Who would have thought that the emergence of the Web would have initiated a text revolution? Never before have so many people read and written so much.Fifteen years ago, if a journalist had asked you to predict what life would be like in 2007, what would you have said? Would you have told them that millions of young people would be happily writing shorthand (texting), and that millions more would have taken up diary writing (blogging)?
We look to the future and expect fantastic things. We don't expect that the future might bring us back to the past. We expect that the technology that will transform our lives will be radical and special and so cutting edge.
The Web is a basic thing, founded on simple, shared standards. And 15 years of the Web is about 15 years of an explosion of text. The written word has never before played such a crucial role in how we live, work and play. The Web is evolving, sure, but its foundation stone is the written word.
The age of video has arrived on the Web. The growth of YouTube is phenomenal. But how can you navigate around YouTube without words? How can you search on YouTube without words? How can you decide which video you'd like to watch without reading a description?
When in need we now turn to Google. And how does Google make its money? With text ads. After 15 years, advertisers have made billions for Google by buying 15 words of text.
Have you noticed that bowed-head behavior as all these busy executives navigate around their worlds, with one eye on what's ahead and one eye on their Blackberries? They're reading their emails, of course, and thumbing replies. Short bursts of text is the new management style.
Organizations have never produced so much content, but the really big story-the really, really big story-is not the growth of organization content-but the Big Bang of customer content. Customers, citizens, juniors and seniors, have all found their voice on the Web-and they love it.
Did you know that "satnav" was a word? Yes, it means satellite navigation. According to Google Trends, satnav only began to be used as a word in late 2004, but from then on has shown rapid growth. The use of satnav was not driven by some major advertising campaign, or regular usage in the media. (According to Google Trends, satnav is hardly ever used in the media.)
Satnav just happened. People first looked at the words "satellite navigation," and decided that those words took too long to type. They started using "sat nav" instead. And then for some reason those two shortened words came together to make "satnav."
The Web is changing how we write and read and the words that we use. It is also changing our ability to understand language, and the impact that various words have. The Web is a vast laboratory of words.
There are advertisers who create hundreds of variations of their 15-word Google ads, searching for the optimal combination that will have the maximum impact. Today, in 2007, we witness the basic word at the height of its power.
Gerry McGovern, a content management author and consultant
, has spoken, written and consulted extensively on writing for the web and web content management issues since 1994.