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Written by Shane Neubauer


16/08/2021

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A brief history of finding things on the Internet

Since the start of the Internet decades ago, there have been multiple eras of content distribution.

Each new era solved problems and limitations of the last, and showed us distinct characteristics of its own, mostly shaped by the world's collective personality and the technology at the time.

Command-based FTP allowed dialled-up users to log on to a destination server and upload or download a specific file. But, you had to know which server, which directory, and which file you were looking for.

Usenet and IRC, the first social platforms on the Internet, helped to solve this by creating a human connection. A person to introduce and share something.

Tim Berners Lee brought us the World Wide Web, the concept of decentralised linked documents, which formed the basis of what we know of the web today. This allowed us to browse online. Reading a document, and letting that take us to the next.

With the increasing volume of content becoming available, discovering content by browsing around or asking a friend became tough. Search was born.

The search engine race had a clear winner, and Google has been the de facto standard for finding things on the Internet for a long time. But, the amount of content has continued to grow exponentially. The search era comes to an end.

Now, we're in a new era.

Right now we're living through the age of the creator. People have the tools and accessibility available to express themselves through writing, video, music, podcasts and more.

Collaboration between creators is possible, no matter where you live.

A creator in Seattle can invite an entrepreneur in Ghana to join their podcast as a guest. A producer in Sydney can lay a track down for a singer in Ukraine.

Creating content has not just become more accessible, but it's become more normal. It's now part of online culture in a way we've never seen before.

Writing a blog post or sharing your thoughts in a video is seen more as a normal way of communication, rather than a creator's tool.

And with this new age, we see new content distribution challenges.

The rise in the amount of content begins to saturate our normal channels. How do you know which podcast to choose, out of the 70 available?

Content marketing — publishing content online with the distinct purpose of attracting leads via mechanisms like SEO — is beginning to take a turn for the worse.

With ill-researched content and AI generated content, optimised purely around keywords and ranking algorithms, much of the search results are of questionable quality.

Search is no long the panacea it once was, but with community and social dynamics underpinning much of the current Internet, we once again turn to the human connection as the answer.

You probably don't have a few thousand hours to spare, looking for the single best podcast episode on the topic of entrepreneurship, but if you leverage the mind power of the community, you'll have a great chance at finding it.

There may be more content on the Internet than any single human can handle, but together we can.

Curation is the distribution layer of the creator economy. Curation is now the de facto standard discovery layer of the Internet.

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