Why a Splintered Web Will Yield to a Golden Age

Craig Newmark: A Distributed Trust System Is the 'Killingest' of Killer Apps

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Judy Shapiro
Judy Shapiro

Josh Bernoff has offered a perspective that the internet's golden age is over and is being replaced with "splinternet." In the post he wrote: "Let's be clear. It's the internet applications that are splintering, not the internet itself. The most splintered of these applications is the web. The whole framework of the web is based around the idea that everything is in a compatible format. Any browser, any computer, any connection, you see pretty much the same thing.

Not any more. Each new device has its own ad networks, format and technology ... It will splinter the web as a unified system. The golden age has lasted 15 years ... and it lasted so long we thought it would last forever. But the end is in sight, and the splinternet is here to stay."

His astute observation that this technological fragmentation is significant obscures for him the fact this fragmentation is largely a temporary condition, not the harbinger of any golden age's demise. Or maybe he meant it as, the "internet's technology golden age" is kaput. No matter how it was meant, to my way of thinking, internet's golden age can't be over since it has not even arrived yet. At the 30,000-foot view, technology has never defined a golden age -- technology is used to propel one. At its core, a golden age is characterized in human terms; as in when there is a positive change in our evolution. Take a look at the following definition (courtesy of answers.com) of a golden age:

  • 1. A period of great peace, prosperity, and happiness.
  • 2. Greek and Roman. an untroubled and prosperous era during which people lived in ideal happiness.

If one applies that definition in the case of the internet, I contend that the internet's golden age will be a time (dare I say "epoch") when human achievement (note the emphasis on "human") is more a function of personal choice than external circumstance. This is the high standard I imagine the internet can deliver. So by that definition, the best is yet to come.

The interesting question to ask ourselves next is: Will this technological fragmentation correctly described by Josh is an impediment to the emergence of the internet's golden age?

Lots of possibilities and few certainties. One thing I am certain of is that technology can rise to the challenge of delivering the critical elements needed to usher in this golden age, in spite of the fragmentation. For example, new solutions are emerging to create frictionless ways to take our personal content with us across platforms and devices (cloud services such as Airset offer us a vision on this front). And any golden age must allow people to create digital trust bonds that will let us collaborate, communicate and share information confidently.

Craigslist founder Craig Newmark recently commented in GigaOm that "some form of distributed trust system is 'the killingest of killer apps' for the web over the next decade." In this golden age, technology will allow us to move from a "risk mitigation/online security" internet environment to an "on-demand trust credentials" environment where our human need to create trust can be proactively part of our online experience. Other requirements needed to help the birth of the golden age include updated systems for allowing people who create content to be to control its ownership and distribution. And unquestionably, we will need better technology to prevent against collective network catastrophic failure made all the more easier given the interconnected nature of digital networks.

Not surprisingly, all types of innovative technology companies are creating elements needed for this golden age to commence. Examples include News Certified Exchange, where experts can be verified for trustworthiness, and Hum News, a news organization and platform whose mission is to "... nurture a realization of future prosperity, security and meaning directly tied to the total well-being of the entire world" by providing trusted news coverage of under-covered countries.

Other companies like Comodo provide free, best-in-class security and trust assurance solutions to "Judy Consumer" because they recognize that online security needs to be freely available to all. Changemakers is a powerful platform that encourages people, through grants, to create new trusted communities who can help disperse technology that improves people's lives. All these companies and more are crafting the key elements needed for our coming golden age.

We are still in the Dark Ages when it comes to many of these challenges, but historically, dark ages are always followed by golden ages full of enlightened new possibilities. This is why I sense we are on the precipice of the internet's golden age. Let's not kill it off before it is even born.

Judy Shapiro is chief brand strategist at CloudLinux and has held senior marketing positions at Paltalk, Comodo, Computer Associates, Lucent Technologies, AT&T and Bell Labs. Her blog, Trench Wars, provides insights on how to create business value on the internet.
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