This morning, after Jacq left for the gym, I spoke to two different bots on my phone. Poncho gave me the weather forecast and a little weird joke. Joy asked me how I was feeling because she wants to help me keep track of my mood and mental health. These are called chatbots and they’re part of one of the new splinters of what used to be called the web.
A Splintered Web Gets Even More Fragmented
My buddy Martin is all into virtual reality. He met a girl he loves and now they’re going to marry in VR. There are lots of people in Martin’s tribe of “VR will take over the world.” Facebook purchased VR platform company Oculus Rift for 2 Billion dollars. Many people are exploring VR as a new and very important medium for entertainment and communication.
I’m excited by voice applications, for one. I’m interested in Amazon’s Echo/Alexa. It’s another angle on the chatbots I mentioned above. Adrian Zumbrunnen turned his main website into a chatbot. It mostly shows off his skills, but the interface is intriguing because it’s NOT the typical web.
In places like China, apps like WeChat have taken over the wide open web. This one’s weird/interesting to me because it feels almost like a step back. Let me explain:
In the old days, there were BBS platforms (bulletin board services). Then came AOL. Then, for some, The Well. Then, for all of us, “The Internet” for nerds. Then, the “Web,” which is the pretty face of the Internet.
WeChat acts kind of like AOL. It’s a self-contained entity. And people in China love it. Because it handles a lot of their needs without having to go searching all over the place for whatever they want.
There were chatrooms, too. I used to be a big fan of IRC (Internet Relay Chat). Then came Twitter. Later Facebook. Then Instagram if you didn’t feel like sharing a post and a picture would do. Snapchat shows up to give us vanishing proof. My son uses none of these because he’s a gamer. He uses Discord. Haven’t heard of it? It’s okay. It’s not meant for you.
YouTube: one billion hours of video consumed daily.
Podcasts: on the rise and then some.
Netflix/Hulu/CrunchyRoll/Plex servers… and on and on and on.
Now Imagine Trying to Reach And Connect With People
I’ve been blogging since 1998. I started because I wanted to share my ideas with like-minded people. It took a LONG time for people to find these ideas. And then it was even longer before it was easy enough to share them. Back then, blogrolls and curated lists were how we discovered like-minded people. But the blogroll is long gone and many attempts at curation fail (while oddly, others succeed).
It’s harder than ever to happen along and discover our tribe. It’s too scattered. And less and less of it is showing up on a web page somewhere. Think about that. The concept of a “page” is becoming less and less valuable to people. Google search throws up its own cards that are often good enough that people don’t have to click through to the original page.
Or you can talk to a bot.
Or you can surface the information via chat.
Or you can get a virtual tour.
This choice is wonderful on the one side. It’s challenging on the other. If you’re a marketer, if you run a business, if you just want to find others doing what you’re interested in doing, where do you look these days?
The answer is unclear.
But I know this for sure: if you stay still, you’ll lose your chance to connect. If you don’t explore these new worlds, at least some of them, you might get left behind like the last keyword holder on AOL. And if you don’t peek outside of the standard “web page,” you’re doomed to lose more and more of your potential opportunity to serve others.
I’m exploring a lot of new avenues for reaching people, for serving people, and for keeping information available in a way that will help others accomplish their goals. It’s upon you to do the same, and to stay tuned to the people who are doing some of the experimenting and exploring for you. Because these shifts have already happened for many, and you and I are in danger of being left behind. Again.