When in Rome, Do as the Romans Do (As in, No Twittering or Much iPhoning)

Published on March 12, 2009
by Kara Swisher


BoomTown’s visit to Italy has been eye-opening in a lot of ways, not the least of which is to be reminded that not everyone in the world is jacked into the matrix 24/7.

In other words, Julius Caesar conquered Rome, but Twitter definitely has not.

In fact, the conference being held here is aptly called “Tutto Cambio, Cambiamo Tutto?” (I came here to interview Huffington Post editrix Arianna Huffington and LinkedIn founder and CEO Reid Hoffman onstage about innovation and online trends.)

That roughly translates into “Everything changes, let’s change everything?”

This is not a question that is much asked in Silicon Valley, which changes just like the weather, embracing change for change’s sake.

But here, whether or not to change is much more of a debate–one in which change does not always come out on top.

Internet penetration is much lower here than elsewhere in Europe, as is everything from per capita computer ownership to online advertising spending. Television still dominates most media.

“We’re 2,000 years old” is something you hear a lot from people as an explanation for approaching everything, from social networking to iPhones to anything interactive, with some wariness.

While most people here note that they like Facebook, prounounced “FAY-sa BOO-ka,” hardly anyone sees the point of Web 2.0’s trend du jour, Twitter (“TWEE-tur”).

In fact, few have heard of it, and those who have don’t use it.

And while several people have iPhones, no one seems over the moon about the Apple (AAPL) phenom or captivated by its potential to herald Web 3.0 as the mobile revolution.

In any case, here is a video I did, speaking to both Huffington (here is her blog on the event) and Hoffman, as well as to several Italians at the conference:

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