Internet re-organising around people

Social network graphic

I have written before about the internet re-organisng around people – and I even said a few words on the subject at an Internet People event in London last night.  (Great event btw – in his own inimitable fashion founder Robert Loch is really driving the London internet scene forward with this community – if you haven’t been to an event you have definitely missed out, aside from the fun and frolics Robert has also played an important part in a number of notable consumer internet VC deals, including our own WAYN and now I hear Zubka).

Back to the topic du jour – the internet started as a collection of sites – i.e. it was organised around content.  There is a very clear trend to s re-organisation around people.  There are a number of components of this meta-trend:

  1. Atomisation of content allows people to build their own internet with just the components they want – the old bundles (sites) are deconstructed and re-assembled by individuals.  Personal home pages like Netvibes are a great example of this, as are widgets on blogs and desktops.
  2. Social networks – by Alexa MySpace is now the 6th most visited site in the world and it is a collection of personal pages – again people are the loci of organisation
  3. Personal playlists for music and video – traditional bundles put together by bands (albums) and media companies (TV channels and radio stations) are being torn apart as people head straight for the tracks and shows they want and assemble their own bundles based on what they like (this is a bit like the atomisation of written content covered in point one)
  4. Reviews and recommendations are increasingly important on the web and they put people at the heart of purchasing decisions – the trend here is to include more information about the reviewer/recommender (more of this in a later post)

I guess what I am describing here is partly the general shift from mass production to mass personalisation playing out in media, but that doesn’t do it full justice.  There is something bigger going on as well.  I think that people are turning to the web for a sense of identity and community.  Social networks and review sites are providing spaces for self expression and collective opinion formation.  These are basic human needs that used to be served in traditional communities but which are difficult in big cities and commuter towns.  Or is that just the sociologist in me?