The Future of the Internet

As I told you before, my husband and I spent last weekend at Jon Acuff’s Quitter Conference. (It was great.)

In the post-conference Writer’s Workshop, Jon said that the heyday of New Blogs is over. The days when a new blog can garner overnight success–like his did–are through. The market is saturated, the competition fierce. The End.

Which leads one to wonder: where are things headed in the online sphere? My husband and I discussed this issue much of the way home. Here’s what we came up with (with some help from Jon).

1. The Internet is going Niche

When the blogosphere first blew up 5 years ago, there were a lot of blogs that appealed to everyone. That’s not true anymore.

More and more, blogs–and everything else online–are serving micro-demographics.  Blogs are going niche. The successful blogs of the future won’t appeal to everyone–they can’t. They will appeal to tiny subsets of the population who are drawn together around a shared, uncommon interest.

Jon Acuff predicted (at the Quitter conference) that the future of the internet doesn’t lie in the way of Instagram. Instagram, he says, is a cul-de-sac. On Instagram, you follow people. You’re stuck following all of the photos from a person. You can’t follow certain interests or categories, and sharing is difficult.

The future of the internet will be a lot more like Pinterest. You don’t just follow people on Pinterest. You can follow specific boards, specific categories. You can customize. Pinterest is very niche, and sharing is simple. Sharing is the very idea behind Pinterest. In the future, the Pinterest model will be the norm online.

2. The Internet is going offline.

The internet will remain the internet, and the internet exists online. But in the future, real, live, in-person meetings brought about by the internet will become increasingly important.

The future of the internet? I humbly suggest to you that the future of the internet is offline.

The future of the internet consists of live events and in-person meetups. The internet will explode as a connector of people–not just digitally, but live-and-in-person.

In the future, we will use the internet to find our people–but once we’ve found them, we’ll continue those relationships in the 3d world. Because digital relationships are great, but trust is built in the real world.

Where do you think the internet is headed? Do you think my predictions are spot-on, or way off-base? Share your thoughts in comments!

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Comments

  1. says

    What a great perspective! I do think it is built around common interests. Again, we will follow people, to a certain degree, but I think we follow ideas more. So if a person has ideas and interests we can relate to, then we’ll tend to stick with that. I love the analogy of pinterest vs. instagram. I hope to make more online friendships into IRL ones.

  2. says

    I think you’re pretty close to what the internet will become, and I don’t think it is a bad thing. We struggle to find others in real life who share our passions, but one Google search and BOOM, our people. Personally, I love turning online relationships into real life ones far better than having them remain internet only.

    • Anne says

      Sarah, I completely agree. I truly feel like I can find “my people” online, but meeting in3d seals the deal. I know you know what I mean :)

  3. says

    Great read! I would tend to agree. I think we are drawn to niches, partly because there is so much out there. It is impossible to keep up with it all. There are so many great blogs and stuff to read, but I don’t even keep up with everything I’d like to now!

  4. says

    Agreed. I have a niche blog and it seems that people either follow me very closely or they drop in once to check me out, leave one sweet comment and never return. That is really OK with me b/c I know there are many great blogs out there and so little time!

    That being said, the friendships I have made through my blog have been a dream come true! I’ve always felt like a fish out of water with my particular interests, but no longer. Someday I KNOW I will meet my closest blog friends in person. My rhetoric partners and I are even dreaming about touring the English countryside together when we finish the WEM list someday!

    Good insight today Anne. Looking forward to hearing more about the Quitter conference. (As a matter of fact, I purchased that book for my mom. I should probably borrow it from her and read it for myself.)

    • Anne says

      Yes, borrow it back and read it!

      “I’ve always felt like a fish out of water with my particular interests, but no longer.” YES. This is what I love about the online world.

      Here’s to making that tour of the English countryside a reality!

  5. says

    The future of the internet is inter-personal relationships? Most likely true, Anne. Good job thinking this out.

    Your characterization of niche blogs and sharing with those in our niche reminded me of this Scottish toast:

    Here’s tae us
    Wha’s like us
    Damn few,
    And they’re a’ deid
    Mair’s the pity!

    I tend to like those like me, but it can get kind of boring sometimes too. Finding new niches to explore can be un-boring. That’s why i agree with Adriana, that if someone stops by my blog and then moves on at least I might have given them a look at something they would not have seen otherwise.

    Tim

    • Anne says

      Great point, Tim. (And nice poem.)

      I agree that it’s good to find new niches to explore. It’s wonderful to find “your people” online, but it would be tragic (and I’m not exaggerating) to never interact with people different from you. I appreciate how the online world helps me bump into new people and new ideas constantly (helloooo, Twitter!)

  6. Elysha says

    Internet going offline has been true for a number of years already but in the form of message boards and not blogs. I’ve been part of a message board for over six years and the girls I’ve met there I consider my dearest friends. I have another friend who has been part of a message board for 12 years and now that group of friends have celebrated weddings, birthdays, etc. together.

    The future of the Internet is going to become more like a home address I think. It’s going to be a lot more sign up and password protected to monitor which people you let in. Even company websites have started to require this before you can browse their site. They want to know who has shown up at their door, so to speak.

    • Anne says

      Interesting, Elysha, because I’ve always thought of message boards as predating blogs. I love that your friend’s message board has celebrated weddings and birthdays together! Just incredible.

      I like the idea of creating a “home address” online.

  7. says

    I think you’re probably right. Over the past year, I’ve made it a point to actually meet internet friends face to face. In a perfect world, I’d share a meal with them. I was at the Quitter Conference too, but unfortunately didn’t meet you there. Too bad.

    There is much to be gained from face to face interactions that you don’t necessarily know you are missing. Relationships are much deeper in person. You gain perspective that doesn’t exist solely in text.

    • Anne says

      Oh, I wish I’d gotten to meet you at Quitter!

      I’ve read–and believe–that friendships start easily online, but it takes a live-and-in-person relationship to develop trust.

  8. says

    Oh Anne, I completely agree about taking the internet offline! I think that while it may be easier to cultivate relationships and niches online, it is so much more fruitful when you can do that in person. In my experience, I think women (specifically moms) are craving things like that. WHICH is why blogging is so popular in those/these circles.

    In person would be such a blessing. Now, how does one begin to do that when everyone is in a different city? Conferences?? Hmmm….

  9. says

    Anne, thanks for linking me to this. Great thoughts. I affirm your #2 – on our trip we were able to meet tons of our online friends, and it cemented those relationships. In the past, I’ve drifted here and there around the internet, but I am pretty sure I will continue to follow those we met indefinitely.

    • Anne says

      I’m pretty sure you will, too. You’re a great authority on this subject, I think, because of your unique experience. (Will you write that book so I can read it, please?)

      Thanks for stopping by, Shawn!

  10. says

    This is the “future” of the Internet? To me it sounds like how it’s always been, more or less, and I’ve been on it for 21 years. At that point there were already discussion boards for all kinds of niche groups, and within my first month online I met people who were local (but didn’t go to my university, so I wouldn’t have met them otherwise) and got together with them in person.

    Things went weird for a while with the proliferation of (a) corporations developing an online presence, (b) people not affiliated with universities getting online, which dumbed down the level of discourse in a very sudden and startling way, and (c) spam, which killed most of the original Netnews discussion boards because the real people could barely see each other through the spam! In the late ’90s I was much less happy with my online experiences than I had been earlier, but as people started to figure out better ways to use the Web we’ve kind of gotten back to the excellence of the Internet in a different form, I feel. As for my point (b), I think it’s great that so many kinds of people are online now, and the sheer size and diversity and nichedness of the Internet now makes it easy to find the people you want to talk with and avoid the rest!

      • says

        I think I’m 4 years older than you are, and I got online when I started college in 1991. Only one of my friends from high school was at an Internet-connected college; only the geekiest schools were online at that time! But many more had connected by the time I graduated. It was an interesting time.

        I find that when I hear people talk about “what the Internet used to be like,” they weren’t online until 1995 or later. They missed a whole era! There were vast discussion boards (my university had–still has, in some updated form–many local ones as well as access to the international ones) where you could post using email. My understanding is that Usenet still exists, but the culture there was badly damaged by the Eternal September.

        My partner and I just recently realized something about today’s mainstream culture that is, from our perspective, impressively polite: Even though many people are now using in public places electronic devices with full access to the Internet’s realms of p*rnography, you very rarely see anyone viewing p*rn in a public place. In fact, although I’m a daily public transit rider in a liberal neighborhood full of college men, the **only** time I have ever seen anyone viewing p*rn in public, she (!) had a paper magazine, not a smartphone. The reason this seems surprising, now that we’ve noticed, is that when we were in college, only about 20% of students had their own computers in their rooms, so most people’s only computer access was in the public cluster–and once it became possible to download images from the Internet, it was not at all uncommon to glance up from your screen and see a nude woman on someone else’s screen. We were just kind of used to it, and we were highly amused by the “OMG THERE’S NAUGHTY STUFF ON THE INTERNET!!!” media frenzy of 1995. But I guess now that people are able to view these images privately, they choose to do so–which would seem like an obvious choice if not for all the people who seem unaware that they’re conducting cell phone conversations about extremely personal topics in public places! It was nice to realize that something about the culture in which we live has actually gotten more civilized. :-)

  11. says

    I have wondered what the internet will look like in 10 years….and I think your predictions are spot on. Of course, as a blogger trying to promote 2 new blogs, I don’t like hearing that we can’t break though, but last time I looked at my stats and engagement, it was true. :)

    A year and a half ago, I started a very niche centered blog, but it grew very slowly and I had trouble churning out content that was interesting to my readers. I feel like the blogs I have now are more of who I am, though they might be slightly broader in topic.

  12. says

    I so agree with the offline prediction. I am finding that to be true in my own experience. 5 years ago my blot was drawing people from all over. Now, my highest group of readers is from my own community. I love it so much more!

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