Who will own the Internet of Streams?

Will it be Google? Or will it be Twitter? Or Facebook?

Wait, what is the Internet of Streams in the first place?

Let’s find out.

What is the Internet of Streams?

The Internet is primarily used for two purposes:

  • Consuming content (search, discover or visit sites with articles, music, video etc.)
  • Taking action (book a movie ticket, shopping etc.)

Internet of Streams refers to the first one.

Yesterday’s world used to google or visit websites of content providers. Today’s world, discovers content on social media via URLs. When was the last time you actually visited website of TechCrunch or Mashable on your browser? You usually discover their articles on Facebook, Twitter and such. Earlier, Google was your homepage and more or less where you found content. But not today. I wouldn’t be surprised if Google’s search volume is falling each year already. The world moved from the age of search to the age of discovery a while back now and we didn’t even realise.

But, what about the world of tomorrow? How is it going to consume content? How can the age of discovery be further improvised?

In 2013, David Gelernter threw light on this thought in his article, ‘The End of Web, Search and Computer as we know it.’ Again, I discovered this article not by searching or by visiting his website, but from my Twitter newsfeed. It was eerie to have found someone thinking along the same lines. What he refers to as the “Worldstream,” I call it the Internet of Streams.

Basically the concept is to re-imagine the internet as one giant stream. When you update your website with some content, when you write a blog, a post or a tweet, you create content which is tagged with time. If you extract all these packets of content and put them in one place, they will appear to form a stream flowing from creators to consumers across the world.

Concept of Internet of Streams

Overall, the Internet of Streams will have streams of content from of people, businesses and things.

You don’t need a search engine or a URL to consume content from this stream. Instead of you searching for content, the content from this stream will search for you. All you need to tell is, which creator you are interested in and whether you would like to receive some or all of their content. Everything else, is just unnecessary.

This is happening already. Well, in some ways.

You have already told Facebook who your friends are, which pages you like and what posts you engage with. Facebook uses this information to decide what content (including ads) reaches your newsfeed. Twitter is a bit honest in this regard. It just throws tweets from whoever you follow (and with some ads, of course). Flipboard extracts only URLs shared in Facebook, Twitter etc. and adds some of its own based on your interests, to create your personalised magazine. Well not exactly but you get the idea.

The Problem

The problem is, even though these guys have done a good job in delivering me the content they think I may like, for other than text and pictures, I still have to visit the URLs of the creator. Each of these had to make their own in-app browsers primarily for this reason. The experience sucks, as upon landing on the URL, I am thrown all kinds of unnecessary information along with the content I actually wanted to consume. The excellent targeting through which it reached me in the first place, got diluted.

In-app browser loading time

The good news is, this problem is slowly being addressed.

The Solution

The solution, or at least steps towards it, lies in the way Facebook is treating its content.

Let’s start with videos. The first “Facebook Video” I saw was about some cat doing something funny. I couldn’t care less. But when they launched auto-play, the war with YouTube became evident. On one side, the user has to read the post, click on the link and then click on the video to watch it (leave aside wait time). On the other side, the video just auto plays. 3 steps to 1. The winner was already decided.

And with Instant Articles, Facebook just won another big pie in the content space. Now, the content creator can directly publish the article on Facebook and the reader can read it without having to leave Facebook at all.

In a way, Facebook is on its way of creating their “Internet of Streams.” On one side, people publish content like posts, images, videos and now articles on this stream. On the other side, readers consume content from this stream based on what Facebook thinks is best for them, without having to open any in-app browser.

What I look forward to now, is how Facebook will tackle the second purpose of internet, i.e. taking actions. How would I book a cab without leaving their ecosystem?

Would Facebook also get to create their Internet of Services?

Originally published at rosegarg.com on May 16, 2015.