When you look upon the evolution of Internet it shows a striking resemblence with any evolutionary process, e.g. the evolution of human society. However, the Internet has evolved through different stages in an extremely short period of time in comparison to other evolutionary processes.
Some say that the ground for the evolution of the Internet was laid in 1859 when the Atlantic cable was laid out. That DARPA was formed in the 1950:ies was definately another important foundational step. But the actual Internet as interconnected computers was first publicly shown in 1972 after a few universities had sent the first message (L.O.G) between two computers. I put this graph together by dividing the different technological stages according to Ken Wilbers Integral theory. Off course you can slice the evolution up differently, but I believe this is quite telling.
While thinking about the Internet for a while I noticed how the first stage of the Internet resembles the upper right quadrant of Wilbers integral model. That period took the most time and was ended by the disruptive adaptation of WWW and HTML. The comming period in turn resembles the upper left qudrant where emotion (emotional bandwidth in different media, colors, animation etc) was in focus.
That period in turn was disrupted by a focus on measurement and efficiency, terms like SEO (Search Engine Optimization), site optimization and analytics that allowed a whole new level of management of content and structure online. Color, words, links etc was included in a more complex world view: what drives traffic, attention and action? At this level it´s not about beauty – it´s about truth. A very modernistic era of the Internet followed.
Which in turn was disrupted by a postmodernistic period. Web 2.0 was all about social. Every aspect of the former stages were still there of course, but new questions we´re added – mainly about the WHO of things. Who is cool, who are you following, who drives the most traffic, who are your audience, who are your ambassadors. At this moment Google arrived.
Google put social into search before the social web was a buzz word
What was really genious about what made Google a succes from the beginning was actually basing the search results on social, not system. What people says that site is worth visiting by linking to it? Even though Google definately use and embrace every earlier technology and perspective (philosophy for function = simplicity, design = simplicity, measurement = kinda simple at least) their introduction of the social aspect of sorting information was what did it.
And they didn´t stop there. The added social filtering to the search results, personalization of search results, added social aspects to productive software (collaborative office work = Google Docs, brainstorming = Google Wave R.I.P, media consumtion = Google Buzz, YouTube etc).
Google was #integral before anyone talked about the Integral Web (which people still don´nt)
And, most importantly, they integrated it all (almost) under one web site and deliver it on all connectivity platforms (computers, OS, handhelds and recently TV). I believe that their long-term commitment to organizing the worlds information and put as much money and energy into innovation is a good recipe for being a spearhead in the over-all evolutionary process, rather than being an adaptive, and therefore successfull player along one branch of the evolutionary tree. Maybe thats why I´m so much more fascinated by Google than Microsoft (who´ve always been great in the lower right quadrant with scale, distribution as a company) or Apple (who´ve always been genial in the upper left quadrant with design and emotion in the products).
Google have always been great in all for quadrants and with a distinct Zen minimalistic touch in all quadrants. Maybe that´s why a lot of what their really up to doesn´t really get noticed more.
The next point of view on th Internet – evolution of online cultural values
What also would be interesting is to track the emergence of different cultural values, such as blue/traditional vMeme standardization efforts (W3C etc), orange/modern vMemes business ventures (Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo etc), green/postmoden vMemes openess and transparency movements (Open Source, Creative Commons etc). One thing that strikes me is that Google seems to be a manifestation of the yellow/integral vMeme with it´s being one big meshwork of all of the above – and often acting in the leading edge of development (cloud, search, free software-as-a-service , organizational culture, Google.org etc).
UPDATE: When psycholinguistic analysis as base for suggestion engines will come to the main stream users – it will probably be through Google.