Jul 25, 2008

Pagerank: the Car of the Internet?

In the book 'Cars for Comrades: The Life of the Soviet Automobile', Lewis H. Siegelbaum notes the ambiguous relationship the Soviets shared with cars. The car symbolised freedom and aspiration - both frowned upon in the Communist world. On the other hand, the Soviet Union wanted to match (or to be able to boast about matching) the West's superiority in everything - inlcuding in producing cars.

When the Soviets did finally start producing cars in the 70s, Siegelbaum notes that "it sowed its own seeds of destruction." Some cars brought luxury, some cars the basic means of transportation and some cars brought ridicule - but all cars brought about glaring inequality in a society that wanted to practice otherwise.

And within a couple of decades the Soviet Union itself was in ruins.

Reading about it, I couldn't help but wonder if the Pagerank could be the 'car' of the Internet. Not having it allowed the early Internet world to exist in a semblance of egalitarian communityhood.

But no sooner was it introduced that everyone wanted to have one - and those who had one wanted to  upgrade to the shinier model labelled with a larger number, ad infinitum. And the result? The socialist state of information was gone forever - made to vanish by the conjuror's trick.

Cars, however, are seen as liberating technologies only in the beginning. As more and more of them arrive, they begin to be seen as oppressors - leading to pollution and traffic jams, signifying the worst side of life in a caplitalist society.

Expect the same to happen to Pagerank. Today's liberator will end up being tomorrow's oppressor.
About the author:
Iqbal Mohammed is Head of Innovation & Strategy at a digital innovation agency serving the DACH and wider European markets. He is the winner of the WPP Atticus Award for Best Original Published Writing in Marketing & Communication.
You can reach him via email or Twitter.


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