Internet has, over time, become the most accessible means of expression for individuals, meaning the likes of you and me. While the early version was designed for the army, computer experts and super geeks, web 2.0 allows everyone and his dog (pretty much) to express their views and put online posts, music, photos and even video games, via social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter, etc) blogs, forums, wiki and other social platforms like YouTube and Myspace. This, mainly, explains its amazing growth. How did we tell the world, pre-web 2.0, that we were cultured and intelligent, with passions, bold opinions and loads of friends? Only those around us could share the secret. Obviously, UGC is, by its very nature, a reflection of who we individuals are, our strengths and weaknesses. As such, it is not yet a guarantee of quality – far from it. But we shouldn’t complain, as the whole economic model of web 2.0 is built on UGC. In practice, UGC gives online access free of charge to many kinds of content such as posts, photos and music, as these are created by individuals for next to no cost (apart from the costs of hosting and site maintenance). Blogs, most websites and social networks are freely accessible. Most of the individuals creating content do so for nothing, though some of them manage to make their content pay by attracting enough visitors to their website or blog to be able to host advertising. True, some websites, blogs or professional networks seek to charge their visitors for what they claim is “qualified” content, but for the present, they are in the minority. Internet users are not in the habit of reaching for their wallets in order to access web content – it simply goes against nature. Given its production capacity and ultra-competitive costs, it’s no wonder that UGC has caused panic in the media world. Journalists were fearful at the start, but then regained confidence by condemning everything that was wrong with UGC (its degrading, downmarket content, and so on). Some of them, traitors or visionaries, depending on your point of view, have now been seduced by UGC into starting their own blogs, finding a whole new outlet and becoming addicted in the process, risking their mental health and family life for our greater enjoyment: see www.johannhari.com
for some cutting edge international journalism — further proof that UGC has some of the best to offer as well as the worst.