Internet, making the rich richer

When preparing for Lift11, I interviewed David Galbraith (co-founder of Yelp) who came up with a point that was going against what I was thinking about the internet. He told me the following:

Laurent Haug: Another big change ahead?

David Galbraith: The death of the long tail. The idea behind the long tail is that all the little guys are worth more than the big guys. But mediums do one thing: they amplify celebrity. Since Rudolph Valentino, the world’s stars have always been bigger than all the little guys. The phenomena has been amplified by the internet. An artist like Lady Gaga is generating petabytes of data download for Google, Justin Biber is accounting for 3% of Twitter’s servers infrastructure. The point is that the internet is a place where the rich get richer. It is a story nobody wants to here but it is true. The left part of the long tail – the one with the big guys – is bigger than the right part – the smaller guys. This is not getting better, also because of global competition that forced a merger of niches.


The internet was supposed to be making the amateur and the professional equal, to allow each of us access to our fifteen minutes of fame. That is how I was thinking until I looked at Youtube’s year in review, and the ranking of the top ten music videos of the year: five artists share the top ten spots, with Justin Biber taking the first, sixth, seventh and ninth spot. Eminem and Rihanna place three videos in the top 10, and lady gaga two. That’s four artists taking nine out of ten spots…

Two conclusions:

  • Indeed, the internet makes the rich richer, at least in a domain like music that is still controlled by the majors. No indie band or amateur made it to the top of the rankings, and this should really make us rethink the notion of user generated content. Sites like Youtube don’t live off the home made videos, but from content generated by professionals – or hacked from TV networks.
  • The most viewed indicator does not make sense unless you are in the dominant demographic of a specific site. Obviously, Youtube is populated with teenagers who will put Justin Biber on top of the rankings. If you are not in that demographic, this indicator is useless for you as it is for me. There is a need to separate audiences by demographics, and to come up with new ways to spot trending videos. Most viewed when measured on the full audience does not make sense anymore.

TeslaTouch, the touch screens that touches back

This is the graal of touch technologies: a screen that feels like real keys when you touch it. Nokia has been experimenting with such technologies since 2007 (project Haptikos), and came with another solution last fall (electrovibration), but no product has yet reached the production stage.

TeslaTouch, developed by the Disney Research Team at Carnegie Mellon University, is another technology using electrovibration that could change the way we experience touch screens.

TeslaTouch lets your fingers actually feel what the screen shows. When you move a file on the screen with your finger, you can feel how big it is. Because TeslaTouch can provide a wide variety of tactile(or haptic) sensations such as textures, friction and vibration, Disney calls it the “future of feel.” […]

A virtual keyboard on a touch screen equipped with TeslaTouch would allow users to feel the location of the keys and learn how to touch type. When users click on a file to drag it into a folder, they would be able to feel the weight or size of the file and know when it had successfully reached its destination. Larger files such as movies could also be made to feel heavier than smaller text files. Artists drawing on their touch devices could feel paint and paper.

But just like the Nokia technologies, TeslaTouch has big limitations, and does not seem ready for mass production just yet:

Currently TeslaTouch only works to provide tactile feedback for a sliding finger, not a finger at rest, and it does not work with multiple fingers — so multitouch capabilities such as that found on the iPhone is out of the question for now.