Evolution of the Internet

The Evolution of the Internet


I’m sure that I’m like most people when I say that, when I really think about it, the internet astounds and mesmerizes me. Even though I can barely remember a time in my life before the internet existed, it’s existence is still purely fantastical. The idea that this interconnection amongst all people can fascilitate so much knowledge and help bridge so many divides is almost beyond comprehension; it is still something I have trouble wrapping my head around.

What interests me more than the overall goodness of the internet, though, is how the internet has evolved during its relatively short existance – specifically, how this evolution seemingly mirrors the evolution of human society.

Evolution of the Internet
photo cred @ 2.bp.blogspot.com

Take, for instance, how the internet started off. It was a collection of sites without any real central hub, or even spokes. All the sites were primarily self-contained and independent. Internet users at the start had a different alias for each site, and they were probably a member of a multitude of different sites, each catering towards a differing interest.

Those were the early years. Now, the internet is collapsing – it is becoming much more centralized. Take, for instance, a simple truth. The majority of your homepages are overwhelmingly likely to be either the Google startscreen or Facebook. Both of these sites are major internet hubs.

For example, almost any site now can be logged onto via your Facebook ID. Likewise, for any independent site to want to have a chance to succeed and flourish, they will need to be constantly updating their sitemap and sending it to Google so others can find it. Most likely, that independent site will also need to have a Facebook page, a Twitter account, etc – basically, the whole social media shabang.

So, a few sites are becoming the more of the internet. How does that represent society? Well, think about it. Society, too, has a strong and constant drive to constantly coalesce and centralize. This is an apparent fact for any civilization or any government. No matter how decentralized something may start off as, slowly everything starts to cluster.

You can see this with cities; you can see this with centralizations of government power; you can see this with websites. I am not making a value judgement by any means as to whether this internet centralization is a good or a bad thing – indeed, maybe it is wonderful as now anyone who wants to create their own site knows how to easily market it.

What I am saying, though, is how this is fascinating for what it represents. To me, the fact that the internet evolved this way demonstrates two very important points.

  1. This evolution of the internet shows that, at least the majority of, humans are drawn to a sort of centralization.
  2. The internet can truly be thought of as a sort of fast-forming micro-society unto itself, as it so quickly adapts to fit the current way we think of the world.

2 thoughts on “The Evolution of the Internet”

  1. Jeremy, I love your statement that “[the Internet] so quickly adapts to fit the current way we think of the world.” Maybe, though, the Internet also influences the way we think, so that there is a dynamic equilibrium between the way we think and the Internet itself.

    Also I love the point you make about centralisation in terms of the Internet, thinking this mirrors what we do in society, and specifically in cities. I do agree, but on the other hand, what about the outward spread of suburbs and exurbs? Maybe this will ultimately happen with the Internet; centralisation first and then later outlying regions.

    1. I don’t know about there being suburbs or exurbs in terms of the internet – only different, competing, centralizing hubs. For example, there is Facebook (the most successful aggregate), and then the rival Google+ and Diaspora. You also have Twitter as a centralizer, but that too is being built into Facebook and the other aggregators. There are a lot more than just these sites acting as hubs – for example, Reddit or Digg – but you can tell how centralized everything is becoming just by looking at articles on smaller websites; they will all have a way to share the article, or link it, to a central hub.

      So, I guess in this analogy, all the central hubs are like cities while other sites – this blog, for instance – function as the suburbs.

Penny for your thoughts