the flow of ambient intimacy (that link showed up on one channel or another while I was writing this; dig it). And here’s me on Twitter from September 12th: sinking ever more deeply into the ambient Internet human buzz.

In the big picture, I’m not sure anything else matters much.



Contributions

Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Mark Masterson (Oct 05 2007, at 03:01)

LOL and +1. More comments here:

http://www.jroller.com/MasterMark/entry/tim_bray_on_future_information

And BTW, I've been enjoying your ruminations on Erlang, and I hope you'll keep us posted. But I agree -- there's lots of other interesting things to talk about as well.

[link]

From: John Cowan (Oct 05 2007, at 04:54)

By Ghu, I'm beginning to feel like the rock-ribbed old Vermont bachelor. He had invited a friend over for a bit of a drink, when the phone rang, long-short-short, over and over.

The friend said, "Isn't that your ring?"

"Yup."

"Then why in tarnation don't you get up and answer it?"

"Jed," said the bachelor, "that phone was installed for *my* convenience."

To wield another metaphor, this all sounds like trying to get work done in a room full of wasps. Mostly they ignore you, sometimes they sting you without warning; in any case, the noise is maddening. Time to get out the bug spray and shut the windows.

(For those who don't understand this long-short-short stuff, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Party_line_%28telephony%29 .)

[link]

From: len (Oct 05 2007, at 06:03)

Animated vector is not about intimacy. Virtual worlds are? Virtual worlds are about onset cueing (see last 75 years of work in flight simulation). If the ambience of a nightclub is about raunch; raunch there will be in the backrooms and the parking lot. If the ambience of a nightclub is about the history of the Internet, there will be pseudo-code on the walls and the napkins. Decorate accordingly and cull wisely at the velvet rope. In emotional networks, culling is more important than aggregation. See Club 54 and the last Republican Convention. I turn down most LinkedIn invites myself. Who ARE these people and why do they think I care?

So the next big Meme is emotional networks, how to build 'em, how to sustain 'em, but most importantly how to flip 'em. Silly Valley is becoming the Las Vegas of the mind except whatever happens there is backed up on a data server somewhere for later inspection during a patent fight.

"My memory has just been sold. My angel is a centerfold...."

Somewhere in the march to the desert people didn't quite get the implications of 'user-generated content'. The irony is 3D artists who downloaded Google SketchUp, built models for the Google Warehouse, and after waiting for the riches to flow to them, woke up to SceneCaster where a company is profiting by selling a scene editor using the Google Warehouse... for free.

VR isn't limited by our imaginations; it is limited by our ambitions.

[link]

From: Bob Warfield (Oct 05 2007, at 08:35)

TechMeme is boring because it's not part of the punctuated equilibrium where all the interesting stuff lives:

http://smoothspan.wordpress.com/2007/10/01/the-internet-first-breeds-diversity-then-conformity-punctuated-equilibrium/

How much of the new social web has to do with punctuated equilibrium? I wonder whether what drives these things is not connection to old friends, but the opportunity to punctuate that equilibrium and meet and interact with new friends.

Cheers!

BW

[link]

From: Brendan Taylor (Oct 05 2007, at 09:14)

Maybe I'm just jealous - Edmonton doesn't have much of a technical community - but the impression I get is that the only people that navel-gaze more than the people of Silicon Valley are the people of Silicon Valley who blog.

[link]

From: Bob Warfield (Oct 07 2007, at 09:19)

Perhaps "ambient intimacy" is the intimacy of a familiar place. Yet we still lack the intimacy with familiar people. Services like Facebook deliver many more shallow intimacies, forcing us to drop out the middle and potentially short change the deep relationships for lack of time:

http://smoothspan.wordpress.com/2007/10/07/the-biggest-thing-the-web-brings-is-choice-what-does-choice-make-scarce/

[link]

From: Mark (Oct 09 2007, at 05:34)

"Google did what they said they would, figured out how to provide access to all the world’s information; which is another good reason for the Net. And guess what, that news story is more or less over. I just don’t believe we’ll see dramatic improvements in search quality, and the balance of forces is such that anyone who husbands good information now sees it as their responsibility to put it where Google and friends can find it."

I guess you would have stopped aviation development during WWI.

[link]

author · Dad · software · colophon · rights
picture of the day
October 04, 2007
· The World (107 fragments)
· · Life Online (263 more)

By .

I am an employee
of Amazon.com, but
the opinions expressed here
are my own, and no other party
necessarily agrees with them.

A full disclosure of my
professional interests is
on the author page.