Like a lot of people, I read Anil Dash's "The Web We Lost" and I read Hugh MacLeod's corollary piece. I'm split on how I feel here. The essence of both pieces, if I may be so bold as to try and boil down thoughts by folks like Dash and MacLeod, both of whom I respect greatly, is that the Web used to be cool and open and edgy and egalitarian and now, now its not. Or not as much. But its still cool and it can still be cooler. Or cool again. And edgy. And egalitarian. Again.
I don't want to play Devil's Advocate but I kinda feel like someone should. We may have indeed lost some things but we have gained many as well. Everyone I know now is online somehow. Back in the good ole days, it was no mean feat to actually meet people who didn't live online like I did. I like that. I like that more and more people are experiencing a networked world. I think the more minds the better.
So what if Technorati isn't exactly what it used to be? We have analytics out the YinYang for Twitter, Facebook and every other network we're on. Why don't the Walled Garden nuance of these new networks bother me? Because simply the barriers to replacing them have never been lower.
Anil laments what it will take for us to teach a new generation what it was like for us when the Web was cooler. You ever hear of Neoterics? Probably not. They're in this amazing story by Theodore Sturgeon called "Microcosmic God." (copy of it here on Scribd [a new network we've gained]). The idea is that this scientist invents a race of beings that cycle through a generation in something like 8 days. That means that problems that take us multiple generations to find answers to (meaning decades and decades) - the Neoterics could find in the same number of generations but that would mean something like a month. We are the Neoterics.
Anil doesn't need to worry about explaining the way the Web used to be to a new generation - we've already cycled through multiple Web generations since say 1995. Web generations are not lived in human years, they're lived in Internet Time (hi Jay Cross et al) and in Internet Time, its been multiple multiple generations since The WELL, AOL, Web rings, the primacy of blogs, and Web 1.0.
Now I'm thinking about my fav passage from William Gibson, @GreatDismal, and his book Pattern Recognition:
“We have no idea, now, of who or what the inhabitants of our future might be. In that sense, we have no future. Not in the sense that our grandparents had a future, or thought they did. Fully imagined cultural futures were the luxury of another day, one in which 'now' was of some greater duration. For us, of course, things can change so abruptly, so violently, so profoundly, that futures like our grandparents' have insufficient 'now' to stand on. We have no future because our present is too volatile. ... We have only risk management. The spinning of the given moment's scenarios. Pattern recognition”
This is where we are. Between Neoterics and Pattern Recognition...we go forward...we don't look back so much...we rapidly iterate and we do so in a world of ever-shrinking barriers of entry. Ever seen this great collage of businesses and the garages they were started in? We don't need garages any more. We don't need office space. We need a power outlet and WiFi and we'll start the next network that will suplant Facebook. Or Twitter. and when we tire of them, we'll tear them down, chew them up and grow something new. We haven't "lost" anything...we've moved on.