Once upon a time, in some ivy-leagued dungeon, some mathematicians realized the equations and functions which required translating into language to be processed and manipulated, could be done by machines, without translation. As the computing machines were math based, it followed machine processes could follow logic statements in the same way a mathematician manipulates a number set into English and back again. These very useful “computing” machines were very expensive and rare…but mathematicians at MIT believed they would in fact become ubiquitous.
They imagined a network of computers connected as telephones had connected the country, and in 1965 Lawrence Roberts of MIT first connected with a computer in California and sent a message. This was beginning of the social web. Email, today’s “hidden” social network, was different then. Email lived on the original Cloud, a file directory where messages were stored. When you logged in, you would see a notification that you had a message…sound familiar?
The “www” internet became realized through Arpanet, network hosted by Harvard, MIT and BBN. Why was a network so important to colleges? Access of information. The initial purpose of the internet was to share information across distances and make universally accessible. Files were hosted on “servers”, essentially big computing machines, separate from the little PC you used to access those files.
For many years the internet was limited by the natural constraints of the materials computers and communications cables ran on. But the internet fed on itself, spreading knowledge, increasing awareness and innovation. New materials were created and appropriated to build fiber optic cabels and silicon chips. Arpanet became ICP. Like a Willie Wonka fantasy, physicists’ lives’ work was made the magic of transmitting data via waves possible.
Thus was the Information Age.
I remember sitting in eighth grade computer class with Emily K— next to me. As I frustratingly searched for a term from whatever random assignment we’d been given, she suggested I try a new search engine she’d been using: Google.
We were the first wave of Millennials, IMing eachother to stay connected while stuck babysitting, peppering our messages with emoticons, reading blogs and gathering our emerging teenage angst on LiveJournal’s blogging page, wondering who in the world we hadn’t yet seen might be reading it, and feeling the same somewhere…
Our parents lived in fear of faceless internet demons appearing in the pages of the national papers. The warned us to stay away from the chatrooms and forums, questioned us about every screenname on our “Buddy lists”, and cried for blocks to websites we were too young to see.
But they couldn’t block the web, and Google had become the
Reiteration of the Internet
Last year the socialvanglists were still heralding Facebook as a “reiteration of the internet”. No longer was the web where we accessed Project Gutenberg’s treasure trove, company portals and our friends’ “homepages”. The internet was being interlaced with social networks like the red ivy from War of the Worlds.
Facebook’s OpenGraph was following you everywhere on the web, prepopulating your data into sites, giving you suggestions based on your friends, prompting you to “like” things you happened to have keyword stumbled onto…Following you onto pages which weren’t hosted by Facebook.
The web is a big place, filled with people who do not check Facebook “7 times a day”. It’s filled with information and communities, like the one I run, completely separate from the all-seeing eye. These pages have been built up over the history of the internet. According to DomainTools there are approximately 10,000,000 active domains on the internet.
The Solution to Search in a Social World
When I started this blog I was fascinated by search competition tools like Rockmelt and Flock. These were social browsers, capable of competing with Google and Bing by their ability to integrate search and deliver daily news from Twitter and Blogs in your browser, but in a way similar to Google Reader. My new-happy addiction even went on to call Rockmelt a “Social Meta Network”, a phrase coined to explain OpenID, but basically a social graph.
This is the world imagined by an integration of social and search by Rockmelt:
Seems beautifully simple right? It’s a lot bigger than that when you put your data thinking cap on, or look at it from an OS developers’ POV. The social browser runs on Chrome, which is supposed to be your desktop, so you no longer need to wait for a billion programs to boot up. Facebook, Twitter, Ping, they all need to be a part of a search engine. Without it, there is no “browsing” in your browser.
Googling Our Futures
Google is in a prime position to dominate not just the web, but the mobile market. Which is basically the web, or Cloud or Matrix, because that’s more fun to call it. Let’s try some of that logic:
Android competes with iPhones
Google Chrome on a PC could compete with OS
Google Chrome social browser could be the answer to Lion OS which integrates with Twitter
If Google had teamed with Facebook for some sort of desktop it would have been Lion’s biggest rival. But Google can’t build a whole computer, and apparently would rather go up against Facebook over the social networking aspect than partner up to take on Apple. That’s fine…competition is good for us.
So Google is your map to the web. Apple is the car, Facebook your friends with suggestions for the trip. Without Google, we might as well go back to Arapnet, because you’re not going anywhere your friends haven’t been.