From our standpoint here at Mere-O, HotorNot offers little of value beyond an example of the objectifying nature of a fallen humanity.
Their owner, however, has an interesting perspective on the future of the web, predicting that websites will cease to be “destinations” and instead be usable on any number of varying platforms (such as Facebook).

I have really stopped thinking of HotoNot (sic) as a destination site and worry about how many people are using our service no matter where they are. The concept of a destination is so 1999. I think you are going to see a big shift. People will go where they will go. The world is evolving. Sites like HotorNot are starting to see themselves as services and less as destinations.

The notion that websites will be “services” in the future is important for Christians who wish to use new technologies to keep in mind.  Soon, it won’t be enough to create a killer website with cool content, or even a killer website that aggregates great content and allows for user-uploads.  Rather, whatever content is delivered will need to be distributable through any number of social networks, and that distribution may even need to be tailored to an individuals’ interests.

There are still problems, of course, that will prevent people from discarding the concept of “destination websites” altogether.  For instance, as Erick Schonfield writes:

It all sounds good, except for a few things. First, HotorNot makes its money from subscriptions, not ads. When Hong tried to make his dating service ad-supported, the spam level became unacceptable. Second, it not yet clear what kind of landlords Facebook or MySpace will become (see above). Third, the question remains whether or not a social-networking app is more useful inside the context of that social network, or if there is power in bridging together different people from different sites. A single app spread across many sites could benefit from greater network effects than many apps that are each stuck in a separate social-networking silo.

Regarding the first problem, people will inevitably figure out the monetization problems.  As for the second, Facebook has demonstrated the value of opening up the platform–it stands to gain nothing by restricting application developers, unless it wants to foist second-tier applications upon its users, which can only work for so long.  Hence, I think they will be more than accommodating hosts (though they may charge rental fees soon).

Regarding the third challenge, independent sites like HotorNot could act as “integrators” for the applications they have on the various networks, routing all the information gleaned from each respective network through a single system and then delivering it out in the fashion appropriate to each respective network.  That is, a smart application creator will develop applications that collect and share data across platforms (MySpace to Facebook).  This could result in an integration of integration that is currently fragmented.

What’s clear is that the internet is still a work in progress.  While we can do much more now than we used to be able to, there is a whole lot left to be worked out.

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Posted by Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is the Founder and Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy. He is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.

One Comment

  1. Along the same lines, I’d recommend Joel On Software’s article on this:

    http://www.joelonsoftware.com/items/2007/09/18.html

    It’s a bit techie (because he writes for software geeks like me) but he’s basically come up with the solution that you are sort of dancing around. Whoever comes up with the front end framework will unify all these apps – and thats not easy to predict until its happened. None of the existing frameworks quite have it yet, but eventually one will, and it’ll be a pretty big jump.

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