Is Social Media Killing the Web?

guards protecting the gate

Ryan Holmes, the CEO of HootSuite asked the question: “Is social media killing the Web?”   recently and presented a valid argument to support a positive answer. However, the answer is debatable. Has social media killed the Internet or has  social media just forced the Internet to evolve (and us along with it)?

“The Internet is a place where any person can share information with anyone else, anywhere.” – Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Founder, Internet.

Holmes presents the argument that social media has compartmentalized data and information, which is just the opposite of what its founding father intended.  Sites like Facebook and Google+ create islands that effectively “wall off” content from the rest of the Internet. We used to have RSS readers and services like Google Reader, but they’re disappearing in favor of social networks like Twitter and Reddit.

 “The treasure trove of content posted and shared within Facebook, for instance, is largely invisible outside of Facebook. Google can’t crawl it. Only select services can tap into it.” – Ryan Holmes

An open and free Web, well, sort of.

Berners-Lee’s notion of an open and free Web might be as old-fashioned as corsets and bloomers. The business of the Internet – like any business – requires monetization. Without monetization there is no Internet, however lofty its ideals might be.

Holmes quips that RSS feeds like Google Reader have not been successful because they’re are hard to monetize. If they were, they’d still be around. Instead, social networks – and many of the Web sites we turn to for news – are walling themselves off and controlling the flow of content in order to keeps us on their sites longer and sharing more information, which translates to more ad revenue.

Read Ryan Holmes’s full article here.

The Internet has become unwieldy and the content shared is noisy and riddled with duplication, spam, and unqualified or erroneous content. The use of private RSS tools allows individuals to filter the noise and get the best of the Internet in manageable pieces.  Increasingly, social networks are limiting the APIs they make available to 3rd party content aggregators, which is designed to keep people on their sites.

I’m not sure if one can argue causation or correlation here, but it’s clear that the public is steadily turning to social networks as its primary source for information, which begs the questions:

- Are we less informed that we were previously?
- Are we self-imposing a filtered view of the world by fixating on these networks?
- What is the cost we pay for free content?

Sensei Debates:  Has social media killed the Internet or has  social media just forced the Internet to evolve?  Add your thoughts in the comments below.  Also, the #bizforum weekly debate on Twitter will deal with this topic tonight at 8 PM Eastern time if you want to argue your views with other business professionals in real time.

Sam Fiorella
Feed Your Community, Not Your Ego

 

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4 comments
pgfreire
pgfreire

Social media, as we know it, is just yet another stage in the web's evolution/development. The fact is that the web keeps growing, both in content and number of users, so it's hard to make a case that sticks on social media killing the web. In fact, diversity is at the core of the web (because the web connects people) and it seems to be live and well, producing new solutions and stuff for all sorts and pushing for collaboration and sharing all around. People do use social media to share content and stuff, but such stuff is not siloed in the social networks. Search is still relevant and keeping an open door to the outside world.

dbvickery
dbvickery

Hmm, as an individual consumer, I can still use Feedly for my RSS reader across a number of blogs and news sites. Then I also check out Twitter/Facebook/Google+...augmented with my findings on the appropriate review sites (Yelp, TripAdvisor, Best Buy, Amazon, GoodReads)...so I feel I still have plenty of information at my fingertips to make an educated decision as a consumer.

As a brand, you need to step up to social media monitoring. Let the tool do a lot of that crawling of social platforms, review sites, blogs and news. Let it go ahead and group things topically, chronologically, or even by sentiment grade. Yes, there is a price to pay...but "time spent" also comes at a price. Let the tools that already have doorways into those walled gardens save time and grant you access to your consumers' thoughts and needs.

samfiorella
samfiorella moderator

@dbvickery That still seems like a lot of work for you to "become educated" as a consumer. The point is that social networks are creating islands, inviting you in, and then cancelling all the flights out. Essentially forcing you stay unless you can swim across an ocean. The name of the game is eyeballs:  the longer you can keep people on your platform, the more likely you are to monetize that platform. 

I don't see an alternative, but social networking has definitely changed - if not killed - the original promise of the Internet. 

dbvickery
dbvickery

@samfiorella @dbvickery I absolutely agree with the islands/flights analogy. I just think that overall, social has still achieved the intended purpose of the internet - in terms of putting information at the fingertips of the consumer.

It just becomes the job of the consumer to find those tough connecting flights from the different social networks...so they can get to all of the islands of information treasure.

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