Internet and the art of world domination

Over the last 15 years, the most dominant Internet company has been the one that has managed to act as the leading entry point to information on the web. As information has grown exponentially, entry points haven’t kept pace, and have eventually been disrupted by newer ways to organize information. And thus new contenders to the top spot have arisen:

Pre-1995: The web is a potpourri of gopher, ftp and then http sites, with no easy way to search through or organize them. The average user’s entry point was the address of the site that the user wanted to visit.

1995 – 2000: There are now way too many websites for every user to remember. Yahoo, with its directory approach organizes the websites neatly by category, becomes the primary entry point for Internet users, and thus becomes the dominant Internet company. As of late nineties, it’s unclear what or who will unseat this powerhouse.

2001 – 2006: By now, the Internet has way too much information to be organized and accessed using directories and portals. Google, with its keyword search approach, and ability to index billions of pages, becomes the de-facto entry point to the web. As of early 2000’s, Google appears set for world domination, and it’s not clear what or who could match Google’s strength.

2007 – Present: There are so many information sources and forms of media that keyword search by itself is inadequate for information discovery. Users want to visit information sources that are relevant to *them*. They want to consume information that they didn’t even know existed – how could keyword search do that? In comes facebook, along with other social networks, which provide ways to not only stay connected with your social circle, but also a more personalized way to discover and consume news, photos, videos and other media that have proliferated over the past few years.  It appears that Facebook will dominate the world and Zuckerberg shall be king.

2013 and beyond: ??

History tells us that change is, indeed, the only constant at the top of the Internet world. Although facebook’s and twitter’s reign at the throne appears uncontested as of 2010, please rest assured that forces of innovation, disruption and exponential growth are hard at work, and the 5-6 year cycle of Internet domination should only get shorter over time.

A couple of years back, I wrote about prevailing themes and trends in consumer Internet. Those themes are as true today, and trends of long tail content, convergence, mobility, social media and user-generated content have only accentuated with time. The result continues to be increasing information overload. The next generation Internet companies would be the ones that can address this.

My conjecture is that the next dominant Internet company would come with an angle of intelligent personalization and context-aware services, and would build upon the current generation social networks. What’s your take?

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