Jorge Espinel / April 14, 2011
Since writing the last post, it has become increasingly evident to me that while “social” experiences have become synonymous with services that include networks of friends, people or interests, the impact of these services on the Web will extend well beyond that. The main contribution of social products will be establishing the foundation for the emergence of the “Personal” Web.
Over the past few years, the Social Web has garnered most of the attention from consumers and the overall industry. Led by Facebook and Twitter, social products have changed the way people are interacting with content and information on the Web. The push-nature, efficiency, and personalization of social experiences have made these digital products popular with consumers. Their design enables users to consume easily and quickly vast amounts of highly relevant data, regardless of their type (articles, photos, videos, audio). This aspect of social products has become increasingly important as the growth of the Web data corpus continues to accelerate.
The design used by social products can be applied to enhance any service where users seek to consume any type of content, data or information. Existing categories such as commerce, news, travel, health, classifieds, local information, etc., can be reinvented. The result would be highly “personalized” services that allow users to stay up to date on mainly the data that interests them, and help them to easily discover new relevant data.
Personal Web experiences will employ: (i) basic entities or topics (people, places, businesses, locations, etc.) as key organizing principles rather than categories as the minimal unit, (ii) flexible taxonomies which allow users to group entities any way they want rather than a single editorial-driven classification, (iii) feeds that facilitate the creation of multiple expressions of the data (e.g., only videos, photos & snippets, text & audio, etc.), and (iv) robust recommendation mechanisms rather than just a search box.
This perspective envisions a world where one receives information on deals from only merchants that one is interested in, news only on subjects that are of interest to that person, updates on only the hotels that one prefers, reports on only the companies that one is interested in, updates on only the home services that one is interested in. The vision also entails users accessing these “personalized” feeds via both optimized applications and multi-purpose data readers (e.g., FB app, reader apps, etc.). The myriad of applications such as Flipboard, Pulse, Tweetdeck suggest consumers are likely to have multiple ways to access their “personalized” feeds.
Lastly, the rise of the Personal Web is likely to lead to the emergence of “curation” as a core element of many Web experiences. In some ways, it would replace current editorial or merchandising initiatives. Unlike blogging or traditional promotion efforts, curation is much more scalable and enables a greater degree of data personalization. Curators which one follows are expected to only deliver things that one is interested in. If they don’t, one will penalize her/him with a hit of the unfollow button.
Personalized experiences have been tried several times in the past. However, unlike in the past, the Social Web has put the infrastructure in place needed to usher in the era of the Personal Web.