Let's take a quick tour of the landscape to see what has been happening in the past few years and then you can decide for yourself if this set of changes warrants the attention that it's getting.
-> We now have more than a BILLION people on the Internet, a few hundred million of whom are online at any given moment.
-> Bloggers are now doing fact-checks on the media...and winning. Some bloggers now have MORE TRAFFIC and HIGHER SEARCH ENGINE RATINGS than media companies that have been around for years.
-> People said they would never buy a car over the Internet. In 2005, eBay sold $11 billion worth of automobiles.
-> Wikipedia, a web-based encyclopedia, became the world's largest reference work in four years, surpassing the venerable Encyclopedia Brittanica.
-> A startup in Europe built a little application called Skype, which lets people call each other across the Internet for free. 27 months later, eBay snapped up this company for $4.1 billion. The application is now disrupting the 100 year old telecom industry.
-> A Vancouver-based gaming company invented a neat little photo-sharing program and sold the company to Yahoo less than two years later for approximately $35 million. They had about 10 people on that team. Flickr currently hosts over 70 million photos and has over 2.5 million users.
-> In October 2005, Microsoft issued a company-wide email telling the troops to embrace "the services wave." Then, in May 2006, CEO Steve Ballmer stated that Microsoft is focusing over $6 billion of R&D towards 'software as a service' in 2006.
-> A small team of programmers started a website in 2003 that would help them build their social network. Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. bought MySpace in August 2005 for $580 million, less than 2½ years after it was formed. He bought it because social websites like this are massive revenue generation engines.
-> Half a million people MAKE A LIVING on eBay.
-> Nineteen people run a small site called Craigslist which is now the seventh largest website in the world. This little operation is DECIMATING the North American classified advertising industry which can't compete against FREE listings.
-> Content is exploding. Technorati, a service that tracks the number of blogs on the Internet, listed effectively zero in March 2003 and reached 20 million blogs in October 2005. This means that the number of blogs doubled every five months for 36 months in a row. Between October 2005 and July 2006, that number went from 20 million blogs to 49.8 million blogs.
-> A disgruntled customer's complaint can (and often does) show up ahead of your company's expensive advertising and public relations efforts in a Google, Yahoo, or MSN Search.
-> Their $5 blog post can outweigh your $30 million of advertising and PR because blogs have better Google rank than your old HTML website.
-> Applications are moving to the web—people are storing their private and critical data such as their calendars, contacts, email, and documents on websites instead of, or in addition to, storing it on their computers.
-> Tools that allow people to collaborate are appearing faster than people can count them. There is an explosion of innovation occurring in web-based applications again.
What is going on here? Are these all anomalies, or could this be something that is worth paying attention to?