Those born between 1978 and 1997 are often collectively described as “Generation Y”. That’s 10-30 year olds.
Wikipedia cheerfully suggests the Y-ers also enjoy classifications like “the Net-“, “the i-“, “the Google-“, “the MySpace-“, and “the MyPod-Generation”. The preceding generation (mine!) is Generation X: those thirty-somethings born between 1965 and 1978.
But despite Wikipedia’s assertions, and assuming this is even a valid question, who’s generation actually lays claim to today’s web?
It’s got to be the latter.
Generation X’ers founded eBay, Google, Paypal, and no doubt thousands of the web sites that the world uses today without a second thought. Look around at all the A-list bloggers out there too; almost all in their 30’s I would say.
While the basis for the world’s networking infrastructure was probably a baby-boomer thing, it was undoubtedly my generation that developed the web as a mainstream medium.
And – wait a minute – that suddenly makes us the on-line establishment.
Start looking at it in these terms and it’s a bit of a shock (and certainly no help in helping me avoid an inevitable mid-life crisis!)
So this got me thinking. Each generation generally has a desire to overturn – or even revolt – against their established precedents.
And if we learn from the many times this has happened throughout human culture in the past, one can easily see that it’s going to happen again. Today’s web is undoubtedly due for such a shake up. And I’ve no doubt that mobile is going to be the significant factor in that coup.
Yes. The evolution of the web on to the mobile medium is completely inevitable.
(Look: take the really long view… can’t you see yourself reminiscing about those good old .com days? When folks used to have to sit down in front of a lonely screen to interact on-line with the rest of the world? How quaint.)
But what is dawning on me is this: that the coming revolution isn’t something that will be driven through the adoption or innovation of today’s establishment. Those lonely PC screens are Generation X’s comfort zone. We find ourselves struggling with small screens and small keys to even glimpse the potential of the next decade’s on-line experience.
So I’m looking to Generation Y. They’re the mobile generation. They’re the ones looking for a new angle. They’re looking for a paradigm that they can adopt, pioneer, and make their own. And they’re going to be the guardians of the web in the coming decades – the web that will finally call itself truly mobile
(Oh, and they’re the ones with the small fingers)
Most importantly, they will do wonderful things with the mobile web. Darwinian things that the now-conservative institution of today’s web would probably never grasp, risk, or predict.
Should we be surprised? Should we react? Should we stifle?
No. Of course not. We should roll with it. We should encourage, guide, and then, when required, stand back and watch with awe. Don’t milk the calf. Yes, we can help to provide the the base technologies, the open ecosystems (and, oh yeah, the domain names), but the medium will never be ours.
We’ve done our bit. Now it’s our responsibility to allow our successors to build their own legacy. That’s the real Web 2.0.
(At least, until 2030 or so when Generation Z starts an even more radical revolution… riffing on .implant domains perhaps)