Since I started using the world wide web one thing has become clear over the past year. The web has become personal. We have seen a migration from a worldwide web of strangers where everyone is hiding behind an avatar to a worldwide web where no one is hiding behind an avatar, where everyone wants to be seen.
In the early days of the world wide web when no one was sure what the world wide web was about many people created websites and web rings and such were formed. Webrings were an early form of tagging whereby a list of websites on a particular subject would be put together to help promotion between websites. Over time this disintegrated.
Another difference is the mentality of webmastering. Whereas before a website was designed to provide text-based information within the smallest amount of data (due to network limitations) it has gone the other way. From HTML pages to Flash-based video players. The Web has become a far more important tool now that broadband is so popular.
At the same time, broadband and “always-on” connections have meant that whenever you turn on the computer you’re online. In the early days, I had a friendship with a Swedish girl, via e-mail. The friendship was an interesting one because it was one thousand word e-mails one to two times a day for an entire month before it ceased completely. That’s a lot of communication between two countries at a time when social networking was in its infancy, at least online.
Remember the Geocities chatrooms, those that were text-based were a popular question was A/S/L… Those days were more interesting. In those days you’d chat with someone and try to keep them interested and establish a friendship which would result in getting an e-mail address to stay in contact. Profiles and logins became more advanced and chatrooms are now designed so that everything about you is clearly visible (that you choose to make public) therefore some of the more basic questions are no longer needed.
I have been a member of many online forums and I have seen how they have changed from being fairly simple places for people to share ideas a post at a time to massively complex social networking websites such as myspace, Facebook and others. This brings me to the idea of portals.
I remember when companies like yahoo attempted to give you as much information as possible on their main page and the most activities to enjoy were numerous so that you would stay there. A few years later and one of the top social networking websites is Facebook where not only do you have all your friends as members of the network but additionally they may choose how much they share with others. It’s become a central node for the web-based user experience.
In this time those networks have demonstrated one thing, the ability to re-establish links. On Facebook it’s getting back in contact with school friends I haven’t seen for more than a decade whilst in other situations, it’s about people we met during vacations in another country. It’s a way for friendships to be created and to remain alive thanks to the virtual communities that have formed.
I wonder how long it’ll be before my friends use Twitter, Jaiku, Pownce or other SMS enabled social networking communities online. In America, with Facebook, this is already a reality. For other countries with patience, it will be a reality as well and we will be truly connected.
I’m already experimenting with that idea via twitter.