The web is still maturing, and I still get the feeling that we are only on the tip of the iceberg as far as innovations go – after all the web is only really only coming of age.
I thought I’d take the opportunity to highlight everything as many things that I personally love about the web, and the applications and services that continue to make it a joy to be a part of.
I love the fact that the web gives anyone – and I mean anyone the opportunity to get their message heard by an audience. No longer do we need to have massive printing budgets, or be a multi-million media organisation to find a voice.
Open source software such as WordPress allows average Joes to setup, manage and publish content for free online, all without having any major technical knowledge. Feedburner in turn allows anyone to create their own subscriber base, and receive newsletter updates via email.
Not only are we limited to publishing online material, the web has also given rise to a whole host of self-publishing options for budding writers or photo journalists, with a whole host of dedicated marketplaces for selling them. Combine that talent and creativity with a website, and you’ve just created your own marketing vehicle.
Video and audio content can also be created easily by anyone online too. Want to have your own T.V. channel? No problem. Want to run your own radio show. Sorted. Need to sell a few rock records yourself? Yeah, the web lets you do that too. Lots of independant artists, writers and musicians have found fame and fortune through the web’s open economy.
Anyone can run a shop online now. The web has lowered the barrier to entry dramatically, with no overheads for a physical store, and free e-commerce software readily available to run it. Even for those who don’t want to go the whole hog, many of these support dropshipping and affiliate products. These businesses can be run part time, and built up over years to become monolith’s generating passive income for the owner. Any man off the street willing to learn and with plenty of patience can do it.
Many people are making their living off already established marketplaces such as E-bay – lowering again the time taken to get to market, piggybacking off the company’s strong brand presence. Merchandising options such as Cafepress in the U.S. and Spreadshirt / Zazzle in Europe allows anyone to ride a meme and generate quick money off t-shirt sales, without the hassle of printing yourself. Craft marketplaces such as Etsy let anyone with a needle and thread reach a global audience. Overall running an e-commerce shop has become within reach of the average man on the street, and many people have had success with doing so.
Most people at some time in their lives have thought about creating a useful product that there’s a niche for. Well now, thanks to the web there are a number of innovation websites cropping up that take your idea from concept to completion. Kickstarter is a new way to fund ideas for artists, designers and inventors allowing you to market test concepts without risk. Quirky markets itself as social product development, allowing you to get a product idea to market IF the web decide that they like it. There’s really no excuses now for not taking that leap of faith if there’s a bubble of an idea in your head.
No more pitching needed in front of angel investors to see your product go from concept to actually being on store shelves.
When masses of people who own the means of production work toward a common goal and share their products in common, when they contribute labor without wages and enjoy the fruits free of charge, it’s not unreasonable to call that socialism. Point in question – Wikipedia – which is free to contribute, free to read and built of millions of pages of information largely makes physical encyclopaedia’s largely redundant. It’s also been shown that the margin of error and accuracy between the two are largely similar. Other community driven sites such as IMDB and Wikia have enjoyed massive growth thanks to employing a user generated content strategy, and the web’s current economy thrives on it. As more and more people contribute to the web’s economy, we’ll continue to enjoy the petabytes of information being created and consumed.
The little guy has an abundance of power now, with large brands unable to determine if they are talking to major influencers online. If you have a blog or website, and some social presence, you have the ability to take a brand to task. Brands can no longer hide behind red-tape, their kimono is open and brand conduct is being played out daily online for everyone to see.
United Break guitars as an example and the massive public relations fallout as a result will still be being talked about for years to come. This results in an overall better deal for consumers, and influences corporate responsibility in a much more positive way. Hopefully we’ll continue to see brands engaging with consumers in a positive way as a result of the web’s open architecture.
The web has on many occasions embraced a good cause. During the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, the Tsunami and earthquakes in Haiti, many sought to give gift aid online. Google frequently change their homepage to reflect causes needing help, and offer links to the charities making a difference.
Fundraising platforms such as Justgiving offer an easy way for the average joe to garner donations. Chipin is a widget based approach that has helped raise 337% of a target figure to help rehome a victim of domestic abuse. SixDegrees helps raise money by showing what other charities people like you support. Pledgebank is a social promise application that is only requires action if others will pledge to help – which can be useful for charitable projects that require lots of hands on deck. Facebook Causes lets you fundraise from your existing friends within your network.
Kiva empowers individuals to lend to an entrepreneur across the globe. By combining microfinance with the internet, Kiva is creating a global community of people connected through lending, and gives the poor a way to work their way out of poverty.
All of these web applications continue to make a difference to people’s lives across the world, and in many cases are supported by designers, developers and people just like you who donate their time to make them happen. Truly a gift economy.
Everyone loves a good deal, and the open nature of the web perfectly facilitates that. Want to find awesome deals? The web has it covered. Fancy some money off vouchers for your next online purchase? Yep – got that too. Car insurance, mortgages, medical care – all of these things can be found online at price comparison sites. In fact there are even dedicated active communities on saving money, and getting consumers better deals, with participants often sharing tips and tricks with one another. Mobile applications which can figure out the cost of something on the web are also becoming more and more mainstream.
The web has become a hot bed for entertainment. With video content continuing to be developed and promoted exclusively online. Digital artists have gravitated towards niche HD video hosting sites such as Vimeo, with high quality productions such as this and this– all provided by publishers for our enjoyment for absolutely nothing.
Hulu in the states, iPlayer, SkyPlayer, 4OD over here and YouTube all facilitate easier catch up of t.v. programs from terrestrial channels. Sony’s internet ready T.V. recently launched is evidence of their own concern that traditional t.v. is dying.
Music sites are also continuing to crop up offering a delight for your ears. We7 being the latest that I’ve found. Not only do these sites provide listening for free, but the social algorithms which they’ve wound their software around are great at finding artists whom you haven’t heard before, and probably should. I can honestly say that my purchasing and listening habits have been significantly affected by the web, and as a music aficionado I absolutely love that.
Friends & Family
The web caters for a variety of friends and family activities. Its now a relatively trivial task to find long lost relatives online. Facebook, Friends Reunited and a variety of social networking sites have without doubt helped in this pursuit. Niche genealogy sites such as Genes Reunited and MyHeritage allow you to map your entire family tree. And when you’ve got everyone together photo sites such as Flickr allow us to tag our memories, and share with others.
The more you read the more you learn. I love how the web lets me find out how to do anything or how everything works. If I’m feeling really smart I can download lectures, podcasts and course materials from one of the leading universities in the U.S. all for free, all without paying college fees. Or just kick back and relax, and listen to TED talks from some of the world’s most forward thinking and progressive speakers.
If I’m feeling creative, the web is a perfect platform for unleashing that – time for some wicked DIY projects, or for the slightly more geeky amongst you Hack-a-Day provides electronic projects that are well neat. For more ornate creative arts is your thing – the web gives plenty of patterns, for those of you good with needle and thread – websites such as Craftster provide ample inspiration.
Ultimately the web makes my life easier, and more organised. I can backup my computer automatically and get as much as 41GB of free storage from a variety of online storage solutions. I can setup reminders for birthdays or find what my friends and family really want with a social wish list. Or I can use the web to track every minutiae of my life to see where I’m spending most time. Awesome blogs such as Lifehacker help with tips and tricks on getting things done, and Zen Habits brings me peacefully back to earth. If I’m in need of a dose of testosterone, there’s manly websites for manly men.
Overall one of the things I love the most about the web is how it facilitates communication, in a variety of different ways. There’s a variety of web applications and projects online for this..there’s Twitter (for talking to your favourite celeb in real time), Facebook (for catching up with old friends), Skype (for saving money on phone bills) or Chat Roulette (if you fancy talking to a *potentially naked* stranger). Seesmic lets you start a video conversation for others to reply and respond to. You can also go shopping with friends or chat with people on the same website as you all in real time, all from the comfort of your easy chair.
If you are a bit of a science geek, you have to appreciate the wonder that is the live NASA space program feed letting us watch exactly what is going on millions of miles above us. Google Earth also has captured a virtual space utilising images taken by the hubble space telescope.
News & Journalism
The web never ceases to amaze me with its speed of information delivery when you need it. None of this is more evident than on Twitter – where news often breaks first, spreading across the network like wildfire. I actively follow the ‘Breaking News‘ twitter feed – published previously by a 19 year old Dutch teenager, later acquired by Microsoft’s MSNBC.com. You have to love the fact that a randomer off the street attracted a following of more than 1.5 million in such a short space of time. I’m also a big fan of the Boston Big Picture – one of the best photo journalism sites on the web at the minute.
I have to admit I’m a bit of a Google fan boy. They’ve fed me search crystal meth since I first used the service, and I must admit I still find it hard to leave. It’s not like there’s any lack of products or services in their portfolio. They continue to innovate, and play a big part in my own enjoyment of the web.
What about you? Tell me what do you love about the web? I’m planning on keeping this post updated as I think of all the things I’ve clearly missed. If you want to suggest something I’ve missed or blog your own reasons why you love the web I’ve tagged it with the #ilovetheweb hashtag, which I’ll be following – I’d really love to see everyone else’s ideas, and lets make this a community driven project.