Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Digital Rivers Newtown - a short story

The Internet Evangelism Day website has given permission for the following 'short story' to be republished.

It’s not often that a completely new town is built on unused open land. But that’s where Digital Rivers Newtown was constructed, in a previously undiscovered valley. People soon came flooding in to live, moving from surrounding settlements such as Printville and TVtown.

A new ethos of communication quickly developed, with its own dialect. The immigrants took a little time to learn it, but for their children born in Digital Rivers, it was as natural as breathing.

Alongside the new housing came shops. Quite soon, the Broogle store developed into the biggest and most popular on main street. Its biggest competitor, the BingHoo mall, had a smaller share of the market.

Broogle had little interest in selling food and drink, and allocated no space in their building to such a frivolous pursuit. So everyone was pleased when a student started selling coffee and fruit drinks from a coffee cart on the other side of the road. Mike Zuckerbook’s Coffee became wildly popular and he was soon able to rent a new cafe opposite Broogle’s. His unique selling point was the layout of the tables, enabling customers to talk to a wide range of friends over their drinks. Mike was continually extending the cafe floor area to cater for the growth.

Then came developments that shocked Broogle’s owners. Mike started to sell some of the same products that they did, as well as others they had never thought of. No longer did residents merely drop in to Zuckerbook’s for a quick coffee after shopping at Broogle’s. People could often be seen walking down the street towards Broogle’s, notice their friends popping into Zuckerbook’s – or smell the coffee – and quickly cross the road. After an hour or so, they might emerge from Zuckerbook’s and perhaps cross over into Broogle’s for five minutes, if at all.

Digital Rivers was changing fast. Its residents were finding their own new incarnation of the interactive grapevine that has existed within communities for millennia.

This story, of course, references Google and Facebook (Google’s founders were Brin and Page; Mark Zuckerberg started Facebook). The phenomenal rise and rise of Facebook seems set to continue. Perhaps half of all web users will have Facebook profiles within a year, certainly the figure is already near 100% for younger ‘digital’ people.

Increasingly, Facebook is becoming a ‘web within the Web’ – a one-stop resource creating less need to go into the wider web world so frequently. (This is a reflection, in some ways, of the proprietary content that AOL and Compuserve used to offer to their subscribers in the early days of the Web.)

Recent developments by Facebook are enabling more types of third-party content to be integrated into Facebook profiles and fan pages. Expect to see further dramatic developments in this area, making Facebook even more of a one-stop universal resource. The opportunities for FB fan, community pages and groups will continue to expand.

Despite its various quirks, Facebook is now a powerful yet easy opportunity for any web user to share faith online: read how.

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