Fortune Magazine
Fast Forward
Dinner with the Masters of the Metaverse
Shocking stats on dying mass media! Blasť blather about today's Web wonders! Here's how plugged-in netsters talk today.
By David Kirkpatrick, FORTUNE senior editor

NEW YORK (FORTUNE) - I dined in London last week with three friends considerably hipper (and younger) than myself. It was a mind-meld between four guys all convinced the world is changing really fast and that the Internet is the reason.

Listening to my dinner-mates riff on our digital moment got me so excited I took out my pen and started writing down dialogue. One was strategy boss at a major media company, another a web publisher who also runs conferences, and the third an entrepreneur operating a social networking/digital content company. (Below I denote them A, B, and C.)

The people who want to rip you off are very polite with each other when they're buying and selling credit card numbers. (Read the column)

All comments guaranteed verbatim. (Btw, the Metaverse is the alternate world of online multiplayer games like Second Life and World of Warcraft. In both those games you can buy and sell virtual property -- for more about the Metaverse marketplace, click here.)

C: "Get into Second Life now if you aren't already. In two months my real estate has doubled in value." (When pressed, he admitted the increase was only from $40 to $80. But he was really excited. )

A: "I know a guy whose 12-year-old son told him 'I will build you a house in Second Life if you will buy me the coins I want in World of Warcraft.'"

A: "Exploring the metaverse is the big deal right now. A guy has been researching gaming for me and looking at Warcraft. He didn't sleep for two nights. He says it's as if I asked him to study heroin or crack."

A (to C): "Will you put your conference on Second Life in 3 years?"

B: "I'll always err in the direction of getting more content out there."

C: "I'm on five social networks. But everyone I know face to face - probably about 200 people - is on A Small World. [A Small World is an exclusive, invitation-only social network with heavy participation from the UK.] In A Small World you are you."

'The most awful application'

A: "MySpace is the most awful application targeted in the right way at the right users."

C: "Gmail just today launched a social network, so I can read somebody's profile when I e-mail them.... Right now I'm reading a lot on Blogebrity. I'm also in a real Gawker moment. And PSFK gives me the most about Internet sites. They're blogging today's culture."

C: "I'm convinced copyright is over."

B: "A Pew study found that 62 percent of content used by 21-year-olds is produced by their friends."

A: "My wife and I don't watch broadcast TV. We only use BitTorrent [software which enables you to search for and access large digital video filesólegally or otherwise]. I cut it onto a CD-rewritable and we watch it on her laptop in bed. These shows don't come to the UK until a year later - Sopranos, Desperate Housewives, Big Love, West Wing and The O.C."

C: "Smaller digital content companies - and there are hundreds and hundreds of them - are much more casual about copyright."

B: "In the future there will be a premium on quality content, because we're all going to be overwhelmed."

C: "Not a single one of the top 100 Google videos today is from a major media company."

'Google is due to be overtaken'

A: "I think Google is due to be overtaken. We've seen cycles of innovation and now Google has the legacy architecture. They're reaching the limits of keyword search."

C: "Search today is really insufficient because you can't find people without a lot of clues and cues."

A: "Google is designed to cater to a homogeneous group of users, which is what the net was in 1998. Now we need to do much more personalized things. What I want to be able to do is search for a nanny in my own neighborhood who's good with boys."

By the end we were all a bit exhausted. Even a bunch of partisans sometimes gets shocked by how much the technologized world we live in is changing.

A (the analytical one): "The reason a dinner like this works is because we have loose ties to one another. If we really knew each other well we'd be talking about football." Top of page

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