'I Killed the Internet': Click by Click, the Internet Grows, or Dies


Last month I mentioned essays by Dave Winer, John Battelle, and Keith Woolcock on why the growth of "social media" threatened the survival of the original social/individual/international medium known as the Internet. Short version of net history, as they present it:

  -Back in the AOL era, people did their communicating within separate, proprietary "walled gardens" of the cybersphere -- AOL, Compuserve, Prodigy, etc.

  -During the Google era, they did business across proprietary boundaries (though sometimes within national boundaries, as under China's closed system) via the open Internet.

  -In the emerging Facebook era, the growth-and-activity is channeled back into proprietary spheres.

The argument did not contend that Google was less profit-minded than any of the others. On the contrary, it has been a hugely effective profit machine. The crucial difference is that Google's model for profit-maximization (usefully) involved maximizing openness and connections on the Internet. Whereas the Facebook model, like the AOL model long before it, maximized separateness in proprietary spheres.

A new essay today, by Tristan Louis at his site, extends the logic. It begins thus: IKilledNet.png
The essay connects individual user behavior, click-by-click, with the larger trends in the Internet's growth. Worth reading and reflecting on.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.
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