The last decade has seen a transformation in the way knowledge is produced and consumed. But who controls the knowledge?
Like always, Amazon’s recommendation list landed me to this book “World Without Mind: The Existential Threat of Big Tech”, by Franklin Foer. Looks like google and amazon typecast me as a techno-pessimist by the choice of books that I read :)? So, Franklin Foer in his book reveals the existential threat posed by the big tech and how we have succumbed to their ways. “They’re monopolists who want access to every facet of our identities and influence over every corner of our decision-making”, says Foer.
From 23,500 websites in the early days of internet (in 1995), it has grown to over 1.3 billion websites today. We thought the internet will allow free expressions, there will be millions (actually billions :)) of web sites and everyone can have a place under the sun , self-publish, and get their words across. We thought it was the end of the gatekeepers. But we see that the internet is actually shrinking!
The Gateway to Internet
Google and Facebook have become the gateway to Internet. Over the decades, the internet has revolutionized reading patterns. At one end we have a long tail of news and media websites, such as the New York Times, Slate, the New Yorker, Bloomberg, Forbes, Reuters, etc. and at the other we have Google and Facebook (and Twitter). How do we end up visiting these news sites? It is through Google, Facebook and Twitter. It is their algorithms that determines where we end up going. Instead of beginning with the home pages of the Bloomberg, the New York Times or Slate, we now encounter articles through Google, Facebook, and Twitter. “Even journalists of the highest integrity have internalized a new mindset; they worry about how to successfully pander to Google’s and Facebook’s algorithms.” says Foer.
Surveys show that sixty-two percent of Americans get their news through social media, and most of it via Facebook; one-third of all traffic to media sites flows from Google. We are 7.5 billion people in the world now, and even though we talk about social media in the plural, one Facebook encompasses 2 billion individuals. The average time spent daily on Facebook is also increasing (over 35 min/day).
So yes, we enter internet only through the gateway and people realize there is no point fighting it out. Here’s statistics on Facebook and Google dominating web traffic.
This is the age of the platforms and consolidation is taking place in every sphere, be it search (Google), media (YouTube, Facebook), taxi service (Uber), accommodation provider (Airbnb), shopping (Amazon, Alibaba), etc.
With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility
In the olden days, we described the power of gatekeeping as a sacred obligation. It is a fact that most people today get their news through Facebook, and it is time that Facebook acknowledges that they are the door to the internet, and then you also have the responsibility of being the gatekeeper. If they really live up to their responsibilities of being the gatekeepers, can they continue to be successful? This success is because they have taken a shortcut!