As a bit of a preface, we're no experts on Internet History. We've experienced it as developers and users. We've worked for failed dot-coms, and jumped on-and-off of trends, fads, and bandwagons. So we can speak to the evolution and concepts in general, but we'll leave the specifics up to people with better research and stats on hand.
We will start with a simple diagram illustrating our understanding of the evolution-to-date of all things "web".
In the beginning was the document.
Pages were coded in html on simple text editors. Access to the web was limited on all fronts: tools, network connectivity, and individual skills. Only select individuals harnessed the power to edit raw html. But it was a breakthrough. And those who mastered it created "portals" that journeyed into great depths of content. Then came better tools, accessibility, the "application" and huge paradigm shifts about who was in control of content (User Generated) and how the content was experienced (Dynamic). And the definition of "content" itself evolved—at one time being merely text and perhaps (if you were lucky) an image—now includes video, text, images, audio, etc. With this content users share, comment, connect, and network. For the most part, this is the state of the web today, which is on the cusp of becoming the past so we’ll go ahead and call it “Then”.
And the evolution of internet technology affecting behavior continues. As the physical infrustructure improves, matures, and increases, and more and more DOMcasting technology enters the scene (read up on FLOW, our DOMcasting technology), the web is moving into Real-Time Conversations.
We call this real-time conversation "Experience Sharing"
(or "XS" for short). There are plenty of models of this “tech-effect” on culture and behavior from the past. Image it’s 1999, and your work colleagues are huge Seinfeld fans. With every new episode, you’re guaranteed at least one hour of pop-culture, water-cooler banter (old-school XS) at the office the following day. The catch is that in order to participate in the banter, you have no choice (outside of VHS recording) but to sit on the couch, at a pre-determined time, and watch the half-hour episode along with everyone else. Regardless of geographic location, you know your co-workers are sharing the exact same Seinfeld experience at the exact same time. And the following day you’ll all be able to talk about it in person. If you miss the show, or tune in late, you miss the conversation (XS).
Here’s a rough sketch of how an XS network works (since it’s the future of the experience evolution, we’ll call it “Now”.)
Evolutionary Bridge Examples
You can see where some current websites and applications exist in the grey area between Web 2.0 and XS. The limiting factor is the technology, but the cultural and experiential affect is in the direction of the XS evolution.
When you experience Twitter, you’re aware of a temporal constraint. It's not the "conversation feeds" happening yesterday you care about. It's your select feed happening right now that's of interest and value. The difference with twitter is that users ironically don't actually share the same space context—they create their own. (Note: this statement is understandable begging some questions. More on this another time.)
As another evolutionary bridge example (regardless of whether you consider it the blight of the inter-webs or not) 4chan is another web-based conversation bounded by time, and in this case the users are arguably sharing the same space. How? The image board message threads are not archived or saved. After they move to the bottom of the list they are deleted. Forever. If you want to participate in the conversation and the culture, you must participate at a specific time or miss the opportunity forever – the experience is constrained by time and space.
The Next “Wave” of Philosophy + Technology (and shameless self promotion)
But there are new products and websites that exhibit both the philosophy and technology of what we are calling XS. Google Wave, which implements html 5 broadcasting, is an notorious, early example. Our new product, Black Tonic based on our FLOW technology, is another. In both cases a conversation involving users is happening in real-time via synchronized, browser-constrained content. These tools demonstrate a dramatic change in HOW a conversation can take place within the browser. And if we can be so bold, we predict a huge paradigm shift in the development of these types of tools in the near future.
Making sense so far? We bet you have some questions (or maybe a lot). If so, that's what we're here for.