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For the last few years, traditional publishers have slowly withered under the unrelenting wave of independent bloggers fighting for space in the newly fractured attention economy of reviews, news stories and commentary7. Until now, the only true barriers to competition were programming expertise (now a non-issue using the Wikia software platform) and the ability to absorb hosting fees once significant traffic was attained. Wales has, in one sweeping motion, eliminated those barriers for the legions of independent publishers who have harbored various tradirional-model-breaking ideas bur lacked the tech savvy and hosting war chest necessary once heavy traffic arrives. Perhaps most interesting is Wales' decision to include within the free software package a component quite similar to that of Digg.com, a site where users vote on news stories (found on other sites) to determine which stories get pushed to the front page of the website. Although Digg clone software is readily available free-of-charge on the Internet, there is a certain level of programming acumen necessary to get the code to do exacdy what you want it to do. With OpenServing, the coding comes pre-packaged and you need but add the content. What this docs to a service such as Ning, a similar company that charges monthly fees for its service, is render it, in short order, obsolete. As for Digg itself (recendy rumored to have turned down an acquisition offer by News Corp.'s Rupert Murdoch for SI00,000,000), the emergence of OpenServing's Digg-like functionality—further buttressed by pervasive RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds—immediately starts the clock the top social news website. But this constant interchange of players is par for the course in the new landscape of what has come to be known as Web 2.0, a term loosely used to describe websites driven primarily by user-interaction and user-generated content. Pushed forward by what increasingly appears to be the beginnings of a geographically non-specific sort of hive mind, the hype around Web 2.0 sites has already begun to work interchangeably for some as a euphemism meaning Dot Com Bubble 2.0, harkening back to the days (just a few years ago) when a fivepage business plan and a cute URL could easily garner venture capital investments in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The difference this time is that this new crop of innovative websites is largely unfunded by large investors. Because most Web 2.0 companies operate in a space where marketing dollars are replaced by tags, sharing and recommendations^—and instead of paying staffers to generate fresh content most material is either visitor created or simply referential links to another site s content (usually a site that Joes pay to create its content). The highest functioning Web 2.0 properties efficiently thrive on their own mobius strip feedback loop of information and interaction where nothing is wasted and every miniscule bit of data is assigned value. Currently, the rock stars of diis new version of the Internet could almost be called The Holy Trinity of Web 2.0, with Wales as The Father (Wikipedia), Digg's Kevin Rose as The Son (as he has been largely responsible for the mainstreaming of social news and Web 2.0 ethics) and, of course, Craig Newmark of Craigslist, as the barebones spirit permeating the entire space
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Social media, user-generated content, digital egalitarianism ... big media has a big problem by ADARIO STRANGE
n 1993, computer scientist Vernor Vinge published an essay titled "Die Coming Technological Singularity»" It derailed a time, in the relatively near future, when the exponential growth of computing power and disparate technologies would coalesce, leading to a single moment of sudden technological evolution that would fundamentally change the fabric of reality for humanity and usher in the "post-human" era. While famed scientist/inventor Ray Kurzweil predicts this singularity won't occur until sometime in 2045, this week may very well go down in history as the moment when the Internet hit a "singularity moment" that accelerated the evolution of the Web in such rapid fashion as to move the space into heretofore unknown territory- Quietly, nearly "unnoticed—as are many of history's major events—two recent announcements that could dictate the very future of media slipped into the news stream amid the din of billion-dollar digital Internet deals and print media buyouts. First, the 109th Congress closed Saturday without sanctioning Communications Opportunity, Promotion, Enhancement (COPE) Act of 2006, a last the and bill
designed to redesign the Telecommunications Act of 1996 in a manner that would ultimately allow Internet service providers like Verizon, BellSouth, Comcast and AT&T to charge websites and companies for faster Internet access— essentially stratifying the Web into a fast lane business class and a slower, digital ghetto for thtwe unable to pay a premium. In the wake of the announcement, lobby group Save The Internet celebrated, stating on its site, "The fate of Net Neutrality has now been passed to what appears to be a more Webfriendly Congress. Our Coalition pledges to work with new Members to craft policies that ensure all Americans can access the Internet and enjoy the unlimited choices it has to offer. The end of this Congress—and death of Sen. Ted Stevens' bad bill—gives us the chance to have a long overdue public conversation about what the future of the Internet should lw>k like. This will not only include ensuring Net Neutrality, but make the Internet faster, more affordable and accessible." Armed with YouTube videos admonishing big business and promoting the ¡deals of net neutrality (the notion that networks should provide access to all users equally), Save The
Internet is still expecting a fight in 2007 when the bill is likely to be introduced again in some modified form. But, for the time being, the golden age of an open Internet remains. The second tectonic shift that rocked the Internet in recent days came from Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, a free online encyclopedia that allows visitors to create and edit roughly 1.5 million entries in over 35 languages. The sites name stems from old school programmer Ward Cunningham's invention of the first wiki, which originally drew its name from the Hawaiian word "wiki," which means quick, in the case of Wikipedia. this refers to the site's facilitation of quick collaboration between users in the creation of informational pages. On Monday, Wales unveiled a new, freehosting service called OpenServing, a site that will offer free hosting and use of the powerful Wikia software to anyone interested in creating a community site. The kicker: Wales intends to make this all available while permitting users to keep 100 percent of any advertising revenue they earn on their site from ad networks such as Google Adsensc. To say that this is a disruptive occurrence in Web content would be an understatement.
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