Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Power of the Internet

Never has the Internet technology industry flexed their muscles so strongly as they did last Thursday, January 19, 2012. That day, with the website blackouts against SOPA and PIPA, they demonstrated the sheer power of the Internet’s graph to affect people’s actions and decisions. In one day, 8 million people looked up who their congressman or woman was using Wikipedia’s tool (and presumably wrote to them as well). Google convinced 4.5 million people to write to their congressman or woman. Involvement on such scale would have been unheard and was impossible only ten years ago.

I think these successes are indicative of how the web graph is structured. Rather than being totally decentralized, I feel that the web graph is very dense around a few pages, like Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia and Google. Many sites have links into these websites and they receive a massive amount of traffic. This is why the movement was so successful – the “hubs” of the graph were the ones leading the charge.

It’s quite funny to watch how the entertainment industry has reacted to these developments. These companies are staffed by people who don’t really understand the power of the Internet and social media. For example, they have launched “a television advertising campaign supporting the anti-piracy plans” (BBC). This is almost a laughable feeble move. There is no way they are going to be able to disseminate their message at the same rate or on the same scale as Reddit, Wikipedia or Facebook through a TV advertisement.

All this shows that knowing how to exploit the social and internet graph is of enormous benefit because such a graph has enormous power. It also demonstrates that the companies that control this graph have enormous power as well, perhaps more than entertainment companies that have been around for decades. The world is changing


1 comment:

  1. It's surprising how little we know considering how important these issues are to large companies. Or perhaps they know a lot and it's just a proprietary secret. Or maybe we're so far out of the target audience that we see their "laughable feeble move" as less than it really is.

    Also, what's a television? ;P