October 19, 2008

The World. The Web. Just That Much Smaller.

By Ken Stewart of ChangeForge.com (Twitter/FriendFeed)

In July of this year, Google announced on its blog the Web was a big place. That's probably not much of surprise to anyone reading this.
  • In 1998, Google's index contained 26 million pages.
  • By 2000, the index reached 1 billion pages.
  • This year, Google announced its engines have discovered over 1 trillion unique URLs.
As if you needed more evidence, U.S. companies produced over 4.3 trillion pages from document output devices last year alone. Information is being produced and consumed at staggering rates.

Recently, one speaker I heard commented on the last century's rapidly spiraling rate of information growth.

He stated the amount of information up until 1900 could be measured as a 1 inch bar on a graph. He went on to say the information gathered from 1900 to 1950 could be measured as a 2 inch bar on the same graph, while the information presently available would measure as high as the Washington Monument. That would be 6,665.5 inches, or 555 feet, 5.5 inches tall.

Connecting the Dots:

I have discussed some of these trends in the technology and business worlds – and specifically how the ever-increasing amount of information has become hard to digest:

The true winners will be those who are able to connect the dots and fund innovations geared to lessen the visible complexity, enhance efficiencies, and/or create real-dollar cost savings.

In fact, IBM would say most of their customers are concerned with consumability: the abstraction of complex technology to the end-user, while surfacing only enough of the interface necessary to help the end-user achieve their objectives.

Perhaps you have heard the phrase, "I don't care how the car starts, I just want to stick the key in and be able to go get my latte."

What You Were Looking For:

How do you find what it is you need on the web?

Of course I started this article with one of the most prevalent ways in which people search for information, Google. Google has brought such an impact to our world in the last decade, the company's name has become a verb – synonymous with search.

While there are perhaps many examples of how complex technology is helping you, one recently caught my attention - that of social media.

While Google found an unserved opportunity in search, the long tail of software has evolved from dozens of markets with millions of users to that of millions of markets with dozens of users (source, IBM GTO, 2008).

Social media is the logical conclusion of all of the voices attempting to be heard, to be found, and ultimately seeking resonance.

And so conversations continue across media outlets, blogs and the Web-space in general - proliferating with exponential frequency. Content is being created, being expanded upon, and being echoed back.

Turn Down the Volume:

Simply searching through Google, or the like, just wasn't enough. Even early adopters would even have trouble scouring such a wide swath of content in search of meaning and connection.

With such a volume of information, more refined mechanisms of search had to be created; more meaningful conversations could only be had when people were connected to one another, and those involved would need to be able to dial-up or dial-down the amount of information being consumed – based upon individual need or desire.

What I have witnessed is one writer beginning a thought while another finishes it – without even knowing the other had started the conversation in the first place. In another instance, you might see a small community of bloggers holding almost identical conversations to one another without knowledge or thought of the other.

The Connection:

All it takes is a connection – something or someone to draw a line between the dissonant parties. Thus the power of the web, and social media specifically, are realized in small but meaningful chunks.

With the advent of services such as Twitter and FriendFeed the momentum of discovery has accelerated, and even new bloggers like me are able to gain access to meaningful connections after only a relatively short time.

There remains much work to be done before these services can satisfy the needs of the masses, but the foundations have been laid. After all, the Web is a big place; but with your help, your voice, your connection it can become just that much smaller.

Ken Stewart's blog, ChangeForge.com, focuses on the collision between the constantly changing worlds of business and technology. Ken is also the Director of Technology at Kearns Business Solutions.