Good-bye Internet, Hello Social Web


Facebook's got the power.

Once upon a time the web was wide open.  To explore it, web travelers used search engines like Yahoo and Google.  They “browsed” the web by entering topics of interest like football, knitting or English literature into search boxes.

They pressed the “search” button and whatever popped up in the list of search results was the Internet.  The web traveler clicked these links and explored the webpages they landed on.  Sometimes the content was on the mark, but more often than not they weren’t.

It was easy to get duped by search engine optimization gurus.  But when the web was new and even medium new – this was fun.  Amazing even.

But who browses the web anymore?  It is inefficient and impersonal.

Search is much improved, but most people use search engines only to find specific information.  Much like looking up a word in the dictionary or flipping through an encyclopedia to find a particular entry.  For example, if I want to go to Amazon.com, I’ll often use a search engine rather than open my favorites folder for the link.  It’s just as fast and I know the first search result will bring me to the Amazon.com website.

Web browsing – the act of discovering new content by surfing the Internet – is no longer the norm.  In fact, we might call it old-fashioned.  Or dare we say: Antiquated?

Web browsing, as I’ve written about before, has been replaced by sharing – either via email (or by texting) or through social networks.  Social networks have created the Social Web – a customized, personal web experience unique to each users.  Or social networks are as different as our fingerprints.

Why browse through random webpages served u; by algorithms and manipulated by SEO when your friends, family and colleagues are recommending stories, videos, news articles, blog posts, slide shows and photographs directly on your social media news feeds?  This is content vetted and delivered by someone you know (or at least trust).

The Internet is now a place to pluck information from, but not a place to spend a lot of time.  The Internet is an online archive – vast and disinterested.  The Social Web is your own personal, customize online newspaper filled with content just for you.

And that’s why we’re spending less time on the Internet and more time on the Social Web.  Ben Elowitz, CEO and founder of Wetpaint, compiled evidence for a blog post he wrote for All Things Digital last week that illustrates this point.  Elowitz found that the amount of time people spent on the Internet was shrinking:

“When you exclude just Facebook from the rest of the Web, consumption in terms of minutes of use shrank by nearly nine percent between March 2010 and March 2011, according to data from comScore. And, even when you include Facebook usage, total non-mobile Internet consumption still dropped three percent over the same period.

We’ve known that social is growing lightning fast — notably, Facebook consumption, which grew by 69 percent — but now it’s clear that Facebook is not growing in addition to the Web. Rather, it’s actually taking consumption away from the publishers who compete on the rest of the Web.”

In other words, we spend more time on Facebook and less on Google.  Facebook is becoming – quite quickly – our portal to the Social Web.  Elowitz continued:

“Something larger is afoot, and it’s not about science or technology. Rather, as human beings, we have changed how we fit the Internet into our lives.

And the nature of the Web is changing to match. The old searchable Web is crashing; while the new connected, social Web is lifting off.”

We’re in the midst of another seismic shift in the way we consume content.  It’s social and on the go.  This will change the way publishers and brands need to communicate online.  The laggards – brands and publishers – still not utilizing and experimenting with the Social Web are going to find themselves in trouble if they don’t start – and start soon.

Facebook, Twitter and the Social Web are not simply channels.  They are what is next – and next is happening right now.

Links:

Sharing is the New Web Browsing

All Things Digital post: “The Web is Shrinking. Now What?”

Ben Elowitz’s blog “Digital Quarters”

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