The river and the tide

The river by nightMost data on the web comes as a river. Blog posts, photos, Facebook updates, tweets, news stories, videos, cloud files – all lists with the newest at the top. It’s the design pattern of the Internet.

Within this design pattern, there are four main places where innovation can occur:

  • How you consume the river.
  • How you filter the river.
  • Where the river lives.
  • How and what you post to the river.

Right now, all the value lies in the first three. Social news apps suddenly declined when Facebook changed how its river works; Technology Review recently moved its content into an RSS feed after users abandoned its apps. Consumers want their content in one place, convenient for them, interconnected with the other services they use.

Facebook, Google and Twitter want your river to live on their services. Facebook and Google want to do the filtering for you; Twitter wants to give you the tools to filter it yourself. But if rivers are truly to be the future of publishing and content – which it looks like they might be – two things are likely to happen:

  • Savvy publishers will own their own rivers of content.
  • Savvy readers will want to consume content on their terms, with their own filters.

It doesn’t make sense for content producers to be subject to sudden changes like the one Facebook imposed recently. And the smart ones won’t stand for it.

The question is, who will help them regain control of their brands, their property, and their content?

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