Lately, the consumer internet — that set of products devoted to building and monetizing large networks of people — has started to feel rather buzzy. A space that had been largely emptied out over the past five years is once again humming with life. The products are compelling enough, and growing fast enough, that Facebook and others have begun trying to reverse-engineer and copy them.
It still doesn’t seem quite real to me, and yet everywhere I look the signs are there: social networks are competitive again.
Today, let’s tour this weird new landscape and talk about what it means — and doesn’t mean — for the tech giants and the governments trying to rein them in.
I. How competition ended
If I had to put a date on when competition ended…