There is a world of information on the Internet. There is a world of information in people’s brains. And then there is the world around us. These three realms are merging in new and weird ways: in the time it takes to read a menu in a restaurant window, we can look up 67 reviews of that restaurant; while we’re waiting to order dinner, we can look at satellite photographs of the block via Google Earth. And yet vast quantities of local wisdom, lore, and data remain difficult to access. That’s about to change. Caterina Fake is a co-founder of the Yahoo-owned photo-sharing site Flickr and a co-founder of Hunch, which used machine learning to predict what consumers might like. Her new start-up, Findery, is designed to help users share stories about their surroundings.
Alexis Madrigal: You’ve been working at consumer-oriented Internet companies for more than a decade. How has the Internet changed in that time?
Caterina Fake: We’ve gone through this really expansive phase, and we are in a state of reunification and refocus on the local. I don’t know how long you would say the expansive period lasted, maybe 10 years. It was a period of all-embracing, global vision. When we were making Flickr, we called it the “Eyes of the World.” The idea was that everybody, everywhere, is looking. It was this sense of being able to penetrate worlds that you had never been able to access before—of global, universal travel. It was really big and really amazing and mind-blowing and mind-boggling, and it’s the reason that I was into the Internet to begin with.