Internet watchers, particularly business types involved in marketing, have been predicting that the Internet will become more tribal and it becomes more pervasive. The parallel might be the rise of Industrial Age cities: people left their local communities and moved to big anonymous cities, but then the cities got so big that people organically developed boroughs, gangs, neighborhoods, etc. The social internet of the old usenet days is the pre-city world; Facebook and Twitter represent the megalapolises. And now we the citizenry are self-organizing into tribes.
Tyler Newton thinks this will happen now, in 2010:
The tribal Internet–Social networking and Internet content will evolve into networks of sites and information streams focused around common interests. Whether it’s for work, hobbies or issue advocacy, interest groups will form virtual “tribes” online, sharing content, ideas, opinions, advice and information among themselves. Magazines, blogs, e-mail newsletters and video content are already interlinked and shared and promoted via RSS feeds and social networks like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. Because these tribes are built around natural affinities, in many ways they will have a more powerful hold on us than our existing groups based on schools and location. Marketers will not be successful with old-fashioned advertising that interrupts this flow of content. Successful marketers will be those that are able to join and gain the trust of the tribes, where people WANT to receive the marketing message.
You know how billboards are different depending on what part of the city you’re in? You’ll see that with tribal-based marketing. But aside from marketing, what does the tribal internet mean?
Organic Organization. Information will organize itself around the tribal centers that produce and consume it. If you want to find out about Iranian politics, you’ll go to the Iranian dissident tribe. This has been the case for a while, but it will become more explicit and become the shared understanding of the internet denizens. This should make it easier to find information and sort the wheat from the chaff; something’s going to need to.
Working Topically. Wikipedia and the USG’s Intellipedia have long been proponents of this. Rather than organizing information by, oh, which academic institution did the study, which journal published it, or which author wrote it, the pedias organize information by its topic and let you see the sources of the data. Mainstream journalism has been opposed to this, since their bread-and-butter is getting people to go to them, the source, and take what info they provide. With the decline of that business model, a few traditional media outlets are partnering with Google on the Living Stories project, which provides the news topically, the way tribes want it.
Metanet. The population of the internet has hit the point where we can no longer lump everything and everyone together as “the Internet.” There’s the internet of things, as more and more devices come online of their own accord, and more and more sensors are added. There’s the cloud, where data is stored and processed, there’s the commerce internet, there are the walled gardens of intranets and private instances, and there’s social media, now the main way people interact with the internet. I’m starting to call these the metanet, the macronet, the micronet, and the me net. Just like you travel a city differently if you are considering its architecture and structure, if you are attending class or doing business, if you’re shopping, if you’re having a private club meeting, or if you are going out with friends, you’ll engage with the internet differently. Transitions from one net to another will usually be transparent, but just like going through an airport or into a government building, there will be areas where you will still have to show your creds and leave a lot of your gear behind.
Rachel Winchester is a Social Media Practitioner, Innovator, and Trainer. You can follow her on twitter @m3ta4