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Real Time Streams

John Borthwick has captured in words what many have been grappling with in a less articulate way for about 18 months. The new paradigm we need to think about the internet has finally emerged.

This snippet outlines the broad trend:

Start with this constant, real time, flowing stream of data getting published, republished, annotated and co-opt’d across a myriad of sites and tools. The social component is complex — consider where its happening. The facile view is to say its Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr or FriendFeed — pick your favorite service. But its much more than that because all these sites are, to varying degrees, becoming open and distributed. Its blogs, media storage sites (ie: twitpic) comment boards or moderation tools (ie: disqus) — a whole site can emerge around an issue — become relevant for week and then resubmerge into the morass of the data stream, even publishers are jumping in, only this week the Times pushed out the Times Wire. The now web — or real time web — is still very much under construction but we are back in the dark room trying to understand the dimensions and contours of something new, or even to how to map and outline its borders. Its exciting stuff

John draws a single, and important, conclusion from this:

First and foremost what emerges out of this is a new metaphor — think streams vs. pages.

With this insight I believe John has just moved the needle to a place where we can begin to talk about the third phase of the internet.

The first phase of the internet was about portalization. It was the age of Yahoo, Excite, Infoseek. This was the era in which DoubleClick came into its own as an advertising platform, with lots of big accounts on both the advertiser and the publisher side.

The second phase was what Fred Wilson characterized as deportalization. This was the era of the rise of user generated content – blogs, social portals like MySpace and Facebook, aggregators like Digg and an ad network built for lots of small advertisers and millions of web sites – Google AdSense.

The third, and new phase, is about real time data streams that emanate from the users and the myriad publishers. Blogs and rss remain important (sorry Steve) but added into the mix are Twitter, Friendfeed, and other forms of messaging. This third phase has a number of big consequences:

1. Search changes. Searching static pages remains important. Indexing and parsing the stream becomes a must have addition.

2. SEO takes on new meanings also. Having your URL’s in the stream means that those who attempt to index and classify the stream will find you. Using RDFa or Microformats to enable your data to be understood will also become important as semantics meets the stream.

3. Advertising changes too – in ways we cannot see, but it clearly involves the sources within the stream and the stream itself being made available to an advertiser who wants to target an audience.

3. Aggregation moves from a simple combination of sources created by users (DIGG) or by algorithm (Techmeme) into the need to parse and filter the stream into meaningful buckets. In this world bit.ly and other URL shortening services are simply adding a new signal to the pool that allows a filter to distinguish between an important and a less important URL. Managing and understanding the content they carry is the big challenge. (see http://www.seriouslywine.com and http://twitter.com/seriouslywine for an example of how John Merrells and his team are thinking about this. seriouslymedia is an experimental and as yet un-launched service in which I am a founder).

Erick Schonfeld has a great post on TechCrunch about this: http://www.techcrunch.com/2009/05/17/jump-into-the-stream/

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