Andreessen in realtime

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andreessenAt a time when many people are saying innovation is dead along with the economy as we knew it, I can’t help but feel the hot breath of a surge in the power of the network. As Marc Andreessen reminds in his fascinating conversation with Charlie Rose, the 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.

The standard attack on realtime is that it is the new crack. We’re all addicted to our devices, to the flow of alerts, messages, and bite-sized information chunks. We no longer have time for blog posts, refreshing our Twitter streams for pointers to what our friends think is important. It’s the revenge of the short attention span brought on by 30-second television ads — the myth of multi-tasking spread across a sea of factoids that Nick Carr fears will destroy scholarship and ultimately thinking.

Of course this is true and also completely irrelevant. My daughter told her mother today that her boyfriend was spending too much time on IM and video-chat, and not enough on getting his homework done. She actually said these words: “I told him you have to get away from the computer sometimes, turn it off, give yourself time to think.” This is the same daughter who will give up anything – makeup, TV, food — just as long as I don’t take her computer or iPhone away.

So realtime is the new crack, and even the naivest of our culture realizes it can eat our brains. But does that mean we will stop moving faster and faster? No. Does that mean we will give up our blackberries when we become president? No. Then what will happen to us?

The browser brought us an explosion of Web pages, produced first by professionals, then by small business owners, and finally, with blogs, by anybody. The struggle became one of time and location; RSS and search to the rescue. The time from idea to publish to consumption approached realtime.

The devices then took charge, widening the amount of time to consume the impossible flow. The Blackberry expanded work to all hours. The iPhone blurred the distinction between work and play. Twitter blurred personal and public into a single stream of updates. Facebook blurred real and virtual friendships. That’s where we are now.

Realtime has to be managed. The first tools in any transformative period are hard coded to the sensibilities of the radicals, the pioneers on the front lines. Scoble may appear ridiculous in his zeal for the extremes of the social media envelope, but his calculation is much more conservative than you might think at first glance. By opening himself to the tyranny of the crowd, he connects with that reality we each face.

The difference between 150 friends in our address book and 5,000 in Facebook is vanishingly small: we don’t have time for either. Trying to capture the nuances of friendship in a social media context is no more difficult than in high school, or easier. This is our life’s work, learning how to balance our needs with those of those we care about.

Once we reach a certain point in the shift, the tools begin to be more malleable as technologists surrender some control in search of viral spread. Bookmarks in the early browsers led to del.icio.us, Yahoo’s index to Digg, banner ads to page rank. The two-way quality of the network encouraged the viral spread of sharing.

Swallowed as we are in this vortex of change, it’s hard to see where the tools are going. Realtime has to draw on the human elements to ease the transition, harness the power, quiet the fear. The anger about Twitter mania, the reluctance to delve into the civil rights aspects of the quarantining of our data, the fratricide going on between bloggers and journalists — all these are symptoms of the power of this struggle for our minds.

Andreessen is one good reason why we’ll work our way through this. He talks impossibly fast, probably only a small fraction of the speed at which he thinks. Listening to him is an exciting and sometimes daunting experience, like listening to The Dark SIde of the Moon at 78 rpm.

Charlie Rose:
So to play offense for a newspaper for you means what?

Marc Andreessen:
Oh, you got to kill the print edition.

Charlie Rose:
You would stop the presses tomorrow?

Marc Andreessen:
You have to kill it.

Charlie Rose:
Stop the presses tomorrow.

Marc Andreessen:
You have to kill it.

Charlie Rose:
Stop the presses tomorrow.

Marc Andreessen:
Stop the presses tomorrow. I’ll tell you what. The stocks would go up. Look at what’s happened to the stocks. This investors are through this. The investors are through the transition. You talk to any smart investor who controls any amount of money, he will tell you that the game is up. Like it’s completely over. And so the investors have completely written off the print operations. There is no value in these stock prices attributable to print anymore at all. It’s gone.

Charlie Rose:
So you would recommend to the owners of the New York Times, stop printing papers.

Marc Andreessen:
Yeah, absolutely. You have to. You have to –

Charlie Rose:
And take your losses –

Marc Andreessen:
Yeah. You have to.

Charlie Rose:
Like a courageous person.

Marc Andreessen:
Chronic pain? Acute pain. How many years — music industry, same thing. How many years of chronic pain do you want to take to avoid taking a year of acute pain?

My 8 year old daughter doesn’t read the newspaper off or online, but I found her showing my wife new emoticons in Gchat today. Now she’s on a speakerphone talking with a friend while playing a game over the Net. I rarely see or talk with friends from high school or earlier, but what’s to prevent these virtual friendships from continuing to flourish for a lifetime? What are the consequences of the lowering of the barriers of space and time? We’re finding out, in realtime.

  • http://www.sexipedia.com Chris

    First!

    • EH

      I’m pretty sure the new crack is still the same old crack.

      • the new boss

        You have to kill it.

  • http://www.sexipedia.com Chris

    First!

    • EH

      I’m pretty sure the new crack is still the same old crack.

      • the new boss

        You have to kill it.

  • http://soeet.com Chris

    One thing that’s been lost in the transition of business from offline to online is supply and demand.

    Investors in online ventures seem to think they can create demand where there was none previously and they have failed in an epic fashion.

    If there is no demand, you should not supply. That will be the next revolution in the web.

    • http://soeet.com Chris

      and just because there’s a demand for something people aren’t willing to pay for, you can’t equate that to supply as we’ve found out with these horrible CPM numbers. Clickthrough self serve advertising is *NOT* viable. Big clients are *not* readily available any longer.

      • Steve Gillmor

        Few thought the browser would be successful as a platform for “real” work.

      • http://soeet.com Chris

        I spent the morning with Christopher Blizzard

        Speaking of those “Few”.

        But, as long as we’re talking about it, Microsoft used their Windows monopoly to push IE and ActiveX.

        Had they not done that it may not have evolved the same way and another desktop networking technology on the client and server may have taken precedence.

        usdoj.gov/atr/cases/ms_exhibits.htm

        You can read through the lengthy DOJ exibits against Microsoft which detail their master plan to clone and superset netscape and ram IE down everyone in the entire world’s throat.

        No sir, it was no accident.

      • http://soeet.com Chris

        Oh, Blizzard basically said this morning that Firefox 3.1 is adding video and audio DOM objects along with application side resource bundles, and that they abstracted firefox.exe process threading all the way to the javascript. Javascript code in firefox 3.1 can now launch real worker threads of execution. XSS is now allowed in certain cases.

        Just a recap for those of you not in Socal. For those that are I will be there again tomorrow wearing my Guiness hat. :)

      • the new boss

        Internet Explorer is the worst product debacle since New Coke.

      • mfba

        the new boss = the same old idiot

  • http://soeet.com Chris

    One thing that’s been lost in the transition of business from offline to online is supply and demand.

    Investors in online ventures seem to think they can create demand where there was none previously and they have failed in an epic fashion.

    If there is no demand, you should not supply. That will be the next revolution in the web.

    • http://soeet.com Chris

      and just because there’s a demand for something people aren’t willing to pay for, you can’t equate that to supply as we’ve found out with these horrible CPM numbers. Clickthrough self serve advertising is *NOT* viable. Big clients are *not* readily available any longer.

      • Steve Gillmor

        Few thought the browser would be successful as a platform for “real” work.

      • http://soeet.com Chris

        I spent the morning with Christopher Blizzard

        Speaking of those “Few”.

        But, as long as we’re talking about it, Microsoft used their Windows monopoly to push IE and ActiveX.

        Had they not done that it may not have evolved the same way and another desktop networking technology on the client and server may have taken precedence.

        usdoj.gov/atr/cases/ms_exhibits.htm

        You can read through the lengthy DOJ exibits against Microsoft which detail their master plan to clone and superset netscape and ram IE down everyone in the entire world’s throat.

        No sir, it was no accident.

      • http://soeet.com Chris

        Oh, Blizzard basically said this morning that Firefox 3.1 is adding video and audio DOM objects along with application side resource bundles, and that they abstracted firefox.exe process threading all the way to the javascript. Javascript code in firefox 3.1 can now launch real worker threads of execution. XSS is now allowed in certain cases.

        Just a recap for those of you not in Socal. For those that are I will be there again tomorrow wearing my Guiness hat. :)

      • the new boss

        Internet Explorer is the worst product debacle since New Coke.

      • mfba

        the new boss = the same old idiot

  • http://www.cloudoutloud.tv/2009/02/charlie-rose-youtube-channel/ MIchelle McCormack

    Wow, that’s some long blog post. I just posted the video, and an excerpt at that. ADD. Wow.

  • http://www.cloudoutloud.tv/2009/02/charlie-rose-youtube-channel/ MIchelle McCormack

    Wow, that’s some long blog post. I just posted the video, and an excerpt at that. ADD. Wow.

  • bs meter

    is it me but does this Andreessen guy look like a Cone Head from SNL?

  • bs meter

    is it me but does this Andreessen guy look like a Cone Head from SNL?

  • http://blog.feedly.com Edwin Khodabakchian

    Steve. The concept you are talking about is real. I think that the problem is the term real-time. Real-time sounds too intrusive/Instant messaging. I have heard Dave McClure use the term the “now web”. I am not sure if that is the right term but it seems more positive than “real-time”.

    • Steve Gillmor

      realtime works just fine for me. positively 4th street

      • http://blog.feedly.com Edwin Khodabakchian

        Alright then! Promise to not be bitter when a marketing type person finds a fancy name for it :-)

      • Steve Gillmor

        I promise

      • http://soeet.com Chris

        I must be on crack, I could have sworn Edwin misspelled bitter as biter. I remember saying what the f*ck while reading his comment.

        Are you guys spell checking and correcting people’s comments now?

      • Steve Gillmor

        yes

      • http://blog.feedly.com Edwin Khodabakchian

        Thanks Steve.

  • http://blog.feedly.com Edwin Khodabakchian

    Steve. The concept you are talking about is real. I think that the problem is the term real-time. Real-time sounds too intrusive/Instant messaging. I have heard Dave McClure use the term the “now web”. I am not sure if that is the right term but it seems more positive than “real-time”.

    • Steve Gillmor

      realtime works just fine for me. positively 4th street

      • http://blog.feedly.com Edwin Khodabakchian

        Alright then! Promise to not be bitter when a marketing type person finds a fancy name for it :-)

      • Steve Gillmor

        I promise

      • http://soeet.com Chris

        I must be on crack, I could have sworn Edwin misspelled bitter as biter. I remember saying what the f*ck while reading his comment.

        Are you guys spell checking and correcting people’s comments now?

      • Steve Gillmor

        yes

      • http://blog.feedly.com Edwin Khodabakchian

        Thanks Steve.

  • pwb

    The NYT shutting down its printing presses strikes me as a bad idea. There are only 3 or 4 major papers that make sense in print and the NYT is one of them. Smaller, big cities could use a paper that gets a cores set of news form the NYT and then adds all the local flavor. It’s silly for every paper to have a reporter in Iraq or at the Oscars.

    • http://blog.feedly.com Edwin Khodabakchian

      @pwb Marc is not talking about shutting down NYT. He is pressing for transform it into an organization which can survive in the online ecosystem.

    • the new boss

      Oh, please. The NYT is garbage. Their coverage has been going downhill for over a decade. And their credibility has been shot. If you don’t know this already, you’re not paying attention.

  • pwb

    The NYT shutting down its printing presses strikes me as a bad idea. There are only 3 or 4 major papers that make sense in print and the NYT is one of them. Smaller, big cities could use a paper that gets a cores set of news form the NYT and then adds all the local flavor. It’s silly for every paper to have a reporter in Iraq or at the Oscars.

    • http://blog.feedly.com Edwin Khodabakchian

      @pwb Marc is not talking about shutting down NYT. He is pressing for transform it into an organization which can survive in the online ecosystem.

    • the new boss

      Oh, please. The NYT is garbage. Their coverage has been going downhill for over a decade. And their credibility has been shot. If you don’t know this already, you’re not paying attention.

  • jack

    Yep… Just check how many sites like the one I’ve put
    In the link above are keeping you updated on all
    The hot topics you have today on twitter and digg.

  • jack

    Yep… Just check how many sites like the one I’ve put
    In the link above are keeping you updated on all
    The hot topics you have today on twitter and digg.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jason_Fitzpatrick/843368138 Jason Fitzpatrick

    great interview.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jason_Fitzpatrick/843368138 Jason Fitzpatrick

    great interview.

  • Boredom versus Anger

    Reading Steve Gillmor engenders a realtime war in the chewy chocolate center of my psyche between boredom at the utter emptiness of meaningful content and anger at his willful butchering of the English language. The hot breath of a surge in the network of my neocortex tells me that tonight, anger has won.

  • Boredom versus Anger

    Reading Steve Gillmor engenders a realtime war in the chewy chocolate center of my psyche between boredom at the utter emptiness of meaningful content and anger at his willful butchering of the English language. The hot breath of a surge in the network of my neocortex tells me that tonight, anger has won.

  • http://www.twitter.com/kriscobbaert k

    I’m just wondering do any of you use Twitter as a way to bookmark links. I haven’t made the switch 100% but I can see it coming. Or is that just me?

    Mr Andreessen’s interview was very good. Definitely not a waste of my time.

    • Special K

      No. And, maybe so.

  • http://www.twitter.com/kriscobbaert k

    I’m just wondering do any of you use Twitter as a way to bookmark links. I haven’t made the switch 100% but I can see it coming. Or is that just me?

    Mr Andreessen’s interview was very good. Definitely not a waste of my time.

    • Special K

      No. And, maybe so.

  • Prokofy Neva

    >For some of us, the advent of a reasonably realtime message bus over public networks has changed something about the existing infrastructure

    when you talk like this, Steve, you give away the store. You still talk about a bus somehow moving in one direction carrying a message, only now you hope it’s *you* driving the bus or dropping the message in it instead of some central broadcaster like Charlie Rose. But you’re still not getting just how interactive it is.

  • Prokofy Neva

    >For some of us, the advent of a reasonably realtime message bus over public networks has changed something about the existing infrastructure

    when you talk like this, Steve, you give away the store. You still talk about a bus somehow moving in one direction carrying a message, only now you hope it’s *you* driving the bus or dropping the message in it instead of some central broadcaster like Charlie Rose. But you’re still not getting just how interactive it is.

  • http://www.softdoska.ru Erick

    Good interview! thx u :-)

  • http://www.softdoska.ru Erick

    Good interview! thx u :-)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Francine_Hardaway/510878646 Francine Hardaway

    “Realtime has to be managed… Scoble may appear ridiculous in his zeal for the extremes of the social media envelope, but..by opening himself to the tyranny of the crowd, he connects with that reality we each face.

    The difference between 150 friends in our address book and 5,000 in Facebook is vanishingly small: we don’t have time for either. This is our life’s work, learning how to balance our needs with those of those we care about.?

    The artists always know this first. Visual art manages the flow by putting a frame around “reality,” in space. Novels and poems put frames around “reality” in time. That’s how real time becomes intelligible and then manageable.

    Future social media tools will be like an art form.

    And I feel like Cliff Gerrish right now:-)

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