Titanic Collapse of Celebrity

We are in an age of mega celebrity. It is everywhere, records are being broken regularly, and the intensity required to be a “fan” feels like it is increasing all the time.

We are seeing an incredible growth of celebrity but we are also seeing the end of an era in many ways. The next 5 years is the Red Giant of its lifetime: Bigger, more colourful and harder to ignore than ever, but ultimately at the end of its life.

There could be no more real example than that of Psy. Gangnam Style is catchy, a bit weird and massively popular. Even with over a billion total views, Psy isn’t getting paid:

Psy’s 900 million video views and 1.3 billion youtube account visits have resulted in $870,000 worth of ad revenue sharing. From the 2.7 million iTunes downloads Psy has earned $2.4 million. His streaming revenues are relatively paltry, a mere $60,000.

There will be more Psy’s, but then there will be none.

Building a Shared Web

Joyent is both a customer of GoInstant and GoInstant is a customer of Joyent’s. I’ll avoid all the back patting, but we picked Joyent because we needed rock solid infrastructure and AWS wasn’t cutting it for the sort of compute/serving we do. We’ve been extremely happy there.

So when the folks at Joyent asked if we were interested in contributing a guest post on their blog, we jumped at the chance.

We also took it as an opportunity to start a conversation about the Shared Web.

You can read the entire post over on the Joyent Blog: GoInstant and The Dawn of the Completely Shared Web.

The web is always evolving. As the underlying technology of the web has advanced, we have been able to use the Internet in more creative and interesting ways. We have gone from documents filled with static content to a web of applications, each providing different types of experiences, data and information. We have gone from static shopping cart structures to useful collaborative filtering shopping suggestions to social shopping. We have gone from downloading movies and videos to sharing movies and videos with friends.

In the past year or two, we have entered a new and incredibly exciting phase of the web – The Shared Web.A few years ago, the idea of a 100% shared Internet seemed impossible. The connections were too sluggish and unreliable – in particular on the mobile side. The Web application frameworks did not do very well with situations where extremely low latency was required to keep users happy. But new technology and changes to the core of the Internet are making a lightning fast Shared Web possible.

 

The age of the intimate web

I spent most of the evening hanging out on turntable.fm tonight. It makes the music sharing experience incredibly intimate.

Then I started staring at Facebook. I can’t shake the sense that there is so much presence on the site, it is obvious that people are there, but there is no intimacy. We come to Facebook today to transact in information. We do not share, instead we distribute.

Intimacy on the web means that we are aware of the presence of others with us at that place and time and that we can benefit from that real-time presence in a unique way.

Our lives are so slowly becoming digital. The transition is one that takes decades, not years. The thing I hadn’t realized until recently was that I was mistaking the cataloging of my life online for the living of it.

It’s the leap that World of Warcraft made in gaming and I’m positive that it is coming to the web sometime very soon.

Real-time and the three pillars of the web

We have arrived a few definitions for the web in the last few years and I believe we are finally getting to a point where there is enough differentiation that we can think practically about the impact of each component of the web as we know it.

Social Web

I have spent a lot of my time thinking about the Social Web and what that means for business and the web in general. It would be hard to argue that Social has not arrived — it is clear that it has. While there is still a lot of maturing to do on the enterprise side, consumers are leading the charge in establishing social as a primary component of the web.

Mobile Web

The Mobile Web has grown at a stunning pace in the last 5 years and continues to break new ground. Much of the excitement around the Mobile Web has been focused on the iPhone, but there are other trends that are having a real impact. Mobile is driving much of the consumerization of IT and mobile apps for the enterprise continue to be a foothold for more creative uses of the web by enterprise IT.

Real-time Web

Until now the concept of the Real-time Web has been relegated to being a euphemism for the rapid delivery of data streams to the end user. “Real-time Search” for example is focused on delivering the same search results more rapidly. Real-time has not as of yet matured to the point where it is widely regarded as a category. In fact, Wikipedia defines the Real-time web as “a set of technologies and practices that enable users to receive information as soon as it is published by its authors, rather than requiring that they or their software check a source periodically for updates.” That day is coming quickly however.

I would argue that the opportunity and function of the Real-time Web is largely misunderstood today, much as the Social Web was when it first began to emerge.

The opportunity for the Real-time Web is to create intimacy and awareness. Where the Social Web gave us a wealth of relationships across a great breadth, and the Mobile Web gave us an immediacy of relationship, the Real-time Web will allow us to connect more closely with those we know with a higher fidelity interaction.

Of course, these are pillars of a single web, and there is a significant amount of overlap between each one, but as we continue to better understand each pillar more clearly in its own right, we are able to see new opportunities that may not have been possible with a singular view of the web.

The advent of Real-time brings with it some very new and compelling opportunities. For a long time now we have mixed “collaboration” in as a use case for the Social Web, but so much collaboration is actually in real-time. That is why we have meeting rooms and why the phone continues to be so useful. So far the software that enables Real-time collaboration has been limited, bulky and poorly executed. It has all been built as a native application (think Screen Sharing, MS Groove, etc). We are however finally at the stage where we can deliver Real-time on the web at scale.

As a sort of Friendster of the Real-time web Google Wave was the sacrificial lamb of the Real-time Web. A beautiful and inspiring first experiment in creating a Real-time experience at scale, it was an incredibly intimate and deep experience as a user. The quality of the interaction was evident but the main problem was that we assumed that all of the use-cases of the Social Web applied in Google Wave. There was no framework by which users could determine what problems to apply Wave to and it became too uncertain of a place. “Should I be here?”, “What am I doing here?” — we didn’t know why we were using the Real-time web.

Perhaps, to be crass, Google Wave’s technology should have been applied to dating. It might have made more sense to an initial audience.

Unlike Wave however, Quora has begun to integrate more and more of a Real-time experience in to their application. As other people are responding to a question, voting up and answer or completing other tasks, Quora tells you in Real-time what is going on and who you are interacting with. It is a very engaging experience and creates a new sense of life within the application. It is a subtle but important use of Real-time.

Moving forward

The Real-time Web has a long way to go but I suspect that the rate of its growth will be rapid. As Mobile and Social experiences have become incredibly pervasive in the last 5 years, Real-time will leverage that critical mass to catch up very quickly.

In the enterprise
Enterprise process is dominated by finite tasks. As social software has been making inroads in to the enterprise we have seen an attempt to utilize socialization of process and software as a way of adding value to those process. The problem however is that they are fundamentally tasks which need to be completed directly.

The Social Web provides an overarching context (“who should be completing the task”) but it does not provide a better way of actually completing that task and moving on to the next one. A combination of Social and Real-time technologies give us an opportunity to leverage what we have developed with social software inside the enterprise.

Real-time collaboration on the web inside the enterprise is currently limited and it is not pervasive. It is limited to single applications (such as Webex, Gotomeeting, etc) which are catch-all solutions based on arcane technology. Future Real-time applications inside the enterprise will be more pervasive and integrated with existing Social and Mobile efforts.

Gaming
Gaming is the one place where the Real-time Web has had a foothold for a long time. Social and Mobile are only really coming to gaming now, but MMPOGs have been around for over a decade and multi-player gaming continues to be very popular.

Consumer Web
Facebook already has Facebook Chat, but I think you will see them take a page from Quora’s book and more tightly integrate the real-time experience. Rather than having new Wall Posts streamed to you when they are complete, you will see “John M. is currently typing . . .” when you visit a wall and it will give you a better sense of the existence of other users as part of an ecosystem, rather than as simple content-producers.

There are natural limitations to the application of Real-time Shared Web Experiences, but there are many.

More

The applications are endless, but they are also vertical. Where social can be effectively applied to broad problem sets, Real-time is necessarily narrow but deep. There will be no “Real-time for busineses [linked-in]” or for Dating, but instead there will be applications of Real-time within those and other domains in order to accomplish outcomes that were not previously possible.

So I have to ask Euan, Rob, JP, Susan, Andrew, Ross, Jeremiah, Ray, Dennis and others who have all been instrumental in definining the Social Web for me: What does the Real-time Web mean to you?

E20 vs Social Business?

I thought I would make a helpful slide for the next time an “Enterprise 2.0″ vs “Social Business” debate comes up.

Feel free to click to get the full sized detailed view. I made it as pretty as I could.

E20 and Social Business each both need the other. The more that IT can focus on becoming more comptent in rapidly testing, deploying and monitoring E20 applications in the enterprise, the faster and more effectively Social Business will be a reality.

Enterprise Startups survey

I have created a short questionnaire that I am sending out to people who have built or are building enterprise focused software startups. This is not a formal survey, and I am not doing it for commercial purposes. What I want to do is collect the insights, advice and experience of people who have been-there-done-that, or who are in the thick of it right now.

Please take a look and fill it out if it applies to you