A friend of mine said that Google has increased everyone’s IQ by 100. Web search — whether it is Google, Yahoo!, Ask.com, or any of the many specialized search engines — have certainly changed our lives. I am continuously surprised at what I can find but today I received an email out of the blue that really highlighted the impact of the Internet on searching for things. A realtor in Auburn, Alabama received a phone call about a home he has listed. The caller was named John Patrick but had a blocked number and left no information on how to contact him. The realtor did some web searching on my name and apparently found my web site and discovered I had gone to grad school at the University of South Florida. This past weekend Auburn played South Florida in a football game and he surmised that the call had come from me and would I be interested in talking about a home for sale in Auburn, Alabama. At first I thought it was spam that got through my filter but then realized it was actually legitimate albeit flawed research. It was unlikely leap of logic to make the connection but it shows the tremendous power of the Internet.
Many of us do not want to be found, analyzed, searched for, or advertised to. Many just want their privacy. I am quite confident that Internet technology will give us as much privacy as we want over time, but there are many who are not looking for privacy but rather are looking for connections. This is why there is such a huge rise in social networking sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Quechup, Multiply, MySpace, and countless others. The social networking sites are not just social and they are not just young people. In addition to facilitating the sharing of movies, music, meeting new people, and just hanging out and socializing, these people oriented sites are helping make connections. Finding jobs, finding prospective employees, making deals, starting collaborations are all possible and happening. The emerging challenge I see is that there are so many "social networks" that it can be all consuming to join them and participate in them. I have no doubt that someone will attempt to become the network of networks. In a sense that is how I see it going — an intersection of network spaces. Facebook had a brilliant idea with their introduction of applications. These are applications developed by Facebook users themselves. As of this morning there are 3,959 applications ranging from dating to fashion to sports to calculating your carbon footprint. As the World Wide Web evolves into the semantic web it is likely that the various applications and information such as found at Facebook will become compatible and the network of networks will indeed be the new web. There is a lot to look forward to.