“On the Internet, the big get bigger. It wasn’t supposed to be like that. When the Web arrived in the early 1990s, it was heralded as a liberating force that would free us from the confines of gated communities like AOL and Compuserve. The Internet was supposed to be an open, democratic medium, an information bazaar putting individuals on the same footing as big companies.

“In the end, though, the Internet seems to be following the same pattern that has always characterized popular media. A few huge outlets come to dominate readership and viewership and smaller, more specialized ones are consigned to the periphery.”

Author and blogger Nicholas Carr


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  • I’m not sure why Carr is surprised. This is the same path traveled by most publicly-viewed media… why should the Internet be any different? Carr overlooks one big difference — that smaller voices are still able to have a place on the web, even if their readership is minute, and can publish ideas with minimal startup cost. Try accomplishing that on any other popular media.

  • Sean Dougherty

    Ditto. The Internet is a big democratic medium catering to all tastes. Carr just seems to object to the choices made by others – i.e. that most people choose content from a few big providers. Their choices don’t change the fact that all the other stuff is out there if you want it.

  • Except it is the very business of Search to continue to expand access to evermore websites and other forms of media as Google is doing in breathtaking fashion.

  • Al

    “The Internet was supposed to be an open, democratic medium, an information bazaar putting individuals on the same footing as big companies.”

    Oh really? Mr. Carr should read a history of the Internet like the one at http://www.isoc.org/internet/history/brief.shtml, which doesn’t seem to mention anything about a “democratic medium”. He has a rather naive concept unless he expects the government (which one(s)?)to run it as completely “net-beutral”, paid for by taxes. The Internet is in fact a market place, governed by market forces. If Mr. Carr doesn’t “feel lucky”, maybe he should try starting at search page 20 or beyond.

  • I came to terms with this issue some time ago as siteviews began to conglomerate around very few properties. Hitwise lists the top 20 web sites here: http://www.hitwise.com/datacenter/rankings.php. Between them they command about a one-third marketshare (viewershare?).

    Yes, people will tend to gravitate to these sites rather than to less-well-known, newer or more innovative sites. But in traditional publishing, the smaller titles increasingly got forced off the shelf by the big ones, whether books or periodicals, whether at the bookstore or the library. On the Internet, everything occupies the same space on the front shelf: it’s up to the user to put a little energy into browsing.

    As much as I used to be disappointed by the concentration on the Web, I’m now more often thrilled to stumble upon some fascinating new site and learn that it receives 300,000 page views per week. THAT does not happen in the traditional publishing or broadcast industries!

  • Komrades let us travel back in time to the summer of 1969 to the basement of the Pentagon…protesters that summer layed siege to the outer-building and parking lots…Northern Virginia still had little development since World War Two…change was in the air…The Defense Applied Research Projects Agency (DARPA) was in the basement inventing the INTERNET…a way for scholars and military and college labs to communicate…by the late 1970’s with the research from the XP Labs out to Xerox Parc the net was born…Al Gore cast a crucial vote in 1991 to open it up to common folk…big websites do well cause the average shmo feels safer there…either safe from a virus or whatever and also feels safer with said content…BUT smaller sites are awesome…I myself have three count them three blogs…indeed for nothing a month “I AM PUBLISHED” and for the first time in the history of the written word can compete against having my voice silenced…it is indeed a revolution…never forget that folks like me from the pre-internet world will never forget how hard it was to communicate before the net broke the backs that the established corporations had on the written word…awesome and freedom…no longer do I have to meet with a smelly editor who works for the man and have to change my articles to suit the suits in the upper offices…no longer does one have to “publish his own small magazine” and try and get inie bookstores to sell it…NO I WAKE UP NOW and blog and blog and it is INSTANTLY published FOR DA WHOLE WORLD!!!this is bigger than the invention of the printing press…Bloggers Unite…