The Web 2.0 love-in is already fizzling out. I’m not alone in thinking that we need a new term for what’s happening around us. Om Malik proposes that we just start calling what’s going on “innovation” again, while Steve Rubel coughs up the “Cut and Paste Web“. Very punk rock Steve, but I prefer to think of what’s going on as the pornographization of information design. *Insert your lewd buzzword here*
Military R&D pushes forward the boundaries of domestic technology. What starts off as the latest way to annihilate existence on a massive scale steadily mellows in old age into Stuff To Sell The Plebs. And what military R&D does for domestic appliances, porn does for the web. Long before we had user-generated content, there were readers’ wives. The Long Tail hardly came as a surprise to the purveyors of ultra-niche web smut, who had been nicely profiting from the divide-and-conquer rule long before Chris Anderson turned up on the scene. And Chris Pirillo’s 24-hour bedroom Ustream is little more than a noxious geekette blip in the world of camgirl telesex.
Porn knows how to survive, and evolve. As the Web 2.0 party starts to flag and falter, pornography offers four key lessons in how to weather the storm. They are an emphasis on:
- and Promiscuity
Static content is screwed, and the content that will kick through to the next wave has presence built in. Pornographers know this and have long been using the web to offer premium content that titillates and entertains. The freebies are an incentive, but for presence you have to pay, register as a community member, or otherwise pass into the inner sanctum. The throwaway content is designed to be just interesting enough to lure you into engagement, into action. And presence is the lure.
So now, after a significant lag, we have live streaming video broadcasting for the masses, and in place of cybersex booths, the teenage bedrooms of Stickam users, hat-mounted camera of Justin.TV, and one-to-one call-in action of ubergeek Chris Pirillo.
But presence goes much further, and is only going to evolve from here as a crucial part of web media. Tumblr, Twitter, Jaiku, Pownce, and Facebook status-updates are only the tip of the iceberg of the presence economy. Dynamic engagement at every turn is becoming a crucial component of effective information design. Ignore it and be ignored.
Girls and guys are waiting to meet you in your area, and porn knows exactly where that is. It even knows which type you’d like to meet, because you’ve already given some helpful hints about your thoughts on the matter through your clickstream. But personalization of web content is quickly moving beyond ISP-tracking and ultra-niche-targeted content.
The semantic web, bastard child of spyware, is slowly coming into being through – among others – microformats, folksonomy, and the evolving APML standard. With Firefox 3.0 set to bring microformats into the limelight, if you haven’t started using them in your content already, now would be a good time to start. The semantic web will be an increasingly niche-focused web, as rich as the gamut of human perversion.
Still reading? You are in the minority.
Keeping information as brief as it can be, and preferably just a bit shorter than that is the order of the day. As with porn, you need to focus on delivering bite-sized, perfectly timed chunks of gratification, while still leaving them wanting for more. Overkill isn’t going to win you any friends – that’s why MySpace and Plaxo in their uniquely horrific ways are never going to be Facebook. And why the most popular blog content at this point in time is made up of snappy content-lite, information-rich top-lists.
Piling on surplus features, ostentatious visual flourishes or superfluous information is like making someone sit through the pre-coital storyline of the worst type of porn. Twitter has more users than Pownce for this very reason – it does one thing, well. No plumber, no photocopier that needs mending. Straight down to business.
The widgetization of the web isn’t going to slow down any time soon. Closed content, content that refuses to be shared, is not going to be seen. By anyone. Like a porn star that won’t put out, taking a walled garden approach to information design is a sure-fire way to put a swift end to your career or business.
Informational promiscuity is thriving in the world of the widget, the Creative Commons license, p2p file-sharing and the host of other technologies that enable the easy copying and sharing of your information. YouTube videos, Netvibes start-up pages, desktop widgets and mashup-ready APIs are fast becoming mainstream. Focusing on portability and working with the promiscuous nature of bits and bytes are going to be even more important information design traits in the next couple of years – as the web moves out of your browser, and makes a lunge for your desktop.
Pornography is laser-targeted by niche, succinct, mono-functional, dedicated to broadcasting presence and very open to the concept of ready sharing. The standout services and content in the web industry today bear an uncanny resemblance, and it seems likely that the next breed in the strain will succeed by being even more so.
Michael Pick doesn’t sleep. When he isn’t forging tremulous connections between web++ and porn, he blogs, makes videos for the web and sometimes gets paid to tell people how to do the same. His far from erotic blog can be found at http//www.Michael-Pick.com.