The Local Web is the Future of the Web

It’s a funny coincidence. I was speaking with someone at a cafe the other day and I was amp’d up on caffeine. I mean, really amp’d up on caffeine. You know, like so amp’d up that I’m not really seeing what’s right before my eyes because the sun is bouncing around my enlarged pupils and distorting color and light? Right… that kind of amp’d up on caffeine. The conversation we were having was about what this ‘local’ thing is really all about, and why I, as he put it, as “founder and visionary for Citysquares.com,” seem so compelled and dedicated to it. I very enthusiastically explained that this ‘local’ thing is more than just an untapped market with big money potential. He rolled his eyes and looked at me like I was just another capitalistic entrepreneur trying to rationalize my true ambitions. I didn’t mind actually, because I will readily admit to anyone that yes, of course Citysquares is a business – not a charity. But if I may, I like to think that it’s a socially responsible business, one that’s focused on actually doing something good for our communities, one that has a real mission (not the corporate charter type either), for local business, for consumerism, for the citizens, for everyone – for, if I may, all the stakeholders. I reminded him of the story behind Citysquares, why I started it in the first place.

It’s also about the future. By that I mean that it’s about the future of our communities, my children’s future, the future of local commerce, of America, and the future of the Internet. That’s right – the Internet, that big monstrosity that’s you can’t touch, you can’t totally make sense of, that is so full of opportunity and promise that the opportunity for danger and destruction is just as frightening. The future of the Internet is about what’s right across the street from you. What’s local to you? Well, that’s the future of the Internet.

Humans need humans. Humans need interaction with each other. It’s not good enough to blog, to instant message, to SMS, to send pictures, share documents, post videos on YouTube, add another widget to your Myspace page, fly through the sky in Second Life. We, like much of the animal kingdom, are hardwired to need each other in an offline forum. The Internet, for the most part, does not help us feel more connected – it largely makes us feel more isolated. Call it existentialism, call it what you will. But these are my theories and these are my beliefs. The Internet is a great way to supplant the connections we lack in today’s society – a bandage, not a cure. We’re seeking something, as people, a greater understanding, enlightenment, a higher power maybe, human interaction, so many things. The Internet is a result of this, and will become more of an instrument for these puzzles just as much as praying is to some people, or just as the Hubble telescope or SETI is to other people.

I’ll stop myself there before I get too philosophical and ultimately keep myself awake tonight wondering if I articulated myself properly.

The funny coincidence is within a blog post that I stumbled upon yesterday. Here’s a small taste for you:

“Key to the development of a local online ad market is the identification of the local web, and this offers a remarkable opportunity for those willing to explore this territory today. In the not-too-distant future, everyone will have access to the local web, but this access is unavailable today, because the database hasn’t been created. It exists in bits and pieces, but no technology can replace the human research necessary to build the initial database. This is a task that will pay huge dividends to the one who creates it, market-by-market, and there’s no reason this can’t be done by a local media company.”

and

“The local web is where the web itself will find its real value propositions, and that’s enough to make a guy want to stick around for awhile.”

That’s enough for me. It does a great job of making the case better than I could’ve even after 5 more cups of coffee.

If you’re interested in local, community, the Internet, the future, advertising, all or one of the above, than I highly recommend you read this.