The social revolution that conquered the internet

The social revolution that conquered the internet

By Iain S Bruce, Technology Editor / Sunday Herald
Dec. 30, 2007 

Deluged
by billboards, television advertisements and an apparently limitless
arsenal of marketing hype, you might imagine that the launch of Apple’s
iPhone, pictured, stands head and shoulders above the rest as the most
significant technology event of 2007, but you’d be wrong. The iconic
mobile handset may well have been a runaway consumer success, but the
undoubted heavyweight champion of the year has been web 2.0.

Significance is a difficult thing to measure, but the story that’s
really changed the world over the last 12 months has been the rise of a
raft of web applications demonstrating just how interactive the
internet can be. Impacting upon everything from our leisure time to our
job prospects, in 2007 social-networking sites like Facebook, MySpace
and Bebo established themselves as billion-dollar businesses nobody can
afford to ignore.

Whereas Steve Jobs’s iPhone took old technologies, gave them a
polish and packaged them in pleasing form, the social-networking
phenomenon took the new ideas behind web 2.0 and put them through their
paces.

The numbers for Facebook alone speak for themselves. Launched from a
college dorm room in 2004, the site now claims to have 59 million
active users worldwide. With it rapidly becoming a major medium in its
own right, earlier this year Microsoft paid a reported $240 million for
a 1.6% slice of the social-networking business, a deal which values the
company at $15 billion.

The significance of social networking is not all about money,
however. It has proved to be the killer application that’s convinced
the wider public that there may be something to this internet thing
after all.

Rather than simply looking at the web, we increasingly use it to
actually do things. With the developer community now fully warmed to
the potential of web 2.0, expect an avalanche of new ideas in the
months ahead.

No mention of the gathering web 2.0 revolution can be complete,
however, without delving into the world of online gaming, which used
2007 equally constructively. Microsoft’s Xbox Live platform now boasts
some eight million paying customers and the game which did much to add
the million new punters said to have signed up since August – Halo 3 –
grossed $170m on its first day of sale.

In Scotland, the big e-business news of the year was the completion
of bigmouthmedia’s £60 million merger with German company Global Media.
Turning the Edinburgh-based firm into Europe’s largest digital
marketing agency overnight, and netting founder Steve Leach a personal
fortune, the deal served as confirmation to many that not only is the
internet sector back on track, but also that you can build a market
leader from Scotland.

Not everyone has had such a great year. Launched as a much heralded
and long-awaited next generation operating system, Microsoft’s Vista
didn’t even made the top three stories of the year.

This is unlikely to bother the Redmond giant too much, however. The
migration of the Windows-based computing world to its latest operating
system version was always going to be an incremental process and the
lack of headlines may be just what it wanted this Christmas.

The company has rarely been short on controversy. Perhaps a short
spell out of the limelight is just what it needed to pause and catch
its breath …

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