Web Scatter / by Nate Westheimer

Over time, everything finds its place; and on the Web, this law is no different. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. I made this argument a few years ago regarding organization of offline activity and webservices in a post called "Scatter Mob." This idea actually came out of a comment I wrote on Jeremy Wagstaff's blog where I started to think about a phenomenon I've been calling "Ambiance Scatter."

Ambiance Scatter

Here's what I wrote about Ambiance Scatter in 2007 on Wagstaff's blog:

What I'm seeing with Twitter, IM, email, blogging, etc, etc is something I'm calling "Ambiance Scatter" -- kinda taking Leisa Reichelt's concept of "Ambient Intimacy" and wondering how its different levels intimacy find the most appropriate medium for broadcast.

What I noticed is that with the advent of Twitter, a B-list tech blogger friend of mine -- a great writer -- stopped blogging about personal, uninteresting to the wider-audience stuff on his blog, and instead left the "I love salad at Joe's cafe" stuff for Twitter posts.

While this was written during the very early days of Twitter, I wouldn't change much about this initial observation: with each type of communication, there seems to be an appropriate medium through which to communicate.

Late for a meeting? SMS or DM (direct message). Planning a party? Send an invite through a social network. Announcing something to your company? Email it. Tell someone you miss them? Call them. Need to disperse a rumor? Blog about it. Tell your friends you're at the bar? Foursquare it.

100 years ago all this would have happened via the postal service. Then we got telephones. Fax was the next step, and then we had email. 10 years ago, most everything on my list above would have gone via email. But Moore's Law must be at play here too.

As we find new ways to communicate, more and more appropriate media pop up; conversely, as we create new media, people find more and more ways to communicate (for many, Foursquare has replaced the flashmob communication I identified as popular on Twitter in Scatter Mob).

Again, for every type of communication there is a most appropriate medium.

This so this the Web of communication: a constantly and increasingly fragmenting and coalescing stream of messages, each finding their most appropriate avenue and bringing other like messages along for the ride.

Web Scatter

What brought me back to the idea of Ambiance Scatter after all these years? For one, it's a framework through which I'm writing a more substantial post on Twitter (hopefully to be out next week).

But another reason is because of an important slide I saw in presentation given by Drop.io's Sam Lessin a few weeks ago:

dropio-distro

In this slide, Sam articulates a similar "scatter" model I use for communication -- the idea that "over time, everything finds its place" -- but for the entire Web ecosystem of applications and workflows.

In Sam's model, however, applications are different than communication: instead of there being a "constantly and increasingly fragmenting and coalescing stream" of options, there's a natural order, with all applications moving towards their natural, fixed category of distribution, identity, or content/IO.

Now, Sam, of course, is invested in this call, and this slide (which I've posted with his permision) probably articulates more about his company's strategy than one can immediate tell by looking at their homepage, but I'm posting it is because of its value as a framework through which to see the rest of the web.

For instance, if you were to ask me what's going on with Twitter these days, I'd channel Lessin and tell you that Twitter is increasingly finding itself in its natural place as a distribution mechanism. That's it. On Twitter, identity is dead, and content is whatever's on the other end of that link you included, unless you could fit your message in the signal's 140 character limit (which many succeed at, confusing the matrix).

Now take Facebook... is it a content platform? A distribution platform? An identity platform? Like Twitter, there are a lot of smoke and mirrors to be distracted by here, but at the end of the day Facebook at its purest will be an identity platform. Each of these claims may deserve their own blog posts, so I'll just point out the influx of Facebook Connect around the Web and how quickly most content and distribution companies have given up the idea of owning identity and ceeded control of this aspect of the ecosystem to anyone and everyone -- especially Facebook.

This brings me to AnyClip and the content ecosystem.

As we're building out The AnyClip Stack, we must keep in mind what role we serve in the larger Web ecosystem, and embrace -- like Drop.io embraces -- its position squarely in the content ecosystem.

We are not an identity company... and so while we'll let you have an AnyClip account, we'll promote the ability to login using Facebook Connect and, eventually, any OpenID provider.

We're not a distribution company... and so aside from our own flagship applications on the Web, Mobile, and you Livingroom, we'll let 3rd party developers build the majority of applications which distribute our content.

In the end, we're a content company. We're taking valuable video content and giving people access to the very pieces which matter to them, while we also give compensation to the people who made the content. For the movie business, this is important work, and doing anything but acting as the "IO" for movie clips is a distraction.

Web Scatter is an important way I've started to look at the future of the Web. I hope it's useful for you too.

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