Expertise is essential online, but the Internet's real 'killer app' is choice.
Years ago, when I first started building websites for newspapers, many journalists told me that they saw the Internet as the end of reliable journalism. Since anyone could publish whatever they wanted online, "real journalism" would be overwhelmed, they said. Who would need professional reporters and editors if anyone could be a reporter or an editor?
I would tell them not to worry. While my personal belief is that anyone can be a reporter or editor, I also know that quality counts. And that the "viral" nature of the Internet means that when people find quality, they let other people know about it. Even nontraditional media sites online will survive only if the quality of their information is trusted. The future of online news and information will demand more good reporters and editors, not fewer.
So I was intrigued when Newsweek recently published a story called "Revenge of the Expert." It argued that expertise would be the main component of "Web 3.0."
"The wisdom of the crowds has peaked," says Jason Calacanis, founder of the Maholo "people-powered search engine" and a former AOL executive. "Web 3.0 is taking what we've built in Web 2.0 – the wisdom of the crowds – and putting an editorial layer on it of truly talented, compensated people to make the product more trusted and refined."
Well, yes and no. Sure, it is important for people to trust the information they find online. And as the Newsweek article argues, the need for people to find trusted information online is increasing, thus the need for more expertise. But the article fails to mention the most important feature of the world of digital information. It's not expertise – it's choice.