Of course, much of what I've seen streaming by is social content, and while most of it isn't valuable, it is, at least a beginning. I have a growing sense -- which many of you probably share -- that we are at another inflection point in the rise of social, and even if what's going on now isn't perfect, if we could get a crystal ball and look out a year or two from now, we would be flat-out amazed at where this has all gone.
Here are several developments pointing to this accelerating pace over just the last few days:
1. The reason I could be so up-to-the-millisecond on Tiger is because Google unveiled its real-time search function earlier this week, which adds a nifty, constantly updating window of results to any static Google results page. It's still not quite doing it for me on the relevance scale, despite Google's promises, but it has potential -- and you know that, as we speak, Google is figuring out more precisely what that potential is. (I'm already thinking the next thing Google should do with real-time search is unleash a setting that allows me to just see status updates on Google -- as opposed to other places -- from people I'm connected to in my social nets, rather than data dumps repeating over and over that Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen had a baby boy. Uh, congrats I guess.)
2. Speaking of data dumps, Twitter is now opening up its so-called "firehose" of data to any and all developers, as opposed to just the big fry, like Google and Bing. As I'm no technologist, I don't exactly know what I'd do with a firehose of data, but this also provides a revenue stream for Twitter, per Mashable. The decision to open up the data stream further, announced by Google at the "LeWeb" conference in Paris yesterday ("Le Web" - funny!), calls for Twitter to share revenue with its developer partners, which seem to be growing in numbers every day.
3. Then there's Facebook's unveiling of new privacy settings which it did today. Of course, since this now could mean that you inadvertently overshare, maybe that's not a good thing, but the massive data dump will change things, just as the above will. The biggest remaining question is how.
Maybe one reason I'm feeling this sense of accelerating speed is that I'm increasingly aware that those of us in social media (and mobile, and search, but not Internet display advertising and/or the newspaper business) are currently residing in a wonderful, expanding parallel universe that's so at odds with the way things generally are. In the last week or so, I've encountered close friends who have either just dodged a layoff bullet, or have been pondering whether to take a buyout, or are wondering if their business can survive. Then, I look at my social feeds and see hundreds of people taking part every day in a true innovation economy, the kind that those in other industries can only dream about.
That said, it does seem like we're on the brink of some mind-blowing innovation. Social data is becoming more open, our devices keep getting better, and the sense of general amazement in this industry is palpable.
There are plenty of people who would read this column and mutter under their breath, "Wow, talk about drinking the Kool-Aid." To an extent, you'd be right. On the other hand, I'm not necessarily talking about technology here. The coolest thing is really the inherent optimism that has always been part of the technology business, but is now focused acutely on the areas I've mentioned above. It's fun to be a part of a parallel universe whose residents almost have to look up the definition for "pessimism" on Wikipedia because their overriding belief is that all problems are solvable.
Now we just need an app that would make the innovation I'm seeing right now in social media infectiousness. OK, everyone, have at it.