bursting with life

'Wasting' time on Web 2.0? Don't worry, says James Bennett - it's only human.

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By  James Bennett Published  May 31, 2007

By James Bennett in New York

Today, like every other day in this internet age, one billion people will surf the web. Some will be working; but others may visit one of the 150,000 blogs read every day; yet more will watch one of 100 million viral videos streamed by YouTube daily.

The thing is, more and more of those one billion people are getting to know each other - all online. The internet is empowering consumers to create online content and drive the next generation of users. Welcome to the Web 2.0 social revolution.

The people driving, or rather commercially exploiting, this shift say that Web 2.0 has well and truly arrived. What we thought was dead back in 2001 when the bubble supposedly burst is now bursting with life, ideas and - above all - content.

Just ask John Battelle. As founder of the world's first magazine about the internet, 'Wired', and its website 'Hot Wired' (which created the net's first ever online ad banner) - as well as founder of the Industry Standard magazine and the now defunct - he should know.

Battelle told an audience here in New York earlier this week that the internet 2007, or Web 2.0 as it's more commonly known, is simply all about conversations.

The internet, says Battelle, has grown with 'three bumps' between the late 1970s and today.

First we had the digitisation of the back office between 1970 and the 1980s.

Then came front office digitisation where PCs suddenly appeared in front of workers and where we allowed computers to have conversations with each other. And finally we arrived where we are today - Web 2.0 - where consumers themselves have become digitised and where we, predominantly through search engines, are having conversations with computers and, perhaps more importantly, with ourselves.

He adds that our culture's point of inquiry is now made through search, blogs and social and information networking sites such as Wikipedia, Google, Digg, YouTube and Facebook - this is the "spade with which we turn the web's soil", as he so aptly suggests.

In essence we are the conversation economy. Our views and opinions are what is making the web grow and develop as well as shifting our attention away from our desktops, and instead focusing and spending the vast majority of our time, information and money, online: talking, questioning and answering and continually repeating the process, but finding new ways to do so everyday. We have reached the complete package that we and we alone have created and continue to create.

Smart companies such as Battelle's own Federated Media, along with HP, Amazon and the rest have and are seeing online as a huge opportunity to provide a platform that allows them to have a conversation with customers through their own products and services, creating, as Cisco recently coined, the phrase a "human network".

The web has and is allowing people who are truly the leaders of conversations to lead the conversation. Old style publishers, Battelle says, no longer hold the power, the people do. "The internet now permits the creators of content to live on their own terms," he adds, citing website Boing Boing as a glowing example. "There are only four people who work there. One of them is in Guatemala and is constantly on MSN Messanger via her mobile simply telling me and others what life is like there. She is her own content generator, no one is telling her what she can and can't write. That is what I call a power community."

The internet was simply a platform based on inexpensive communications and mass adoption. Then it changed. It allowed for highly lightweight and innovative companies, such as YouTube, to leverage the architecture of participation and drive a new kind of commerce, all based on a conversation."

As one executive told me, we are now part of an exciting and dynamic age, an age where a simple conversation can change everything, and from a business perspective generate or adversely lose you millions of dollars. "We used to simply provide them with the toolkit, now they can do it themselves," he sighed.

Things just got tougher, but at the same time more exciting for businesses everywhere.

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