The internet really is shrinking. No, it's not becoming less popular, and it's certainly not less populated. In fact, it's brimming and almost ubiquitous. It is, nonetheless, shrinking. What do I mean by that? I mean that we, as end users, are limiting our personal web across this wide world. Sure, we still want a few strands to range 'round the globe (just in case we need them), but for the most part, we are viewing fewer sites more frequently. We are concentrating our browsing and our loyalty to just a few sources.
How is the internet shrinking?
My wife is a great cook, but she wasn't always a great cook. I don't think she's ever been a bad cook, but there was a time when she was simply not a cook. Once our eldest child started eating table foods, she started to cook. Because she was relatively new to this sort of thing, she looked almost everywhere for recipes and resources. I say almost everywhere because she bypassed the help from her mother--who is an excellent cook and always willing to share her wealth of knowledge. No, no; she was a true Explorer.
She scoured the internet for the right dishes, the right pots, the right pans, the right methods. She read everyone from Rachel Ray to random women on Facebook. She wasn't really exploring at this point. She took on the role of an Investigator determined what this "new land" really had to offer. Eventually, she settled on the Pioneer Woman as her culinary guru. Once she began "following" her, the searching was over. She started reading her almost exclusively. She stopped being an Investigator, moved in and became as Settler.
As time has progressed and as we have become more health conscious, she has moved away from the Pioneer Woman, and the search began again. Pinterest had usurped Facebook; Google still reigned supreme, and her mother was still not consulted. She found a lot of success in one area and quickly became frustrated with failures in other areas. So, yet again, the web was narrowed to just one or two sources (namely: 100 Days of Real Food).
Why is the internet shrinking?
The internet is shrinking because we are no longer exploring. During the Age of Exploration we scoured the globe. There were schools founded for the sake of navigation. Even commoners dared to travel across oceans and embark on new lands. Likewise, at the beginning of the Information Age, we discovered a sense of excitement in finding and browsing information from anywhere and everywhere.
Now, however, we've filled in the corners of the map, sailed over the edge of the world and settled back down nicely into our cozy place on the globe. Nowadays, we don't often make it to the corner of the living room let alone the edge of town. We may not know what's out there anymore, but we know where to find everything we need, and it's already right at our fingertips. The globalization of the world has lead to the isolation of individuals.
Likewise, we have stopped embarking that much online. Gone are the days of those who explore the internet or navigate the netscape. We've long since discovered fire and now polish up our chrome. We still search--goodness, do we search! We are even willing to dust off the old proverbial compass and follow the rating stars to discover a new world interest. Once we find our Plymouth Rock, though, we stay put. Once we find the "best" land we will die there.
What does this mean for businesses?
This is not by definition a bad thing. If the Age of Exploration never ended, the Industrial Age might never have begun. It's fine that we aren't really explorers anymore. But, how should that impact what we do and who we are as businesses? I've got three quick suggestions:
- Be Compelling to Explorers
- Be Useful to Investigators
- Be Respectful of Settlers
It all comes down to having a good product or service, consistently promoting that and forming true relationships with your current and potential client.