The incredible shrinking Internet

Summary:We thought it would never end: the Internet would just keep expanding, filling the vacuum beyond its borders, adding sites, users, technologies. We were wrong. Even as this global network continues to grow, gaining thousands of new devotees daily, it's actually shrinking for the average user.

We thought it would never end: the Internet would just keep expanding, filling the vacuum beyond its borders, adding sites, users, technologies.

We were wrong. Because hidden in the Net's ongoing expansion lies an almost cosmological contradiction: Even as this global network continues to grow, gaining thousands of new devotees daily, it's actually shrinking for the average user.

The new, streamlined Internet feels more like a galaxy than a universe. Instead of one vast network, we're starting to see a collection of interconnected, often closed, networks: communities whose membership will be determined by the kinds of devices people use, the service providers they choose, and the content they find most compelling.

The fancy term for this phenomenon is Balkanization, which Webster's defines as "break[ing] up (as a region or group) into smaller and often hostile units." On the Internet, the urge to unmerge isn't borne out of hostility; rather, it comes from a basic human need to find small, defined spaces where everybody knows your URL.

Topics: Browser

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