by Cam Clark
In 1990, when Sir Tim Burners Lee created the first ever web page, he imagined the web being a worldwide tool. I doubt, however, he ever could have imagined that in 2012 there would be more than a trillion web pages on the net. In fact, the Internet has become so large that one of Tim’s latest jobs has been to figure out a way to measure just how big the Internet really is, in both size and impact.
So far, the ways invented to deal with this growing glut of web pages have come in the form of lists, directories, search engines and wikis. Even with all of that, the internet has become nothing more than semi-organized noise. All of these technologies are helpful but, with Internet users worldwide spending a collective 35 billion hours of time online every month, if you don’t know exactly what you are looking for, navigating the internet can be a huge waste of time. How can we use that time more efficiently and find stories that are interesting, timely and relevant even if we don’t know they exist?
Currently this is accomplished in one of three ways:
1. Professional Curation – This is what we normally think of as news. For example, CNN.com. An editor there decides what information is important for you to see. This is good for world and national news. Websites linked to TV stations and newspapers are often the most trusted, but they may be poor at targeting your personal interests. They’re not extremely timely by today’s Internet standards, where a story that is 15 minutes old is considered stale, and they tend to lean toward the sensational.
2. Social Curation – This is the information that your friends share on places such as Facebook.com. It’s great for finding information that is of personal interest, obscure or local, but generally poor at finding the types of items a professional curator would choose.
3. Trending Curation – This is the opinion of the masses, as found on sites such as Google Trends or trending on twitter. These work well to keep you informed of up-to-the-minute breaking stories or the latest cute cat video, but information can be misleading if it turns out to be based on rumor.
If we are to stay sane and on top of what is happening in the world, we need to bring the concept of web curation to the next level. All the pieces are in place. It just comes down to combining them correctly. Easier said then done.
What will this information source look like? How could these sources be combined to use each one’s strengths to limit their weaknesses? That is the part I haven’t fully figured out – yet. Maybe it will be some sort of dashboard that has a column of the most immediate trending information along with top stories from news organizations all vetted for truth and tailored to your specific tastes, geolocation and what your friends are posting about.
With Google Plus’ recent update to include trending information, I believe they are getting very close. The problem is, they don’t, at this time, have the same strength of social graph that Facebook has. Facebook also could attempt this, but it does not have the strength of search that Google has. Even if Facebook partnered with Bing or bought Yahoo!, both have less than 5% of the search market, so it’d still be a stretch.
What do you think the future of Sir Tim Burners Lee’s creation looks like? What would be the most useful combination of these three types of content for you to keep up with your friends and the world at large?