The other day I was sitting in the company of leaders in one industrial category. (I won’t say which because it’s beside the point I want to make.) A question arose: Why are there so few visitors to our websites? Millions use their services, yet few bother with visiting their sites, except every once in awhile.
The answer, I suggested, was that their sites were buildings. They were architected, designed and constructed. They were conceived and built on the real estate model: domains with addresses, places people could visit. They were necessary and sufficient for the old Static Web, but lacked sufficiency for the Live one.
The Web isn’t just real estate. It’s a habitat, an environment, an ever-increasingly-connected place where fecundity rules, vivifying business, culture and everything else that thrives there. It is alive.
The Live Web isn’t just built. It grows, adapts and changes. It’s an environment where we text and post and author and update and tweet and syndicate and subscribe and notify and feed and — and yell and fart and say wise things and set off alarms and keep each other scared, safe or both. It’s verbs to the Static Web’s nouns. It is, in a biological word that has since gone technical, generative. And thus it calls Whitman to mind:
Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess
the origin of all poems,
You shall possess the good of the earth and sun…
there are many millions of suns left,
You shall no longer take things at second or third hand
nor look through the eyes of the dead,
nor feed on the spectres in books.
You shall not look through my eyes either,
nor take things from me.
You shall listen to all sides and filter them for yourself…
I have heard what the talkers were talking.
The talk of the beginning and the end.
But I do not talk of the beginning or the end.
There was never any more inception than there is now,
Nor any more youth or age than there is now;
And will never be any more perfection than there is now,
Nor any more heaven or hell than there is now.
Urge and urge and urge,
Always the procreant urge of the world.
Out of the dimness opposite equals advance…
Always substance and increase,
Always a knit of identity… always distinction…
always a breed of life.
This is what I see when I look at Twitter Search. It’s what I see in my aggregator, in FriendFeed, in Technorati and Google Blogsearch (and in feeds for keyword searches of both), in IM and Skype, in the growing dozens of live apps — for weather, sports, radio and rivers of news — on my phone. And when I watch myself and others mash and mix those together, and pipe one into another.
And I say all this knowing that most of what I mentioned in that last paragraph will be old hat next week, if not next month or next year. C’est la vie.
Speaking of this week, I just discovered Google InQuotes via one or more of the Tweeters that I follow. And it struck me that the reason Microsoft has trouble keeping up with Google is as simple as Live vs. Static. Google gets the Live Web. Microsoft doesn’t. Not yet, anyway. It’s comfortable in the static. It’s cautious. It doesn’t splurge on give-aways because it doesn’t know that life is one long give-away in any case. We’re born with an unknown sum of time to spend and we’ve got to dump it all in the duration. That’s why now is what matters most. Life is what happens when you’re busy making plans, John Lennon said. The game of business is the game of life.
Years ago somebody said that everybody else was playing hockey while Bill Gates was playing chess. I think now the game has changed. I think now the game isn’t a game. It’s just life. The Web is alive. It’s a constantly changing and growing environment comprised of living and static things. Meanwhile what Dr. Weinberger said long ago still applies: …companies so lobotomized that they can’t speak in a recognizably human voice build sites that smell like death.
I don’t think Microsoft is dead, or even acting like it. Nor do I think Google is unusually alive. Just that Google is especially adapted to The Live Web while Microsoft seems anchored in the static. As are most other companies and institutions, frankly. Nothing special about Microsoft there. Just something illustrative. A helpful contrast. Perhaps it will help Microsoft too.
If you want to participate in the Live Web, you can’t just act like it. You have to jump in and do it. Here’s the most important thing I’ve noticed so far: it’s not just about competition. It’s about support and cooperation. Even political and business enemies help each other out by keeping each other informed. There may be pay-offs in scarcity plays, but the bigger ones emerge when intelligence and good information are shared, right now. And archived where they can be found again later. All that old stuff is still nourishment.
Veteran readers know I’ve been talking about The Live Web for years. (And credit goes to my son Allen for coming up with the insight in the first place, more than five years ago.) I think Live vs. Static is a much more useful distinction than versions. (Web 1.0, 2.0, etc.) Hey, who knows? Maybe it’ll finally catch. It seemed to in the room where I brought it up.
By the way, a special thanks to Robert Scoble, Laura Fitton, and the audience at our panel at BlogWorld Expo for schooling me about this (whether they knew it or not). I got clues galore out of that, and I thank the whole room for them. (Hope the video goes up soon. You’ll see how it went down. Good stuff.)
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