Who were the early internet ‘thought leaders’?


I’ve recently had the pleasure of discovering some excellent and thought-provoking people writing on the subject of social media and the future of the internet.  These people include Atlanta app developers, Boston start ups, and other think tank organizations.

It’s made me go back and look again at some of the earlier internet ‘thought leaders’ who had such a great influence on me in the late 1990s, such as Nicholas Negroponte, founder of the MIT Media Lab. His 1995 book ‘Being Digital’ was one of those reads that sent my head spinning – so many ideas and possibilities of how technology was to change the way we communicate.

I went on to read Esther Dyson, another great web visionary. She foresaw the role of peer recommendations, content sharing and co-creation long before social networking was around. Similarly, Sherry Turkle’s pioneering work Life on the Screen was a huge influence on me when I was first drawn to the idea of online community.

The Cluetrain Manifesto was another internet milestone that set the scene for the advent of social media. For me, this publication signalled the beginning of the end of traditional marketing. This has a poignancy as it came out at the same time that I left corporate, ‘offline’ marketing for good and moved onto the internet. I admit I don’t remember the authors’ names, but you’ll find that out if you follow the Wikipedia link.

Going much further back, I must mention an article I only came across in 1999 although it had been written in 1945 – ‘As We May Think’ by Vannevar Bush. I can’t describe how thrilling it was to read this for the first time. Bush was a US scientist at the time when technology was being developed for one purpose only – to wage war. This paper is his call for scientists of the future to apply new technology to non-military purposes, for the good of all, and in so doing he conjures up a digital future that is visionary, extraordinary and elegant.

Do you agree? There have been so many waves of internet pioneers in its short life. Who were the ones who influenced you? I’d love to know.

Also, who are the exciting thinkers of today, those who’ll be remembered, not just for being the biggest names, but for their vision and influence? I have my list! But I need to stop reminiscing now and do some work. So that’s for another blog post.