Is the Internet really in chaos?

April 20, 2009 § Leave a comment

I copied and pasted to Microsoft Word Chris Nolter’s article in the Deal.com last Friday about ad networks. It was five pages and 2700 words.  I was exhausted at the end, as I think Chris must have been trying to throw a rope around the ad network space and the assortment of sales strategies crowding the online advertising marketplace for attention.

The article suggests that the Internet offers tantalizing hope to marketers, but that chaos exists online. I’m not so sure about the chaos part. If I assembled the five pages of Mr. Nolter’s article on the table in front of me in the form of some visual collage I might be inclined to see the fitful process of evolution at work, not chaos. A head is forming over here. A heart is beating over here. A foot, a hand, a mouth, etc. I see things taking shape, not coming apart, in the cauldron of his report, as well as in the refrain of others.

As I think about it, I’m reminded of a couple of sound bites we stuck into the business plan for Burst Media in 1995 in order to characterize for readers - most of whom still knew nothing about the Internet – the nature of the new media economy, which easily predicted a market tempest:

“One of the fastest growing commercial centers in the world, the World Wide Web is transforming the Internet community into a crushing, pushing and shoving virtual bazaar of goods [and] services…in a boom town of electronic commerce. If you could build a city overnight – population in the millions and no zoning – the web is what you’d likely get.” (Datamation, 1/15/95);

“The Net is neither hostile of friendly, as much as it changes the rules. All of a sudden, little companies can behave like big ones. Being large has less commercial advantage than it did before. Intellectual property changes meaning. Out of print no longer exists. And so on.” (Nicholas Negroponte, Director of MIT Media Laboratory.)

And so on, indeed. Arguably the Internet is only becoming a more diversified, go-ahead-and-call-it chaotic-if-you-want environment because we’re finally starting to grow into the place and open and shut all the doors. Hence, Frank Addante, CEO of Rubicon Project, is right to push back on Nolter in the article, asking “Why do you think 400 [ad networks] is too many?”

We won’t make more of the Internet by making less of it. It does seem large and disparate and confusing right now. But that’s us. The Internet itself – its many places and features, and many, many users - is humming smoothly.

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