The Web's March Toward Self Reliance: Web Organization
At one of the first workshops of this year's Web 2.0, Caterina Fake of Flickr (now Yahoo!) described a dynamic that caught my atttention. The dynamic she described concerned the notion of "organizing the web". Here's what she described: Ten years ago, David Filo and Jerry Yang (the founders of Yahoo!) initiated web organization by hand-creating web directories. So initial web organization was done by two guys. Next, algorithmic search engines organized the web. This meant web organization was now being done by search engine developers. Then, in the late 1990s, Google came along, introducing PageRank to web search. PageRank had the effect of handing control over organizing the web to webmasters (via the ahref HTML command). Today, "tagging" -- pioneered by the likes of Flickr and de.li.cious -- is having the effect of pushing the organizing power down even lower in the ranks. Today, tagging is handing this power to all of us. At least all of us who have access to the web. Ms. Fake's vision is particularly interesting to me because it parallels the 500 year history of "America" that I have described here. That is, "America" means "the decentralization of concentrated power". As Fake described this morning, this same dynamic informs organization of the web. From two guys, to a handful of specialized engineers, to the multitude of web masters, and finally, to all of us. All of this in only 10 years. If the web is a mirror of ourselves, then this dynamic shows as clearly as anything can, exactly where we people are headed. Namely, straight toward self reliance.