Everything’s shrinking on the internet. I’m not talking about file size or site depth, mind you, but rather the essence of what makes up the web. While we once discussed websites, we now discuss entries or even links. We’re finally beginning to accept that the web is a network made up of individual nodes of information. While there are clusters, they are really secondary to those singular elements.
What happened to precipitate this change? Put shortly: Google. Like most revolutions online in the last few years, the search engine that could played a huge part in the restructuring of how we understand the internet. When you search for a term you don’t often arrive at a home page, but rather somewhere deeper in the site’s structure with the exact information you’re looking for. Once blogs rose to prominence, with their entries and permalinks (individual URLs for every entry), the shift was on in full force. Part of the reason blogs have grown so quickly is because of the juice they get from Google. When you write about lots of different things and have individual pages for it all, people are bound to run across it.
Now people are beginning to think of individual pages as fragmented entities thanks to Myspace and the gang. Widgets are the new thing: A little bit of code that someone can add to their site. It could describe their personality via Blogthings, display their photos via Flickr or show the latest video of someone lighting a fart on fire via YouTube. The point is that a user can take it and put it anywhere they want. It’s theirs to play with, though it often holds your logo.
Widgets are the new email-to-a-friend. It’s no longer good enough to just give people an option to share something with a few. Now that they have their own pages they want to share it with the masses. So ask yourself, how are you helping them?