The birth of the ‘Alive Web’


Edit Note: this column originally appeared on the Namesake blog, but is reprinted in full here.

This morning I awoke to an email newsletter in my inbox from Om Malik. The title of his post said it all, “Say hello to the alive web!”

For the past year I’ve been thinking deeply about this concept as it relates to Namesake and the consumer Internet as a whole. I believe we’re at the beginning of an exciting shift in how we experience and socialize around content. So what’s changed? For the past month, I’ve been participating in conversations on Namesake that have altered my entire perception of the consumer Internet. Conversations, as it seems, have started to come alive. All of this was very much accidental, which reminds me of this movie clip:

First, let’s look at the evolution of the Web in a very simplistic fashion: we started with static, yet beautifully hyperlinked pages. Web 2.0 brought us identity and simple way to organize the Web around people. At the edges of Web 2.0, Twitter illuminated us with the promise of the real-time interaction in the the form of lightweight broadcasting. But now it’s all about to change. Again.

The “Alive Web” is about to completely displace the way we’ve previously experienced content, community and media.

Think of all the amazing data and content sources that are our disposal now: YouTube, SoundCloud, Flickr, Instagram, Vimeo, Ustream, Skitch, Grooveshark and on…

Each and every data source will soon be mashed up and re-framed as a social object., one my my favorite new experiences, isn’t about music. It’s about driving conversation and interaction through the social object that is music. It’s an immersive experience, like AOL Chat rooms of yore, in which we can get lost—even addicted—for a few minutes or even hours. If we just want to listen to music, there are a host of solutions that are more than adequate. is, at the core, a social experience driven by people acting like humans (now there’s a concept). On we joke, share, converse and even punt people out of the room. Just like in real life.

Sites like Namesake and are going to finally make the Web feel real and alive—reflecting the promise of creating social technology that connects the world in an immersive way that doesn’t involve three-dimensional avatars (sorry, SecondLife). As prolific blogger and friend Paul Kedrosky writes, “It is very much about the alive web, about surfacing content, driving immersive conversations, and generally become a live fabric.”

So what’s changed, you ask? Why now? Consumers are finally familiar with online media, our ability to deliver real-time experiences is improving, mobile is forcing an always-on context and entrepreneurs are starting to better understand the nuances of user experience design. All of these advancements can be improved upon, of course, but, as Albert Einstein once famously said, “The most powerful force in the universe is compound interest.” It’s the combination of these elements that’s pushing the Web’s boundaries once again. Does creating synchronous experiences present a new set of challenges? Absolutely. Building marketplaces of information requires rigorous focus and determination that most entrepreneurs are not willing to endure.

What’s also important to me is the impact these trends will have on culture. Self expression, identity and relationships will be formed and codified through the expression and conversation around media. Look no further than Tumblr to wonder about the validity of this idea. An entire new generation of startups is about to emerge. Every data source will become a social object and the common language will become social.

I’d love to hear your experiences with the “alive web”—let’s talk about it in this conversation right now.

Brian Norgard is founder and product lead of Namesake, a real-time conversation community.

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