Friday, July 03, 2009

turtlebit: The web it is a-changin'

In 1997, when I first plugged into the web, if anyone had suggested developing a website where anyone could mosey on in and change it around as they saw fit, free of charge, he or she, or me, would have been laughed at. In 1997, if a page loaded in less than five minutes we were ecstatic. We happily set up our websites on "buggy" sites such as Tripod, Geocities, and Angelfire. If we wanted information, we bought subscriptions to sites. We participated in or lurked on USENET and bulletin boards. We watched movies and television shows on that box, you remember, the one usually located in the living room, with the picture tube that wasn't much different from the 1960's version.

As the new millennia has progressed, we have seen social software, such as blogs and wikis, bring about a new era of collaboration and access to information. Wikipedia gives us access to a continuously updated world of information. Blogs are so incredibly easy to set up and customize that we'll often use one to get a website online ASAP, or in lieu of a "real" website altogether. According to Tim O'Reilly, of O'Reilly, "the 'blogosphere' can be thought of as a new, peer-to-peer equivalent to Usenet and bulletin-boards" of yesteryear.

Blogosphere? Really? Not so long ago it was the internet or the world wide web, web for short. We were happy with our simple forays into the 'ethernet', um, internet.

Then comes YouTube. Facebook. Twitter. Suddenly we can participate, yes!, participate!, on a larger and more creative scale. Make a short movie or serialize a long one, become a taking head and vlog your head off, catch a crime as it happens, show your kitty flushing a toilet over and over and over're on YouTube. Connect with old friends and classmates, share a photo album and constantly update us on your latest activities and're on Facebook.

Now we have Twitter. Tim O'Reilly says that "the blogosphere is the equivalent of constant mental chatter in the forebrain, the voice we hear in all of our heads". He said this several years before Twitter, which for my money, fits easily into this description. But it's not just inconsequential chatter; the recent and ongoing freedom demonstrations in Iran have put Twitter in the central role of information disseminator and organizational tool. Whoa. It's not just an oddity or a quirk but a necessity. We can converse with anyone anywhere about anything – for free.

The times they are a-changing. Continuously so. In 2017 who knows what the internet will look like, how we will be interacting with it, and how on earth we got by before it.

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