Putting The “We” in WEB

Who fumbled the web? That’s a question I’m asking, mainly at a site called Fumbling the Web. The story so far: if any one organization can be said to have fumbled the web, it’s Yahoo; but that would be a gross oversimplification. So, if FtW turns into a book, many chapters may focus on a single organization, and how it fumbled some aspect of the web.

Who fumbled the web? We did. (That’s at least one chapter, and probably a thread running through FtW.) We’ve been doing so for over a decade, and seem likely to keep doing so. Now, about the “we” in web…

The post title was on the cover of Newsweek (with exactly that punctuation and capitalization, although I’ve changed such things elsewhere in this post). The issue was dated April 3, 2006. The cover showed the founders of Flickr, looking as happy as you’d expect given that Yahoo had just paid (an estimated) $35 million dollars for their business.

Bradley Horowitz, then of Yahoo, sounded like a happy acquirer.

[T]hey had millions of users generating content, millions of users organizing that content… people not on the payroll actually building the thing.

Yes, Brad was talking about User-Generated Content (UGC). It was part of the new wisdom of the web (title of article by Steve Levy).

You might say that 2006 was long ago in web terms. Yahoo was about to be overtaken as the number one site by… MySpace, which News Corp had acquired for $580 million (“seems like the bargain of the young century”). MySpace “allowed users to create their own online treehouses”.

We–the “we” in  web–are still creating our own online treehouses. We tend to so inside walled gardens. Yes, things are very different: the wall is now far more likely to belong to Facebook than to MySpace.

Looking at site statistics, and at terms and conditions, it looks as though we fumbled the web. Well, perhaps we never wanted to catch it in the first place. And it is up to each of us what we put on the web and how to divide our content between different sites.

Do we have exactly the control over the web that we want? That we deserve?


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