There are many reasons why people use the web. To look for information, for email, for watching videos, for chatting, to listen to music, to buy things, to sell things, to entertain themselves, porn, and many more reasons. The list can go on as you can see. But for a network so big, it surprises me that there’s a big divide when it comes to the users perception of the internet. For the many types of things to do online and the many types of people that use the web, this divide comes down to two types of users. An easy way to describe this divide is to say that there are “mainstream” web users and the “early adopter crowd”. But I’d like to offer a more “meta” theory that I call producers and consumers.
The late 90’s and the first couple of years of the millennium were a very different web age. It was what I like to call the anonymity age were people had stupid nicks in chat-rooms and forums. Being anonymous was encouraged because it was the smart thing to do. The internet seemed to scary a place to share your true identity. I remember that people had really wacky ideas of what hackers could do to you online. This was natural and understandable since it’s just a simple fear of “new” technology. But this created the idea that the internet is not quite reality and more of a fantasy land.
Social networking has somewhat shifted this idea, but what it did was create the big divide. From anonymity to real identity. It is no longer cool to have a nick like TrueLover234 with an avatar of Batman. Social networking sites like MySpace may not be the best example of starting the “real identity” divide, but at least it started the idea. They say this is a generational thing, but you’d be surprised how many “old” people are “over-sharing” and how many young people are scared of the internet. I’m sure that the idea of having a “true” identity started before the MySpaces and the Facebooks, but they never made as popular the idea that the individual matters on the internet.
This division is what prompted the divide that we’re seeing right now between what I call the Producers and Consumers. “Producers” are not necessarily people that have a social networking account. What I intend with the term is people that participate and provide content online. Whereas “consumers” use the web kind of like the same way they use their TV. The division is wide and they’re so far apart, that it’s hard for them to come to a middle of the road. “Producers” tend to have real identities online and “consumers” tend to be anonymous lurkers. “Producers” tend to be early adopters and “consumers” stick with one or maybe two services.
I believe that we will eventually come to the middle. I’m just a little baffled that there are still people deeply scared of the internet. It’s not that there aren’t scary places out there, but there are many more safe places.