Friday, September 5, 2008

I Don't Get It

I like to think of myself as a pretty web-savvy guy. I'm out there, surfing the Internets, shooting the tubes; I understand what the whole Web 2.0 thing is about. Except that sometimes I feel like I don't.

On Webware recently was a (fairly positive) profile of a new service called Timelope. Timelope allows you to publish your browser history and browse the history of other users. That's what it does. That's all it does, and I don't get it.

Put simply, I don't grasp the appeal of cracking open a single browser history and seeing what it contains. It's a little creepy, frankly; it's like you chose a random person on the street and followed them wherever they went -- to the post office, to the drugstore, and then to the coffee shop where you watched them sip a tall iced latte.

The essence of Web 2.0 is sharing, but not everything is worth being shared. Right this moment I've got a collection of little scraps of paper in my left rear pocket. I could scan those pieces of paper and put them online, where others could view them or possibly scan random pieces of paper themselves. But what's the point? It's garbage that's mostly meaningless even to me. That's Timelope: a collection of data points that are so personal as to be trivial.

It took me a while to figure this out, but now I have it: Timelope pretends to Web 2.0-savvy sharing, but it's actually the complete opposite of that. Digg represents web sharing: the cumulative weight of individual opinion pushes the most compelling stories to the top. YouTube represent web sharing: I can search by topic and judge pretty quickly by the star rating which videos are worth loading. These services take one of the weakesses of the web -- its overwhelming number of voices and sources -- and turn that into a strength. Timelope, by contrast, is personal, and by being person it remains trivial.

Of course, maybe Timelope will go off to become the next big thing, and I'll be the dumbass waving his bony fist in the air and complaining about kids today. Most likely, though, this will go down as just one more bad idea in the days before the second Internet bubble.