The internet hasn’t even been around that long – but if you’ve been logging on for at least a few years you’ve probably already seen dozens of trends come and go.
The technology of the web is in a rapid evolution. Just fifteen years ago, downloading a picture was something you did in the background while watching TV or doing chores around the house. “Real-time” chat was delayed by slow connection speeds and limited to small communities connecting through the same servers. The concept of online video would have been laughable.
Yet today, we practically take the speed of high quality media and the size of online communities for granted. In the hunt for the next big thing, too much success can be a sign to the internet “in-crowd” that its time to find a new bandwagon to jump on.
Early adopters don’t just happen across new things, they’re often looking and hunting for them actively. There’s a sort of psychological profile at play that I can’t quite explain, but I’m pretty sure it is related to the same sense of adventure and exploration that’s driven humanity to seek out new lands. It is similar to the frontier spirit – a sort of empowering sense of self generated by a struggle against the unknown.
Think I’m embellishing or romaticizing? You should see what the more evangelical early adopters think!
The Eternal September
There’s even a very specific term for when an online service becomes mainstream: Eternal September. When Usenet was mostly available to college students on campuses around the US, every September would lead to a rapid influx of new users (freshman). Inevitably, this would correlate to a larger than usual number of complaint threads concerned with the fact that the newbies devalued the online experience due to their lack of understanding in regards to community etiquette and the general fact that they weren’t as well educated as those students who were closer to completing their degrees.
In 1993, Usenet was made available to AOL users, and long time Usenet members began to call it the Eternal September. Now these newbies were signing up daily, and they weren’t even university students!
Eternally Hunting for Spring
Since ’93, the internet has become a much larger place constantly flooded with so-called “newbies.” This hasn’t stopped those with an early adopter mentality from seeking out and even building up communities dedicated to the cutting edge of internet technology.
First it was message boards, then forums, blogs, bookmarks, lifestreaming, and liveblogging. Eventually the new thing evolves to the point that it becomes a mainstream hit – and that leave a whole set of early adopters looking for the next one or scrambling to institute unofficial rules intended to preserve the integrity of a system that has grown too large and momentous to be constrained by any one personal vision.
Twitter Will Probably Survive the Next Big Thing
CNN notes the backlash to Twitter’s Eternal September. Where Twitter had once been a place for early adopters to find one another and communicate in an sort of exclusive and insulated community, it has become a media darling and the next big thing that seems to be on its way to mainstream. Need proof that slow & stubborn people are logging on to Twitter? Even I’m using it now!
While that may leave the earliest of adopters feeling like they need a new secret clubhouse, it doesn’t mean the end of Twitter. The platform provides a service that benefits from a growth in the size of the community – even if it means people are going to look into third party applications that help filter out some of the extra noise.