The newspaper is hemorrhaging, radio and TV wounded; which victim will it claim next?
First it stripped print media of its monopoly on publication. By the time this decade came round, the music industry was feeling the thumbscrews: MP3 files were small and being exuberantly exchanged. Today, instead of watching TV, teenagers graze over amateur video clips, which have been virally spread by email and blogs, shared on sites like Friendster, MySpace, and YouTube.
If it were a film, we would use words like malevolent and relentless in the tagline.
Web 2.0 is not a new version of the Web, but a relatively new way of referring to the fact that it has evolved into something quite different than how it started. There is new stuff to do, and a new attitude towards doing it.
In their description of this term that they allegedly coined, Tim O’Reilly, founder and CEO of O Reilly Media (www.oreillynet.com), and Dale Dougherty, O’Reilly Vice President, “the Web [can be seen] as a platform having an “architecture of participation . They advocate that we “build applications that harness network effects to get better the more people use them.
In a broad sense, Web 2.0 is the shift in web usage that is more about providing services than products, and even more about encouraging user participation. Ease of use is also a factor, just as community-driven social networking, and of course fun. No longer is the Web just a mechanism for delivering documents or web pages.
Keep in mind too that despite the term sounding like an upgrade – like going from Word 6.0 to 7.0 or from Windows XP to Windows Vista – Web 2.0 is not a distinct entity. In fact even the coiners of the term wouldn’t be able to point out when Web 1.0 became 2.0. What they and others do know is that the web has been gradually evolving and even though we don’t know when the line crossed into 2.0dom, that line has been crossed and we are now perceiving and using the web differently.
Democracy is king on Web 2.0. This democratic angle is perhaps best demonstrated by the wiki sites, which allow visitors to add and revise a collective set of available information, with the wiki encyclopedia website Wikipedia being the current favorite.
Democracy also means you can get the news you deem is news rather than just what’s doled out to you. News aggregation sites such Google and Yahoo news, and even more so at RSS (‘really simple syndication’) aggregators like Reddit and Bloglines, let you filter and prioritise what is important to you. These sites remember and get better the more you use them.
And it’s not just about what you want. It’s also about what you want to produce. Amateur writers, photographers, filmmakers and musicians have been finding an audience through MySpace, Flickr, YouTube, and the like. Now with YouTube’s hints at sharing a cut of revenues with content creators, this can only continue.
There also comes a new philosophy. It’s reminiscent of the Internet’s early days: don’t mistreat users. Sites that lord over their users with tiring registration and annoying advertising are frowned upon. People don’t appreciate being asked unnecessary questions, even what their email address is.
And articles you have to pay for might as well be invisible. Even Web users that are willing to participate in paying for content, such as with The New York Times website, are realizing that they can’t be part of the conversion because they can’t ‘link’ to it. Studies have arrived at the reasonable conclusion that the top news websites that are linked to and therefore consumed are the free ones, which may help keep subscription news sites elite but also greatly reduces their influence.
Addressing the Web 2.0 business model means giving people what they want, for free, or at least something for free that the competition is charging for.
Google perhaps provides one of the best models for Web 2.0 success. Its Google Maps was one of the first to leverage the power of the Ajax technology and all the company’s distinct services are free. Perhaps most importantly, thanks to their ‘do no evil’ mantra, they’ve also taken care of being your friend; all while maintaining a hip image that Internet users are drawn too. Google skyrocketed up the charts of the top companies the best new grads want to work for, meaning the company’s likely to keep innovating at a fast clip.
Indeed, as Google shows us, why assume your company’s best bet for word processing and spreadsheets is Microsoft Office, when Google Docs (docs.google.com) is free? Not only is it compatible with files from other products, but it also lets you share documents in real-time with others, allowing whoever’s been invited to see or edit the same document as you at the same time.
The day may eventually come when people can really do everything online for free.
And at this point we can only imagine what will behold us when the current online revolution tips over into Web 3.0. I’ll keep you posted.