Len Kendall recently published a thoughtful post proposing a "hierarchy of Internet needs" based on Maslow's hierarchy of needs. The prompt for his post was Facebook's switcheroo on making their @facebook.com email address the only visible email address for users without their consent. Len's take on a hierarchy looked like this:
His explanation for the uproar caused by Facebook's move to drive use of their version of email was that they violated the second level of his newly created hierarchy, stability. In other words, they disrupted a formerly stable part of Facebook that displays our personal contact information to suit their needs without asking us. The remaining four sections Len created are organized based on how he views their priority.
He describes the pinnacle of our Internet needs as, "a completely editable internet" which "would encompass customizing how and where we consume information, writing code to manipulate what others have already built, and editing how we interact with devices by adding connectivity to them (internet of things)."
I hadn't really thought of something like this before, but I've spent a bit of time with Maslow's model for various reasons, so I wanted to wrestle with Len's idea a bit. I liked where he was heading, but for me, something in his order felt a little off. What peeved so many people with Facebook's email maneuver wasn't about stability. It was more likely due to people feeling that something very personal (how they prefered to be contacted) had been violated.
I also don't feel like the pinnacle of the web is malleability for most people. A large majority of people don't care about creating content. According to Forrester, only one in four people are interested in going beyond a few status updates or photo uploads to Facebook. Based on that, I can't see many people wanting to write code to manipulate what others have built and editing how we interact with devices.
So, if Len's take isn't quite right for me, what is? Well, after some thought and playing around with a few sketches, here is where I'm at:
For me, the baseline is accessibility, stability and utility—I can access the Internet, I know and trust that it is working (even if I'm not using it at the moment), and I can generally find my way around to what I'm looking for. The next step above that is openness. With the basics behind me, now I expect to openly access a variety of information and content, and if I'm interested, to be able to create a bit of it on my own.
After that comes connecting, sharing and communicating socially with others, and being able to manage a personal profile/presence on the Internet. I debated here if this should be above or below openness. Not all of the world gets to experience a fully open Internet, but they can connect socially, albeit, with limitations there as well. I chose to put them in this order based on the idea that some form of openness is neccessary for the creation of the places where people can socially connect.
The next need state up the ladder is feeling completely secure in being your authentic self on the Internet and sharing your personal information (data) with businesses and digital-based entities. For me, this is what Facebook continually screws up, including their most recent kerfuffle. So far, a great number of people just don't feel secure with (trust) Facebook (or Google, Apple, Microsoft, et. al for that matter). Currently, this is where we are sticking and having a hard time evolving beyond.
That leaves the pinnacle of our Internet needs to being when we feel completely secure with our data being "out there" so that personally relevant and useful information/content can be brought to us whenever, where ever, and however we need it. We no longer have to actively seek things, beyond asking a question possibly. And yes, this is where things get a little "big brotherish" potentially.
So there you have it. At least for now. If you've got thoughts for altering it further, or pushing it back to what Len had, share'em below or at some place of your own like I did here. Feel free to drop a note in the comments with a link to your take, if that's what you choose to do. Lastly, if you want to play around with editing the diagram, here is the quick Keynote file I used for it and here is a PDF.