The internet provides you two things: locations and tools.
For now, let’s talk location.
The first wave of location-specific innovation online was around solving how people travel from location to location. Netscape, Google etc allowed you to efficiently travel between locations. The web browser was like the car of the internet. Without it, traveling wasn't a simple task. Google gave you a navigation system. Now not only do you have a car, but you have the tools to get exactly where you want to be. A "digital globalization" of sorts began. The corners of the internet became visible and started to become "one."
Now fast forward 30 years, how has "internet traveling" evolved?
Better locations, more efficient traveling. Computers became portable which means now you can digitally travel from anywhere physically, and the actual locations became more impactful and personal to you. Two distinct types of locations developed:
Impacts reputation, sense of belonging.
Not many but each one is very powerful.
IG, Snap, TikTok etc.
Impacts immediate needs and wants.
Many exist (with obvious incumbents).
Any ecommerce, entertainment, health, education, finance, news platform etc.
Innovation usually occurs around these two location types, but something is missing from that dynamic that becomes evident when you really think about it...
Who's doing the traveling? How is that person represented? How has that evolved? In the physical world it's a given. We can't travel around without bringing our bodies along for the trip ya know? And we use our bodies (and everything that comes with it - voice, expression etc) as canvases to express who we are, as the bridge between two eyes that meet.
What's even cooler to think about is how each location in the physical world actually impacts the traveler. Locations impact who we are more than we realize, and we change accordingly sometimes. Try moving to LA or Miami and tell me you aren't thinking and dressing differently within a year.
Online, the traveler is still pretty invisible. At least the personality of the traveler is. We use profiles as visual representations, but (unless you're a creator) profiles are still very curated representations of ourselves, limited to our physical bodies or fortune cookie thoughts, and they also don't extend cross platform. Your IG profile and identity isn't going to automatically come with you to TikTok...
Social locations, right now in the digital world, are leading to fractured identities. You can be famous on Twitter, go viral on TikTok, and no one on Instagram might know who the fuck you are. It's like living in 5 cities at once. Your identity and reputation, for the most part, is platform specific right now. There's an obvious benefit to that, but it's also a stressor. Maintaining different reputations, different identities. You can't know yourself well while juggling 5 selves.
So is the future just more and more isolated social locations? Will kids in 20 years have 10 identities? 20 identities? I'm a big believer in a fluid self and multiple identities, but only if it leads to better knowledge of true self. Juggling 10 identities with their own unique reputation is not that. You need to be grounded in at least 1.
I believe the future of digital locations and identity will become increasingly connected, in fact I think it’s inevitable, but I also think a pretty powerful bridge (or bridges) still needs to form to make that happen. That bridge could very well be you, the traveler.