There’s no stopping
the gossip out on the electronic frontier; we’re connected and
collaborating in more ways than anyone thought possible, and the impact
on the Internet and society is only just beginning to be felt.
sites were the flavour of the year in 2007, and judging by the number of
people keen to make their blogs, photo albums, home movies and personal
profiles public this is the start of a new wave of innovation.
Sites with tools that enable people to build, manage and share profiles
and add features and services, including messaging, blogging, photos,
movie clips, music are at the epicenter of online activity. They
were becoming significant social and political forums and an important
parallel to mainstream media.
The music, movie, publishing, fashion and other related industries
were caught off guard again by this major trend curve; social networking
was seriously influencing not only opinion and attitudes, but buying
Google acquired YouTube only two years after it was created by two
former PayPal employees; Fox Interactive Media’s Yahoo! acquired
del.icio.us and Flickr, and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp spent half a
billion dollars on the company that owned MySpace.com.
sites fall into a burgeoning category known as second generation web, or
Web 2:0 services, which deliver richer more dynamic and interactive
experiences. Web 2:0 is typically about the ‘live web’ or websites that
improve communication between software, web sites and people.
By 2010 it is
estimated that advertisers will spend over $US2 billion on social
networks in the US alone. The killer application is video based
communication, nearly half of which is produced by users themselves.
Locally the trend is gathering momentum. Thousands of New Zealanders are
logging on daily to sites including MySpace, YouTube, Bebo, Facebook,
LinkedIn and Google’s orkut. New Zealand on-air is funding productions
made specifically for the Internet, TVNZ launched its own channel on
YouTube, regurgitating edited fragments from popular local shows
alongside news, footage of Kiwi musicians, film trailers, historic
television clips and dozens of videos of the haka and bungy jumpers.
New Zealand’s best known YouTube contributor Lonelygirl15, Tauranga-born
actress Jessica Lee Rose, featured on the cover of Time magazine
after achieving 7.7 million viewers on her channel; remaining popular,
even after it was discovered she acting in a made-for-the-Internet
MySpace launched a
New Zealand focused site in February 2007,
kicking off with about 300,000 Kiwi members and a
live concert from Kiwi band Evermore.
MySpace had more
than 60 million users worldwide and was credited with launching the
careers of a number of top bands. About half a million Kiwis used
MySpace and the interest was escalating. Rival
also launched a local channel in October highlighting homepages and
videos relevant to the local market.
Telecom’s Xtra had partnered with Microsoft to provide content and
online services for its default home page and web portal back in 2002.
It gave its high ranking site a complete make-over earlier this year
after entering a new relationship with Yahoo!7, a joint venture with
Seven Network, to become more aligned with the new social networking
promised an enhanced range of news, sport, weather and messaging
services plus online photo sharing, local news, Internet radio and
enhanced spam and virus protection. Despite the opening day freak out in
August when some people lost email access for up to a week, the
Yahoo!Xtra Bubble site soon stabilised as an exclusive VIP area for
Telecom’s 600,000 Internet customers.
Among the premium services is a personalised home page with customisable
news, entertainment and information from a choice of over 300,000
content sources, email storage, online photo storage and sharing with
Flickr Pro, a 1Gb online briefcase and an all-in-one free security
suite, featuring Norton AntiVirus. Clearly Xtra was seeking to
differentiate and build online loyalty.
Networking websites had a 270 percent increase in visitors worldwide
during the 2006-2007 year, according to Comscore. Over the year to June
2007 MySpace remained top of the social networking heap with 114 million
unique visitors, up 72 percent on the previous year. However Facebook,
was catching up with 52 million unique visitors, up 270 percent. In
terms of sheer growth though, Bebo which had a strong following in New
Zealand, had 18 million unique visitors, up 172 percent.
Social networking sites made up four of the 20 top websites New
Zealanders visited in August 2007 according to Hitwise; Bebo was in
fourth place, MySpace at 10th, Facebook 12th and
Friendster at 20th. Facebook’s share of website visits
increased by 240 percent between May 2007 and August, possibly due to
the school holidays, overtaking MySpace for the first time.
While the social networking trend was clearly achieving mass market
momentum there were also concerns about its impact on the youth
community, as new forms of social snobbery and bullying came to the
fore. Youth were virtually setting themselves up in a branding exercise
and judging each other based on the number of ‘friends’ they could
You could get rejected or gain a great ego in cyberspace but you still
had to deal with the emotions down on terra firma. Mostly there was
genuine collaboration but there was also a wild side; unpleasant or
invasive images could be posted on sites and some were pushing the
boundaries with crazy exploits, bonnet surfing and shock antics.
Low res videos published on public sites were also a worry. Bashings
were being filmed and posted, speedsters clocking up ridiculous speeds
on the open road and filming it were exposed online, and even thieves
and a murder were being outed on the web.
Security firm Sophos conducted an online survey to try and understand
how seriously users took the strict privacy settings on social
networking sites and was surprised to discover most were are all too
willing to accept strangers as friends.
The survey found
40 percent of Facebook users would accept a "friend request" from a
complete stranger, and more than three quarters revealed their date of
birth, address and information about their education or employer. Some
exposed complete CVs and even their mother's maiden name, a detail often
used by banks and various online services to help users retrieve
head of technology, Paul Ducklin, warned personal details on social
networking sites could be used maliciously by thieves to impersonate the
user, after which they could obtain passwords for online accounts and
access to private computer networks. While both Facebook and MySpace
allowed users to restrict profiles to approved ‘friends’, the general
definition of a friend was too loose, and site users were too quick to
in a more elaborate form of social networking Second Life has staked out
some serious virtual real estate where you can create your own avatar,
and complete with fashion accessories and travel arrangements, explore
several online worlds . In October 2007 there were nine million
residents and millions of literal dollars being transacted to buy Second
Life’s Linden dollars every month.
The Anglican Church runs meetings in Second Life and among many others
Kiwis, the All Blacks, the Mongrel Mob and real estate company Harcourts
have established a presence there. IBM even has sales avatars servicing
customers in New Zealand.
true diversity of the Internet was being explored and the power of the
consumer was being flexed, once word gets out about something hot it can
rapidly reach what is known as ‘tipping point’ with a wave of online
behaviour propelling a new product or service into the limelight or
sending a former unknown artist up the pop charts.