Social networking websites have become a defining feature in the era of Web 2.0. If you’re not quite familiar with the term “Web 2.0”, it refers to the evolution of the Internet towards more interactive platforms. Think of sites like Facebook and the culture-identifying MySpace, as well as the trend of sharing user-generated content—be it photos, videos, or other media—online.
Web 2.0 extends beyond just teenagers posting YouTube videos on MySpace; it encapsulates the idea of two-way communication between consumers and the digital services they use. Websites have evolved from static pages to dynamic and interactive platforms, mostly driven by users themselves, which proves to be both a boon and a challenge for businesses trying to profit from this shift.
A prime example of Web 2.0 in action is the latest iPod touch commercial, which capitalizes on user-generated content. This ad, created by an 18-year-old in the UK, has caused quite a stir in the blogging world and the advertising industry. Originally a display of fan appreciation, it’s now a part of Apple’s marketing arsenal.
In my own work as a photographer, I’ve seen both benefits and drawbacks from this trend. For instance, senior portraits that I’ve shot and made available online for customers to view and select for print have started appearing as Facebook profile pictures—much to my dismay and delight.
Indeed, it’s a breach of copyright as the customers have only paid for a select number of images on a CD, not for the use of gallery images. However, these same pictures, when posted as profile photos, effectively serve as free advertising for my work. Friends of the customer see the photos and might be inclined to seek out my services.
Switching gears to my personal experience with Facebook, I have an amusing anecdote to share.
Recently, Facebook made a significant shift from a relatively static platform to an ecosystem filled with third-party applications. This change, although providing customization options for users—from horoscopes to ninja wars to sports team affiliations—has cluttered the once simple and easily navigable platform.
In the span of three months, I received around 300 requests to add various applications or join causes, including multiple prompts to join the Red Sox nation. Despite my home team loyalty, I declined, even going so far as to say I hoped the Red Sox would lose. An hour later, I started receiving phone calls asking if I had Red Sox tickets for sale—apparently, a prankster had posted my number on Craigslist in retaliation.
While I initially found myself on the losing end of this prank, I eventually scored a ticket to the first game of the World Series at Fenway to watch the Sox triumph over the Rockies. So, in terms of karmic balance, I consider myself the victor.