There was a link to a concept for Twitter redesign posted on the Guardian Tech Blog this morning that made me ponder a broader subject – as established brands and media force deeper into their use of social media, have we seen the end of Web 2.0?
The first iteration of the world wide web was as a user-created content publishing platform. Berners-Lee and his colleagues designed the WWW as a platform for production and consumption, and in its early days (with a significant amount of tech knowledge) pages were as likely to be produced as consumed. And then, in the first Web bubble in the late 1990s, big brands and media companies started to use the platform increasingly as a publishing mass medium. The costs of setting things up yourself increased, and in the days before free blogging and cheap hosting and social networks, the combined purchasing power of the establishment meant that it became very tricky to be a user-generator and look anything but a rank amateur.
The first bubble burst, but then we entered the world of “user-generated content”; social networks emerged, and we quickly moved into a world of everyone being a (micro) publisher. Whether Wikipedia, MySpace, Facebook or Twitter, the 2.0 revolution seemed for a while to change the balance of power.
I wonder now, though, if we are back to where we were. Rather than HTML, brands use the power of the new social platforms to “converse” with their audiences (although, let’s be frank, the conversations are mostly broadcasting with the option to “like” – hardly a conversation). And the reality of 2.0 is that most people don’t contribute that much anyway – look at your own Facebook stream (for example) and you’ll probably see the different tribes in your own social network of the hyper-active few, the occasionally contributing minority, and the silent majority.
Fred Nerby’s concept design for Twitter seems to be the logical extension of all of this – social network redesigned as massively connected brand communications tool. Social networking for the post-2.0 generation.
Now it could just be that social networks, in fact any Internet platform, goes through a logical pattern of minority individual contribution, through mass contribution and adoption, to takeover by the marketing world and repositioning as a mass medium. That out there we will find new platforms emerging that are still in the earlier stages.
If that’s the case, mass participation and contribution is a phase maybe that happens before the masses adopt. And once the masses adopt, the spending power of big institutions then dominates how “conversations” then continue…