Looking back over my emails for the last few months, there has been a rising tide either seeking or offering links. The number of unsolicited email dealing with search engine optimisation is well up, as are emails seeking or offering content.
During this same period, there has been a noticeable decline in links to any of my blogs. Part of the explanation here lies in my failure to maintain current content. However, the pattern still holds even for this blog where I have maintained regular posting.
Over on Twitter, the number of tweets has passed my capacity to absorb them in the time I have. A colleague has actually stopped using Twitter on the grounds that it is no longer possible to find what is interesting within the constant ephemera.
I use search engines all the time. Here I have noticed the same pattern as the constant increase in ephemera makes it harder and harder to find the material I want. There is another problem as well. The constant rise in the use of the internet for transactions purposes, itself something of value, adds to the overall content and indeed confusion.
To my mind, the internet is in danger of suffocating under its own excreta. However, there is more to it than that.
When the internet began, it was rather like shopping in a small town. You knew the street layout, you knew where the stores were. Now the internet has became a mega global city in which no person can even attempt to follow the overall pattern, let alone understand the detailed intricacies.
You shop or eat in that local area directly related to your needs, the things that you are interested in or need to do, putting the rest aside. Even then you have a problem, for the map changes everyday even in your local area. Nothing is stable.
Just as none of us can understand the tax acts in any country or indeed the full scope of the road rules, now we cannot understand the internet. Then, as always happens with increased systemic complexity, we start to simplify, looking just at the things we most need. In my case, for example, I am going to unfollow certain news outlets on Twitter so that I can better focus on those things, mainly people, that I do wish to follow.
Complexity also increases the demand for training and for professional support.
Globally, demand for html training has exploded because the number of people who need, or think that they need, this skill to manage their own online activities has been growing exponentially. Globally, demand for specific courses from e-publishing to writing in an online environment has also been growing.
Those who make a living from meeting this demand are obviously aware of the broad trends and and responding to them as best they can. And yet, somehow, they are failing.
Take my own case as an example.
In my own small way I actually run an internet business. I normally don't think of it in that way, yet it's true. I have a number of blogs, there are web sites, I write and publish in a variety of fora. I generate a small income stream from ads or donations, receive a variety of what we might think of as in-kind offers. Most of the second I ignore because of time constraints. I have no easy way of assessing them.
Those who send me unsolicited SEO proposals generally get a dusty response because maximising my search engine position, while potentially useful, is just not high on my priority list. My needs are different.
I actually need assistance in managing what I do. I need assistance in maximising the value of my content. I need assistance in managing and evaluating the offers I do get. I need certain types of technical support. And I need support in areas like e-publishing. I am also severely limited in what I can pay.
Trying to define and clarify all this in the simplest way, I need support that identifies my needs in an integrated way and then defines the best way of meeting them, subject to my own constraints. To the best of my knowledge, that support does not exist.
In one way, I am not a good example because of my cash constraints. In a second way I am, because I am a moderately sophisticated heavy internet user.
I have no doubt that services and supporting infrastructure of the type I need will emerge. And this brings me to my final point.
Both the internet and all the services that support the internet are niching.
This process is still in its early days, but the broad patterns are becoming clear.
People will still use the broad internet, but increasingly they will focus on slices most directly relevant to them. One internet will be replaced by many internets. The internet you know will be different from that I know. The look will be different, the mode of operations different, the language different, the information displayed different.
This fragmentation will come at a cost, including at least the partial unifying element provided by the broad internet. Yet it is, I think, inevitable.