Entrepreneurship, Technology

Internet Data is the Petroleum of the 21st Century


“Companies want to ‘get to know us’ in order to sell us products and services.”

I don’t know if somebody has asked why huge companies on the Internet invest millions in expansion, sometimes without having a clear or profitable business plan. The answer is clear: having users means having information and information is both business and power. In the 21st century, user data is turning into one of the most sought after items in business.

The web has a peculiarity that no other means of communication previously had. It’s not just the immediacy or even the interactivity, but rather it’s the way of navigating between contents, from one to the next, that has revolutionized the ways of connecting with the user.

Until the birth of TCP/IP and the World Wide Web, all channels of communication were linear. In fact, they still are. The hypertext or link that was brought upon by Internet browsing allowed users to choose their own browsing path through different sites based on their likes, searches, preferences or curiosities. The hyperlink offered non-linear navigation which allowed visitors to the same site to choose different paths and destinations.

Therein lies the business

Every time a user clicks a link they are telling us one way or another what it is they are looking for or what interests them. Being able to analyze that information, which at first glance doesn’t seem so important, is revolutionizing the way business is done in the world.

One company that has been able to take advantage of user browsing habits and interactivity with different pages and sites is, of course, Google. This company has had it very clear that they needed to offer basic services to the user (Gmail, Youtube, Google Plus, Google News, etc.), completely free, in exchange for the information that these services generated when being used.

But, not everyone knows how to get the most out of this type of data and make a business out of it. Information has become very complex and it has, above all, come to the end of its first phase.

In the case of Google, the strategy for capturing information has been to parse or analyze millions of web pages and capture the keywords used for searching. The equation is easy if you know what is being searched for, who is doing the searching, and where to find it. The searched item only needs to be shown to the user and a business is born.

In other cases, the use of cookies to analyze browsing habits and link clicking creates what is called Big Data. But the age of hypertext is coming to its end, since web content has less and less text and we are seeing more and more photos, audio, and video. The next phase of the information business is hypercontent.

What is hypercontent?

Hypercontent is interactive content, content that offers the user different alternatives to choose from. One clear example would be Instagram photos or Youtube videos and all the information that comes with them. The tendency we have see with companies like Google or Facebook is to develop technologies that monetize the content containing information (photos or video), since users show habits of wanting to read less and see more, which changes the model for capturing information.

While it may seem easy, it is quite complex to know what products, brands, services and experiences a photo or video may contain, and especially which users are interested in them. To know this, we need the photo or video to be tagged, archived, and connected to an action that piques the interest of the user when they interact with said content.

Tagging systems have evolved, but we have yet to see a global tagging solution for products and experiences that can encompass hypercontent. It’s a multi-million dollar business that will lead to an intelligent web of vertical data capable of knowing each individual user’s tastes and interests.

In the end, this data will mean the ability to make sales if we focus the business on e-commerce. Being able to sell to the whole world from just one place has completely changed the way we value the sales process. Proximity is playing less of a role while price becomes more important. Trying on or testing something where it’s sold is taking a back seat to recommendations and influences. Nowadays, you can sell any item to anybody in the world whilst only having to know what they want and when they want it.

Personally, I think that it’s a good thing for companies to know certain information about us. The way this information is handled is the key to making sure that the data we provide these companies is used our benefit in the end rather than being used against us.

From our incubator at Atomic Internet we are researching and developing technology for a global tagging system making it easy to tag any item found within Internet content, wherever it may be found and from any type of device. We will be able to store all the items that you see and like, whether it be from TV, on your mobile, or in a shop window. The evolution from networks to the Internet of things and the fact that all of it can be connected opens up a whole new area for business. When it comes to the Internet, this is only the beginning.

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