Is a Private Internet Coming at Last?

Maybe I’m the last to the party of prognosticators that have long predicted the emergence of multiple or private internets over time.

But it does feel like something big is brewing in the world of consumers and the internet.  Time spent online is growing, at the expense of television viewing.  Time spent online is shifting, to social media.  Big user bases of 100 million and larger are emerging, from Facebook’s nearly 600 million to Twitter to Zynga to Last.fm to LinkedIn.  And let’s not forget Yahoo’s and Google’s  hundreds of millions of monthly users that have been with them for years. Let’s call these sites the  Cabal.

And there’s the dimension of capitalism.  Today, about $30b is spent annually on online advertising.  Google earns a whopping 87% of that money.  Meanwhile, Facebook has rocketed from 9% of U.S. online advertising revenue share a year ago to 23% today, overtaking Yahoo! along the way.  The Cabal is gearing up for a fight over users money and it’s going to get nasty.

So, we’re converging as users on these social media sites.  And these sites are vying for big advertising bucks in turn.

Where does that leave the rest of the internet?   You know, the billions of other web pages.  Has it been rendered less relevant?  Or does is contain the classic “long tail” of content that makes it valuable for each of us in highly personal ways.

The idealist in me says that the Internet in whole – this embarrassment of riches – is deeply rewarding to us all and will continue.  The capitalist in me says that with so much money at stake, the Cabal will shape the future.

Where do you stand?

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