I've been working on this post for a long time now and as I've had so much time to think this over and attempt to refine my concepts it's a rather lengthy post. So I apologize now for the fatigue that you'll all be feeling if you miraculously manage to finish.
It's incredible when you look back at the beginnings of communications on the internet. Specifically the communications of average users (mostly because I refuse to research the vast history of BBS or Usenet that were before my time.)
Email and IM
Remember when emails were common place? I'll bet some of you can even remember a time where there were days that you'd send at least one email a day. I'll bet you don't do that any longer.
If you receive an email from a real person (average user) you're probably a little taken aback. And if you're not, I can assure you that the majority of others are. Email has become the ID card of the internet. You need an email address to use virtually any web service on the internet. So the communication service that Email provided for all of us has widely been substituted by the advent of IM communications via MSN, AIM, Jabber and the like.
The Advent of Facebook
Oddly enough, IM is now on it's way out as the popular means of communication on the web in favour of something that even your parents are likely using. Facebook. I'm sure if you're an active member on Facebook, you're aware of the ludicrous amounts of email that Facebook will send out...
- So-and-so has commented on a photo.
- So-and-so has written on your wall.
- So-and-so has invited you to become a Zombie.
- So-and-so has sent you a message.
This is obviously where a lot of people on the web are congregating. And these massive amounts of email from Facebook prove the frequency of communication that takes place there. So Facebook has recently announced that they're closing the gap even more and launching their own IM service.
Now, before I go any further, allow me to make it clear that I am not in any way discounting the significance of any one of these services or acknowledging that any one of these services is superior over another. As a matter of fact, what I'm really doing is acknowledging that each one of these mediums are important for different classifications of communication.
Twitter & Pownce
To better illustrate what I mean, allow me to introduce to you the new hotness. Twitter and Pownce. These new ventures are practically inexplicable for those who have not yet experienced them. And that would obviously explain their lack of adoption thus far. But I hope to help you understand these services a little better so you can start to use them in the manner that they were intended to be used and the style of communication that they help emphasize.
Twitter and Pownce can be used for one on one conversations with friends, but what they really excel in is the feedback and collaboration from a large sum of users. These fellow Twitters and Powncers are not necessarily your friends. They are anyone who has chosen to follow your updates of their own accord. (So while this is not the best place to advertise the details for a family get-together, but it's great for self-promotion of blog posts or any other public thoughts or events.)
Web celebrities are currently the most interesting to follow as they use these services to make announcements of new services that they are launching or videos that they are streaming at the present moment.
I spent the better part of last Friday watching live streams that Kevin Rose was posting to both Twitter and Pownce. It was an effective way for him to instantly reach an enormous amount of users for their collaboration and instant two-way communication. (The form of the collaboration is something that I'll save for the end of this post as it almost requires it's own post entirely. But we all know how frequently I update.)
It's important to note that these new forms of communication online are still growing and have a long way to go. As with any social networking service on the web, the key to the intrigue and usability of any service revolves around the users. It's all about the community.
Live is the Future
Speaking of community, what's up with live streaming online nowadays? It's really starting to pick up at an alarming rate. Kevin Rose is getting into it through Qik and stating that the Revision3 programming will eventually go live as well. Leo Laporte, after depressingly being expedited from the last shreds of TechTV over at The Lab with Leo on G4 has now moved into the production of his own live studios where he will be doing live streaming as well. Chris Pirillo has been live streaming 24/7 from his home/office for quite some time now using Ustream. And on average he has 400 viewers watching his stream at any given time.
If you have not checked out any of these places yet, you're missing the beginning of a new era online. This is the future. The ability to host a one on one dialogue with your viewers instantaneously.
I mentioned earlier that I followed Kevin's live streams last Friday. And it was rather exhilarating as he made an effort to respond to every viewer's comment and even have a dialogue with them. I was fortunate enough to even toss a few lines back and forth with him.
Wrapping it up
I think these dynamics of communication are very important and intriguing as communication online has always been. If you have not checked out Pownce or Twitter yet, I urge you to have a look and add me as a friend (Twitter, Pownce). I find it very compelling that these new mediums and services online allow us to communicate in a way that we never could otherwise. All these new forms of communication specialize at something in their own way. And unfortunately not everyone has managed to grasp this just yet.
I recall the difficulty people had trying to understand the concept of Facebook's wall posting system. I still don't think that people get it. They treat it as some kind of IM replacement. Which is one of the fundamental reasons for Facebook's launch of their own IM service.
This is a very exciting time for content developers and their consumers. I love thinking about how this is going to further set apart online content from traditional TV. We're essentially looking at a concept for interactive TV realized through live streaming video online.
I look forward to seeing you involved in these exciting new mediums. It's an exciting moment indeed and we still have so much further to go.