Three days before Halloween in 2003, off the coast of the icy cold waters of Boston, a small little fish was born. It was aggressive, smart, and hungry, but cute. Nothing (quite) like it existed in those chilly waters before. The other fish swimming around weren’t sure what to make of the little guy. No alarms would sound, no sheriffs on the beach would warn people. It existed simply because it could, through the evolution of the internet.
It started out innocently enough, providing a spectacle very few could offer, like hunting down that cute girl sitting next to you during the freshman lecture on World Poverty and Human Rights at the Ivy League school you attended. Or to find your old high school flame.
And with each “thumbs up” & share, this little pup & others have grown a little more in size and population; the network effect of being social.
Shortly after this fish was born, even those east coast waters became too small, so it migrated, somewhere off the coast of San Francisco with more resources and fish to feed on. It’s notoriety to-date has not-so-quietly captured the attention and timelines of almost a billion people from around the globe, all curious to see what the animal will become.
And oh, what a fun place to swim. It’s become the place where millions of people can come together to grow fake farms of produce and slaughter virtual pigs; plan imaginary cities with hours of love and care. Or play Not Scrabble with friends. A forum where maybe you’ll finally open the eyes of your less enlightened friends via that Huffington Post article you read. A city square for all to gather in, sponsored by your favorite toothpaste.
Tomorrow, Facebook will be quite possibly the largest (internet) fish to ever debut in the very public but “safe harbor” waters of an exchange. People will be reminded to marvel at the speed it has grown, and the size of its wake. Grandmas will climb on the shoulders of the generations before them to invest & share even more. Anything to be relevant in this brave new digital age, anything to swim with this fish.
But these public waters will be different than anything the fish is used to, with more hands in the water splashing around for attention and profits. And almost like with anything man-made, deep in the waters, there is an ecosystem of greed streaming up from the ocean floor, like the oily waters of the Gulf we don’t talk about anymore.
The pilot fish are swirling. Venture capital is leaving this fish to swim around new fish; fish to capture your attention (and information) with social video sharing apps and any number of wonderfully cagey experiences. All of them consuming every movement & moment you are willing to share; endlessly, voraciously. Right now, the proof is already in the water. Social Cam and Viddy are two of the single most popular apps in the iTunes store right now, each is raising millions in funding to access this…
And sure the ads & apps we see today are harmless, without seeming effect– heck what’s the harm in free? What’s the big deal if I like the Cheetos fan page? We can look beyond all of it, simply explaining it away with the freedom to get out of the water anytime. But remember kiddies, the internet’s shoreline is forever.I’m convinced eventually we’ll all see our little guy for what it is. It’s not Muppet bait, it’s chum… for others to come feed on our warm, sharing, fun-loving nature while sitting on our rubber-ducky rafts in an ocean of possibility.
The irony, of course, is we brought the others into our waters by splashing around so much. We wanted to see what the fish would become, swimming in the waters we polluted with our “free” time.
So, let me be your lookout right now. I don’t know when, how, or where it will become a reality…but some day in the future we’re gonna need a bigger boat to deal with these cute little paraphyletic creatures swimming in our oceans of information.