The internet belongs to the young?

Fred Wilson offered this thought yesterday, which touched off a firestorm of opinion:

It is incredibly hard to think of new paradigms when you’ve grown up reading the newspaper every morning. When you turn to TV for your entertainment. When you read magazines on the train home from work.

But we have a generation coming of age right now that has never relied on newspapers, TV, and magazines for their information and entertainment. They are the net natives. They grew up in AOL chatrooms, IMing with their friends for hours after dinner, and went to school with a Facebook login.

The Internet is their medium and they are showing us how it needs to be used.


Now Fred did try to correct the impression he left, but the damage is already done.

The internet itself is about 35 years old now. And we’ve moved beyond trying to emulate newspapers, television channels, and CB radio to what? Facebook and Myspace just emulate bulletin boards. With all due respect to sites like Flickr and YouTube, photos and video on the web are not innovative.

It is the attitude of people, mostly younger people, that has made a difference.It is their willingness to share photos, videos, and details of their personal lives that has created the value in companies like Flickr, YouTube, and Facebook. Perhaps older people are just more guarded about that sort of thing. Of course it may (and already has in some cases) come back to bite these young people in the butt.

Let’s just keep in mind that we’re really not talking about anything innovative here. Web 1.0 seemed to be all about attracting eyeballs. Web 2.0 seems to be all about getting people to provide free content and then benefitting from it. Creating a cute repository for that content is pretty simple really, given that all of the really hard stuff – the technology infrastructure – already exists.

I guess if there is any innovation here at all it is getting people to work for you for free. And that isn’t really true either since the people that contribute to sites like YouTube actually perceive value from being able to show off their videos.

Of course America’s Funniest Videos was doing exactly that 20 years ago. The internet is just the same thing on a different channel.

Shelley Powers and Kent Newsome have their own entertaining thoughts on the subject as well.


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