As 2006 makes way for 2007, it is time to look back at the year that was in technology through some of the best writings. I have picked a few which I think reflect the major themes of the year and which came back to me as I started recalling the year. Let us start with the one word and three letters which capture the essence of the year: You and UGC (user-generated content).
It started with home pages on sites like Geocities nearly a decade ago. People created all sorts of pages about themselves. The problem was hardly anyone came visiting. This time it is different. Blogs, wikis, podcasts and video blogs are powering a resurgence in user-generated content. Mainstream media has been taking notice. TIME magazine named us (you) as the Person of the Year. It wrote:
Look at 2006 through a different lens and you’ll see another story, one that isn’t about conflict or great men. It’s a story about community and collaboration on a scale never seen before. It’s about the cosmic compendium of knowledge Wikipedia and the million-channel people’s network YouTube and the online metropolis MySpace. It’s about the many wresting power from the few and helping one another for nothing and how that will not only change the world, but also change the way the world changes.
The tool that makes this possible is the World Wide Web. Not the Web that Tim Berners-Lee hacked together (15 years ago, according to Wikipedia) as a way for scientists to share research. It’s not even the overhyped dotcom Web of the late 1990s. The new Web is a very different thing. It’s a tool for bringing together the small contributions of millions of people and making them matter. Silicon Valley consultants call it Web 2.0, as if it were a new version of some old software. But it’s really a revolution.
Web 2.0 is a massive social experiment, and like any experiment worth trying, it could fail. There’s no road map for how an organism that’s not a bacterium lives and works together on this planet in numbers in excess of 6 billion. But 2006 gave us some ideas. This is an opportunity to build a new kind of international understanding, not politician to politician, great man to great man, but citizen to citizen, person to person. It’s a chance for people to look at a computer screen and really, genuinely wonder who’s out there looking back at them.
Tomorrow: Social Networking