Billions of years ago, the galaxy was an enormous soup made up of unimaginable amounts fragmented, formless matter. Slowly the force of gravity pulled it together to form stars, planets, well, everything.
We are still in the earliest phases of the Internet. And it is still largely primordial soup. Almost by definition, the Internet has had no center. It has had popular sites and viral content. But generally it is atomized in a way no other media has been.
But I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I have started to feel the gravitational pull of Facebook on nearly every corner of the Internet.
The ubiquitous “Like” buttons on every blog post and article were just the beginning. Facebook has become the universal password. The brilliant commenting plug-in will serve up comments specifically for you on an article. The microsite is all but dead as even enormous brands are launching new products solely on Facebook.
Google+ is a desperate attempt by Google to keep access to the growing amount of data that exists solely in our password-protected social gardens. Google+ is really well done. But I think that ship may have already sailed. Hundreds of millions of people have invested thousands of hours of their lives into building their Facebook networks. And the Timeline feature that has been added is a brilliant realization that your random posts and pictures have quite by accident turned into a powerful and meaningful journal of your life.
I sincerely doubt Facebook users will walk away from all that because Google’s Circles feature is nifty.
You could argue that Facebook’s tendrils are well on their way to suffocating and monetizing the exhilarating, infinite anarchy that made the Internet into the transformational phenomenon it is: the web becomes Mark Zuckerberg’s mall.
Or you could argue that Facebook is re-orienting the infuriating, infinite anarchy of the Internet in a way that customizes it around each of our individual tastes and personal networks: the web curated just for you by your friends and family.
I find myself arguing both depending on whether I’m in a cynical, Occupy Facebook kind of mood or a hopeful, “the web will bring world peace” kind of mood. And you?