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Neil Seeman


Three Predictions About the Internet That (Kind of) Came to Pass

Posted: 02/13/2013 12:16 pm

According to Eric Schmidt's famous (and famously contested) factoid from a 2010 comment, five exabytes of user-generated information now get created every 10 minutes in 2013. Schmidt may, in fact, be too low by a few exabytes. No matter. In this era of Big Data, three visions of the future of the Internet have crystallized. Depending on which vision emerges as correct will impact knowledge-generation forever.

1. The Zuckerberg Vision

Whatever his alleged missteps as CEO post-IPO -- and I for one count Mr. Zuckerberg as among the greatest entrepreneurs of the last 40 years -- the young man (pre-IPO) had a singular vision of how the Internet would evolve. Specifically, he saw the social Web, and Facebook in particular, as the window to the Web and to all information of relevance to the user. Since the inception of Facebook, other companies, notably Google+ and Twitter, have competed to own the social space -- and one could argue that the entire Web today is social. Most sites that users click on every day have 'share' and 'like' buttons and comment boards. To this extent, Mr. Zuckerberg has so far been wrong about Facebook, or any social pipe, becoming the single portal to all content on the Internet, but he has been right that there would be multiple social sandboxes, such as Twitter, from which Big Data companies would try to extract information of relevance.

Meanwhile, the need for new monetization strategies and post-IPO revenue have polluted the Zuckerberg vision; specifically, cookie-based, targeted ads (based on what you have 'shared' or 'liked') clutter the content of the social experience, at least for some users bothered by this. Data extraction from these sandboxes is also seriously threatened by emerging privacy legislation that should raise a huge red flag with Big Data extraction and analytics companies everywhere.

2. The Tim Berners-Lee Vision

Given that he invented the World Wide Web, observers often anoint Sir Berners-Lee with hagiographic status, but his vision was just that, and it has been wrong -- so far. Specifically, he felt that the next era of the Web (i.e. today) would see a beautiful semantic Web emerge supreme, such that all of us would enjoy the elegant and scientific organization of knowledge most relevant to us. So, for example, when I Google my lawyer, his slosh-fest at his fraternity keg bash in 1996 doesn't land on the top page of Google results. Instead, Berners-Lee forecasts, search would become an increasingly intelligent statistical Bayesian agent, always somehow knowing what really matters to me (i.e., that my lawyer has certain experience in a rarefied area of the law that matters to me right now).

This is difficult in the context of two factors at play today: first, companies are increasingly sophisticated at Googlewashing, or gaming search results; second, the need, as with Facebook, for search companies to move away from data purity and artificial intelligence and toward targeted ads based on user relevancy. In the world of search, Big Data companies can thereby extract information based on search relevancy and intensity (e.g., the frequency and intensity with which a URL gets shared).

3. The Jimmy Wales Vision

Bless Jimmy Donal Wales, for he co-founded one of the most important information tools in history, Wikipedia. His vision of the future of the Internet was almost right. Specifically, he imagined, based on crowdsourcing goodwill and collective intelligence, that Wikipedia could create a kind of mini-semantic web -- the accurate, elegant organization of knowledge, over time -- as a sandbox within the World Wide Web itself, but he under-estimated the decline of 'Wikipedians' committed to the cause. The very success of Wikipedia hyped the value of the wiki as an open organizational knowledge tool for others to emulate, and then sucked away legions from the Wikipedian army of collaborative editors, especially as contribution guidelines became stricter.

What's emerging now is more like a Big Data swamp

At present, the Web is and will likely continue to be a vast, deep swamp of information, bigger and bigger, dirtier and dirtier, with everyone fishing for gems of insight with different fishing rods to extract information of value. Our company uses a suite of fishing rods; we, and our clients, value the nature of the global data we extract. How others extract the right information of relevance will depend on which vision of the Internet wins out. And have no doubt; there will be only one winner.

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  • CSI Cover Photo

    Apparently, Reddit user <a href="http://www.reddit.com/user/strykerx" target="_hplink">Strykerx</a> is a CSI fan -- at least, he revealed as much when he posted this <a href="http://imgur.com/SwoBF" target="_hplink">cover photo</a> <a href="http://www.reddit.com/r/funny/comments/ptkzi/i_decided_that_my_facebook_timeline_needed_a/" target="_hplink">on the site</a>. Its detail certainly does recall CSI's camera-zoom scenes, though hopefully this user hasn't ever committed any crimes.

  • Cover Photo Line-Up

    <a href="https://www.facebook.com/myriam.heneine" target="_hplink">Myrian Heneine</a>'s cover photo, previously posted by <a href="http://oddstuffmagazine.com/25-most-unique-and-creative-designs-of-facebook-timeline.html/attachment/28650" target="_hplink">Odd Stuff Magazine</a>, switches things up a bit. Heneine appears in the midst of drawn characters right above her name, instead of in the profile picture box, which is occupied a zombie-like bunny.

  • Cover Photo Graffiti

    <a href="Aly Moffatt" target="_hplink">Aly Moffatt</a> designed a graffiti-like cover photo that features both her Facebook URL and a colored drawing of her face. Instead of a regular picture in her profile's default photo box, she even included the apparent "culprit" behind the "vandalism."

  • Cover Photo-Ception

    <a href="https://www.facebook.com/karstrom" target="_hplink">Richard Kårström</a>'s cover photo not only honors the hit movie <em>Inception</em> (cover photo within a cover photo within a cover photo...), but it also makes good use of "<a href="http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/strutting-leo-leo-strut" target="_hplink">Strutting Leo</a>" meme that emerged from a picture taken of a very happy-looking Leonardo DiCaprio on the film's set.

  • Final Fantasy VII Cover Photo

    For all those Final Fantasy fans out there, this cover photo may be especially awesome. <a href="https://www.facebook.com/HESTHEGODDAMNBATMAN" target="_hplink">Michael DG</a> shows his fan-boy pride with this <a href="http://imgur.com/zoUSU" target="_hplink">FF-inspired cover photo</a>, complete with maxed out levels, health points, and magic points. If you look closely, you'll see he "studied" at "Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters," so it's not so surprising he came up with a cool cover photo like this one.

  • Turntable Cover Photo

    Sure, <a href="http://www.djspyder.com/" target="_hplink">DJ Spyder</a>'s face is missing from <a href="https://www.facebook.com/itsdjspyder" target="_hplink">his Facebook timeline</a>, but given how awesome it is, this small detail can easily be overlooked. Instead of his face, DJ Spyder's profile picture box features a start/stop button that fits in perfectly with his turntable cover photo.

  • Welcome Cover Photo

    For those of you who are fans of the new Facebook timeline format, this simple and straightforward cover photo may be the right one for you. You can find <a href="http://fbprofilecovers.com/welcome-on-my-timeline-fb-profile-cover-photo/3394" target="_hplink">this template</a> and many, many others on <a href="http://fbprofilecovers.com/" target="_hplink">fbProfileCovers.com</a>, a website that features downloadable cover photo images. Simply choose the one you want, click "Make My Facebook Cover," allow the app to access some of your Facebook info, and you'll have a cool cover photo for your new timeline!

  • Customizable Cover Photo

    If you want help creating a more visually striking cover photo, you can visit sites like <a href="http://www.coverphotoz.com/" target="_hplink">Coverphotoz.com</a>, which features downloadable cover photos similar to those found on <a href="http://fbprofilecovers.com/" target="_hplink">fbProfileCovers.com</a>. However, this website lets you upload a photo like <a href="http://www.coverphotoz.com/abstract/abstract_tv_head" target="_hplink">the one above</a> and edit it how you see fit. It even has <a href="http://www.coverphotoz.com/abstract/abstract_tv_head/customize" target="_hplink">preset effect features</a> to make customizing a breeze. Just click "Customize" in the lower-right hand corner of whichever cover photo you choose!

  • Unlucky Cover Photo

    While we're not quite sure why anyone would want to depict themselves experiencing something so unfortunate (if you can't tell, the creator of this cover photo, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DanielJewitt" target="_hplink">Daniel Jewitt</a>, is getting pooped on by a bird), it's not to say that this simple, colorful design is bad in any way. On the contrary, it points to a good sense of humor that can now be shared through the customizable cover photo.

  • Chronological Cover Photo

    <a href="http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/author/tim-ware/" target="_hplink">Social Media Examiner</a>'s <a href="https://www.facebook.com/timware" target="_hplink">Tim Ware</a> was gracious enough to share his picture-filled cover photo<a href="http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/16-creative-ways-to-create-your-facebook-timeline-cover-photo/" target="_hplink"> with his readers</a>, along with a few tips on how they can customize their own. Ware's simple yet creative idea showcases a chronological picture progression from his youth to the present.

  • The Muppet Cover Photo

    Who doesn't like the Muppets? Even if you don't, you must admit this <a href="http://media.photobucket.com/image/recent/Toastydoc/wall-1.jpg" target="_hplink">Muppet-themed cover photo</a>, posted by Photobucket user <a href="http://smg.photobucket.com/profile/Toastydoc" target="_hplink">Toastydoc</a>, is pretty well-executed -- his profile picture fits right into the line-up of Muppets, and it's amusing to look at overall.

  • Starcraft Cover Photo

    User <a href="http://www.reddit.com/user/LUCARiO" target="_hplink">LUCARiO</a> shared this <a href="http://i.imgur.com/xPmhY.png" target="_hplink">Starcraft-inspired, laser-filled cover photo</a> on Reddit's site. For those of you unfamiliar with the video game, it's got a whole lot of fans and revolves around a three-way conflict amongst species (hence the scary, laser-shooting monster).

  • Cover Photo Close-Up

    At first glance, this Facebook user's cover photo is an artistic depiction of some unknown man. But if you look a little more closely at his profile picture, you'll see it's actually a blown-up, colored version of the image on his sweatshirt. And, according to the user's <a href="http://i.imgur.com/QaoSP.png" target="_hplink">post on Reddit</a> (under the name <a href="http://www.reddit.com/user/zroth" target="_hplink">zroth</a>), the man is retired NBA star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.


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