Web World: The Creative Revolution will not be Webcast

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At a taping of The Daily Show, the warmup comedian asks an audience member what he does. "I'm an unemployed dot-com refugee," the guy says. With a straight line like that, the comedian needn't work for his next laugh. There are many stories about the web, but "going out of business" is the only story being told. There are many stories about the 1930s: the rise of social realism in the arts, the rise of fascism in Europe, the rise of filmmaking as an art. But when we think about the 1930s, we see people selling apples. And when we think about the web, we see people who don't even have apples to sell.

Anyone actively engaged in the web was bewildered when the public suddenly became interested. For the public did not care about the things we did: the transformative possibilities of technology on the way we live and communicate; the web's thriving independent content and design scenes; how the mainstreaming of the web was affecting familiar media like television, film, and the recording industry.

The public was interested in the rise of the cell-brandishing, Palm-toting, Elvis Costello-glasses wearing dot-com millionaire. Now the public can celebrate that figure's fall. From the beginning, what interested me about the web was not the chance to become a millionaire, but the democratizing possibilities of a worldwide medium with almost no cost of entry. Who could pass up a deal like that? Apparently, many people. The Creative Revolution will not be webcast. Or maybe it's come and gone. Or maybe, just maybe, it's building so steadily that nobody's noticed yet.

Jeffrey Zeldman (zeldman.com) is the creative director of A List Apart (alistapart.com) and the author of Taking Your Talent to the Web, published by New Riders.

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