Internet didn’t take off until the browser. The infrastructure was in place for some time already, but when the browser appeared, the TV generation sat up and took notice.
Now we’re at the threshold of the realtime moment, and history seems to be repeating itself. For some of us, the advent of a reasonably realtime message bus over public networks has changed something about the existing infrastructure in ways that are not yet important to a broad section of Internet dwellers. The numbers are adding up — 175 million Facebook users, tens of thousands of instant Twitter followers, constant texting and video chats among the teenage crowd — a semi-secret economy of interactive media that is sucking the chewy chocolate center out of the one-way broadcast sector.
What makes the realtime moment different from just web browsing is that it is both immediate and genuinely interactive. When breaking news hits Twitter, everyone jumps in with links, related news, on the spot coverage, analysis, photos, and more. There’s no need to wait for mainstream media.
Sometimes Twitter becomes the news, like when that US Airways flight landed in the Hudson River. A passenger on the rescue ferry took a photo of the jet with his cell phone, uploaded it to Flickr, then linked to it from Twitter. This was the first photo of the crash and it went planetwide in minutes.
That is the realtime moment. That is where the Net is going.