New Media: 2005 and Web 2.0

BY jyothi kiran| IN Digital Media | 31/12/2005
2005 saw a change in the very semantics of the web and boisterous Web activity owing to new technologies related to Web 2.0.

Jyothi Kiran

If Britney Spears is ruling the Web in the West, in India it is Sania Mirza. Trailing way behind Sania are Aishwarya Rai, Katrina kaif and Sachin Tendulkar, according to the Year end 2005 Google¿s Zeitgiest report.

Google¿s zeitgeist list allows people over the world know what tickles people by searching trends on the Web country wise, by year, month and week. It offers an exciting way of knowing the spirit of time and place, by way of what people are keying on the search engine.

If the US is amused by the hilarious comedy movie The 40 Year Old Virgin directed by Judd Appatow, in India people are clued-in to Salaam Namaste, the Saif Ali-Preity Zinta starrer based on the Hollywood flick Nine Months (1995) starring Hugh Grant and Julianne Moore.

For those guys looking for a girl friend minus the heartache, there¿s Vivienne, the virtual girl friend who loves chocolates and flowers. Developed by Artificial Life, Inc, Vivienne, the cell phone mistress can converse on 35,000 topics, from philosophy to movies to sculpture, in 7 languages, and can move through 18 settings, such as bars, restaurants, shopping malls and movie theatres.

Virginity, pregnancy, and girlfriend diversions apart, the year also saw a lot of interest related to natural disasters such as Tsunami and Hurricane Katrina.

In the technology department, Google rocked the Internet world by offering several new products including Web analytics for free, and Gmail mobile, which offers users the choice of accessing email through mobile phones and handheld computers. Gone are the days when the Web tried to imitate the print medium. Today the Web is where creative expression and democracy rule, and data driven organizations are making the most out of it. Current Tv, for instance is the first new media website established entirely based on the research and data provided by Google user interest.

Citizen as Consumer & Producer of Media

The Year 2005 is seen as the year of the Web because a lot of boisterous Web activity owing to new technologies related to Web 2.0. The year  has witnessed a change in the very semantics of the web. New concepts, terminologies and technologies, which were not fully develped earlier have been applied to business with the same zeal of the dot com era, but more successfully and with a far more practical approach. Taxonomy, folksonomy, weblogs, linklogs, podcasts, videocasts, RSS feeds , social software, web APIs, web standards, web services, Ajax, dot the brave new world of the Web 2.0 in lieu of weblinks, emails and static websites.

According to Wikipedia, Web 2.0 is characterised by open communication, decentralization of authority, freedom to share and re-use data with ?the market as a conversation.? Web 2.0 offers a far more organized and categorized content, with advanced development of deeplinking web architecture. Most important of all, Web 2.0 is different from Web 1.0 because its economy has surpassed the  a trillion dollars, which is more than that of the dot com boom of the late 1990s. A handful of online companies such as Google, ebay and Amazon are driving up the Web economy. Google alone  posted revenues of $1.578 billion for the quarter ending September 30, 2005, up 96% from the third quarter of 2004. Internet auction site eBay Inc. had record revenue of $1.032 billion in the very first quarter of its fiscal 2005, up 36 percent from the $756.2 million reported in the first quarter of l2004. For the third quarter year its Net revenue came in at $1.106 billion, up 37 percent compared with 2004`s third quarter. Amazon posted a Net revenue of $1.106 billion, up 37 percent compared with 2004`s third quarter.

If Amazon and eBay are taking online shopping to the next level, social networking and community driven grass roots media are changing the meaning of journalism by eliminating the gap between producers and consumers of news. Websites such as our media.org. and Current Tv are good examples of media created by the people who watch it.  In his new book, We the Media: Grassroots Journalism by the People, for the People, Dan Gillmor depicts the social and economic impact of weblogs, wikis, mobile technology and other networked phenomena on the business of news.

It offers a lot of innovative, interactive, user driven, collaborative and experiential computing in the form of Wikipedia, Creative Commons, flickr.com, craiglist , skype.com. All these new ventures are driven by passion and a willingness to share data and experiences using new technology. Craiglist for example is the Web`s biggest classified service with a quasi-public service approach to business. What makes companies like Craig`s List interesting is not just the innovative business idea, but also the attitude that goes with the entrepreneurial spirit. Unlike in the dot com days when everybody wanted to make money and cared less about the product or the service they were trying or pretending to sell, Craig Newmark who started Craiglist has rejected venture capital financing and an IPO.

These are the new and true gatekeepers of the web who charge nominal fee to sustain the business, but beyond that, what pulls them to the Web is the passion and people power.  Of course cynics will tell you a different story, that like Microsoft, they give you free stuff in the beginning, and once you are used to a certain product or service, they know users will be ready to pay for it rather than learn how to work with new technology offered in the open source world.

Tagging Along!

The search engines are not just searching people and places, events are where people are heading and whole new businesses are built around this idea. Take Kutcheri buzz, the website that features events about south Indian classical music and dance, or Upcoming.org, which is a social event calendar, completely driven by people. Upcoming.org, is a collaborative event calendar, completely driven by people who enter the details of the events they are attending, comment on events entered by others, and syndicate event listings to their weblogs. It runs on the concept of collaborative categorization called Tags. Tags are bits of information, separate from, but related to, an object, they are descriptors assigned by individuals assign to objects.

It is not just journalism that is transforming. Both education and the entertainment industry are witnessing the revolution altruistically and commercially. Check out Planetread, a website dedicated to changing the literacy scene by using film lyrics and scripts. And also watch out for Samsung, which will be launching AnyFilms.net, heralding a new era in filmdom, by producing films targeted for cell phone users.

While watching movies on the mobile might be the next in thing for the gadget-driven community, there¿s a new tool that tells you whether the movies on the make have any entertainment value, courtesy www.pictureanywhere.com, which scientifically predicts whether the movie has any entertainment quotient.  Producers can save a lot of money using this tool before they launch the movie production. They can also use the software to amend the script to increase the emotional quotient.

World Wide Watch Out!

While the new technology is enabling communities to be more daunting and democratic, the web is also proving to be a dangerous zone for some. Inaccuracies and controversies comprise the other side of the Web story. Take the recent controversy of Wikipedia, which carried inaccurate information John Siegenthaler, that he was directly involved in the assassinations of the Kennedys. The information was later withdrawn but only after causing wide spread character assassination.

On the Indian home turf, there are certain matrimonial sites that are ensnaring gullible women into having premarital sex after luring them with marriage offers. It is not just individuals but even countries that are caught in the enticing web. Google Earth, an Internet site allows users to access overlapping satellite photos showing sensitive locations in various countries, raising concern over security. As the web evolves and changes the socio-cultural landscape, lawmakers have to rethink the old policies and develop new policies that are simultaneously progressive as well as protective. 

India¿s President Abdul Kalam, a scientist who guided India`s missile program before becoming president, called for new laws to restrain dissemination of such material. He believes the existing laws concerning spatial observations of their territory and the United Nations` recommendations on the practice are not adequate.

The writer is director, www.peppersquare.com

Contact jyothikiran@peppersquare.com or Jyothi_kiran@hotmail.com

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