The Battle for the Innernet

October 4, 2007, 5:20 PM UTC

The Innernet

The Internet—a great place to visit but I don’t want to live there. I used to, of course. Who didn’t? But now, the crowds, the noise, the parking… It’s become kind of hostile to tell you the truth.

That’s why the stakes are so high right now to build the Innernet. The Innernet is a completely stupid term I use (“Did you say Internet?” “No—INNERnet.”) to describe the very public and very “safe” place where I live, online. The wide open, out-of-control Internet is the Outernet; the donut hole in the middle where I sit is the Innernet. (Naturally, other great minds used the same word to describe other things; a quick Googling found that “InnerNet” is the name of a “cyber mag” published in Israel.  I used their logo above.)

Needless to say, the tiny piece of real estate I occupy on the Innernet is priceless to businesses. Its value is enormous because it tells the world—and most importantly, advertisers—who I am. Despite the hype about ad dollars moving online, I think it’s pretty obvious that online advertising isn’t even close to working yet. (Can you remember three ads you saw today online? One? OK, can you remember an ad you saw this week? Ever?) The Innernet, and how I define myself on it, will be like white gold to advertisers—if they ever figure out how to mine it, and use it properly. That’s why the battle for the Innernet will be the dominate story for the next few years.

Facebook is the hottest thing going right now because it’s done the best job (so far) of creating the Innernet. It answers the identity question and lets me define who I am for the world to see. (Anonymity, except in special cases, is antisocial and unwanted by most people.) FB restores control to me over who I communicate with and how. Email actually works in FB. So does Scrabulous. And a gazillion other things.

So the question is, how long will Google—which is being shut out by Facebook like an unwanted Fuller Brush salesman—wait before it strikes back? I think Google will try to do to Facebook what Microsoft did to Netscape a decade ago, back in the days when the battle was for the Internet.