The Real-time Web

The rise of social networks have brought people together on-line. Groups and communities have created what we call the social web. Information is shared and the power has shifted from corporations to the people.  The consumption economy where corporations rule is being replaced by the engagement economy where the opinions of the masses rule. While the social web is very interesting and somewhat foreseen there is another element of the social web that is more unexpected and has caught us by surprise. This is the real-time web.

Perhaps the best example of real-time is Twitter. Twitter has fascinated the media and gets constant coverage. Than at the same time so many simply don’t see anything interesting with the service. The real reason why Twitter is so interesting is the real-time aspect. Think about Twitter’s 140 characters micro-blogs as a stream of text, one entry after the other. Then image you can analyze this stream and detect keywords. What are people saying? Can we see any trends?

Two recent events provide examples and the media is full of reports on how these stories developed on Twitter: the Iran uprising and the death of Michael Jackson. However, they are very different. The Iranian revolution got nearly exclusively reported on Twitter and Facebook for the first few hours. The big networks did not have coverage. The people in Iran used their computers and mobile phones to keep the world updated with accounts and pictures from the streets of Teheran. Even few days later, Iran is still a trending topic.

Sceenshots from Twitterfall late on the 16th of June 2009

The case of Iran is an example of what makes Twitter or any real-time web site important – people provide information. I would not be surprised that real-time feeds from the people at the locations of the events, pictures or messages, are important intelligence to governments monitoring the situation.

News of the death of pop king Michael Jackson was quick to start a Twitter trend, and soon was all over the media. Here is an interesting video from Twitscoop showing how the trend spread:

One good thing about Twitter is it shows what people are thinking about – now. News travels fast in Twitterworld, but just as thing spread fast, they die fast. BuzzMachine has an interesting input into this discussion. The real time web is not only interesting for what is emerging, it is also an indicator of what people are loosing interest of.

The real-time web is one of the emerging trends we see on the Internet. It gives new meaning to communication and information flow. Gone are days of one-to-many broadcast news where the few rule the opinions, we are entering the world of many-to-many information feeds – in real-time.