Friday, February 8, 2008

"Yonder sits the Fourth Estate, and they are more important than them all."

The fourth estate of the Internet reeks of a democratic web characterized by value chains, mass participation at every point, walled gardens with symbiotic gate-keeping, accountability, visibility, value creation and equitable distribution.

This post is about how I see the next meaningful evolution of the web.
Robin Sloan called this EPIC(Evolving Personalized Information Construct), and I'll call it Web 4.0- The fourth estate of the Internet.

Web 4.0 is about role-playing.

Broadly, I see four categories of players emerging in this space: {Consumers & Micro-publishers} + {Publishers & Commercializers}

Corresponding to those players, we could derive four genres of platforms: {Consumption avenues & Micro-publishing tools} + {Original media platforms + Transactional services}

It follows that value creation will happen from the capabilities extended by each platform to its respective player.

The players--

>> Consumers (users) will experience, transact, and consume at all the different avenues available to them at the edge of the network.

>> Micro-publishers are able to create original media, re-purpose original media into forms that enable greater degrees of accessibility, and generate micro-media(personal, micro, individualized interpretations of original media). They are able to do so either with the help of exclusive tools that facilitate micro-publishing(Blogger), or on OM platforms(Brightcove).

>> Commercializers (advertisers, VAS providers, 3rd party services) who will use native OMP services(Brightcove's ad platform...), network models(Google Adsense/Yahoo! Ads), or a combination of both (Google AdSense integrated into Blogger) to provide monetization opportunities.

>> Publishers (the original media kind..), will be the ones driving this new web economy, and the more fully they participate(enable the above), the richer this new web will be. It also follows that the more expansive their breadth of service offerings and capabilities, the more opportunity there will be for value creation.

The value--

Areas of value creation for this new web would be:

>> Making sense of it all: with the relative ease of production, and mass production, there will be an explosion of content on the Internet. Personalized reconstruction, refinement and discovery services will be key in helping users absorb only what's relevant to their interests.
The challenge here will be to mitigate information overload, and move towards individualization.

>> Making money: Transactional services need to be deeply integrated into almost every production, distribution, and publishing platform. Open standards here will help greatly, not only in facilitating the scaling of monetization capabilities, but also to allow for the entrance of newer monetization models.
The challenge in this case, would be to overcome coagulation of monetization models/services(Yahoo! + Microsoft), and instead develop level playing fields, which comprise of thin API-driven open services, usable by advertisers, VAS providers, and retailers alike.

>> Distributing value: I've mentioned in a previous post, that on the Internet, visibility is not only possible, but necessary. Everyone contributes, in some way, to the efficacy of the value chain, and to reward that efficacy(and sustain the model), there will need to be equitable distribution of value across the entire chain. To be able to do that, fingerprinting content, tracking its passage through distribution channels, and correlating that with $$ generated along the way becomes a critical first step.
Ideal outcome: Producers, distributors, re-distributors, re-constructors, de-constructors, and to an extent, even consumers, feel the positive effects of value distribution.
Bad case scenario: Some participants get left out of their piece of the pie, and in due course, disrupt the value chain by emerging elsewhere, on someone else's value chain, in a different role. And when participants start churning, show's over.

>> Building synergies: The biggest area for value creation in Web 4.0 will be the synergies. The more symbiotic the relationships, the merrier it is for contributors and participants in the synergies. And of course, the more synergies there are, the bigger the party will be. This is also where we hope to see a new wave of entrepreneurship, which goes beyond the M&A school of thought, and enter the S&H(Strength and Honor) school of wisdom. We will see entrepreneurs who understand their core strengths, are quick to identify complementary strengths in other businesses, and build sturdy bridges to harness the two.
Nurturing agents(VCs, incubators) will be quick to place one business into the context of 10 others, and fund not just the development of an idea, but the building of bridges as well.

Attempting to make an absolute classification of the web is a futile task. At any point, the sheer volume of variances make it impossible for one to paint a picture of what the web looks like, or will look like.
However, the web is democratic. It is as much a property of the individual, as it is that of any group.

Its evolution, therefore, becomes a collective goal.

Daunting thought it might seem, transitioning into this economy doesn't need to be a mammoth task. Let's not forget that at the root of all this is a very real situation- production is cheaper, distribution is more efficient, and consumption is easier.

I hope you get it, because "Yonder sits the Fourth Estate, and they are more important than them all."


Shiva said...

Web 4.0 ? Wow, numbers keep climbing..but if the focus or target is defined, then it becomes a good vision or road map

preetam mukherjee said...

Well, 4.0 is just a number..:)

Point is, the current web(2.0) will need to go through a phase of mass adoption(3.0), before the drivers of 4.0 can emerge.

And I just wanted to offer a perspective on what that 4.0 would be, so that, as you say, we plan for it.

Thank you for your thought, Shiva.

NotesTracker said...

I Don't think it's mathematically possibe to reach "Web 4.0" ... S ee my tongue-in-cheek theory: "Web 2.0" and "Web Pi" -- Reject Reality and Substitute Your Own! ... You'll find it over at (Cheers, Tony Austin).

preetam mukherjee said...

Dear Tony,

Thanks for the comment.

The web is an evolution, and there is no target, per se.
Whether it's 22/7 or 2^n, each iteration of the web brings with it a change in how we interact with that web.

Web 4.0 will just be the next level of sophistication.
It could just as well be called Web 3.14159- all we(I) want to think about is how we will 'play' in that new web.