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Home > Culture and Society

Worldwide Whatever

3 June 2006


By reading this, you are using a means of electronic communication whereby information is passed from one computer to another, commonly known as 'the Internet'. You find yourself in the happy, somewhat virtuous position of riding on the cutting edge of modern technology to which millions still do not have access.

This assumes, of course, that you are reading this on a computer screen, and not on paper after a so-called friend printed this particular high-quality newsletter off for you because you don't 'do' the Internet. If this is the case: fuck off you Luddite, we don't want your type around here.

Now that we've sorted out the hangers-on and the peasantry, the rest of us had better be prepared to shuffle our feet in an embarrassed silence, as it turns out that we are all using last year's technology. Yes, it came as an enormous surprise to us as well, but it appears that they launched Web 2.0 and didn't tell us until a couple of weeks ago. We're pretty good at blagging into launch parties, but the geeks certainly kept this one quiet.

But not anymore. Judging by the sheer number of events, conferences and forums in recent weeks, at which we have found ourselves standing at the back, nodding sagely and necking the free booze, we find that Web 2.0 appears to be merely a means to make people who invent terms like 'Web 2.0' hold conferences about it and feel very, very smug that they know something the rest of us don't. They also appear to know how to make shedloads of money out of it. How convenient.

You'll be pleased to hear, then, that your good friends at TFT have managed, with the aid of incredibly expensive crap-cutting and nub-finding tools, to cut the crap and get to the nub of what this Web 2.0 malarkey is actually all about. We've stripped away all the technobabble and dreadful over-excitement, and have beaten down the wide-eyed acolytes begging us to join their online wiki project, where they can use Web 2.0 to discuss the brave new world of Web 2.0.

And in a nutshell, it is this: The Internet. With knobs on. It's blogging, wikis, and, God help the Oxford Dictionary, podcasts. As brave, brave Sir Robin commented, 'I've soiled me armour.'

We know how you feel. We feel cheated too. Frankly, the whole Internetty world's gone mad for this stuff, and frankly, it's the same old shite that we had before. If we want to get technical about it, and I know that, yes, there's some of you out there who get a kick out of this kind of thing, the whole Web 2.0 concept does not rely on anything that's actually new; rather it's more simply using the Internet differently. 'It's not a lecture,' we've heard God knows how many times in the last month, 'it's a dialogue.'

Discovering whole news ways of making money from the Internet, corporations have discovered, rather late in the day, that actually talking to your customers, and heaven, letting them talk back, might actually be a good thing, all told. They've discovered something individual web users have known for years - that you can actually hold a pretty decent online conversation with somebody if you have the right applications, and after a while you might actually get to know and trust them. Then, you might even fly halfway round the world and have sex with them, before returning home to your wife and an uncertain future on the sofa. Quite how this engagement with customers has evaded the notice of companies which exist, by and large to sell things to people, for so long is a bit of a mystery to us, but then, they were the same people who based a dotcom boom on the number of click-throughs they expected from an Ask Jeeves banner, not realising that number was, in fact, three.

There are enormous communities out there, all talking to each other, uploading dodgy mp3s and generally making themselves available to spend what economists term 'shitloads of readies'. The trick is to sell to them without them noticing.

You don't, then, spend over 100m buying up the entire database that is Friends Reunited - which jumped the shark's sparsely-attended school reunion several years ago - and expect to see your money back any time soon. Or ever. And you certainly don't spend several times that sum by trying to buy yourself a ready-made web empire, because as soon as you try to market MySpace by Murdoch, they'll all bugger off and set up somewhere less tainted by corporate murk.

Web users - and hey, we're talking about you fine, fine people who we'd like to direct to the many quality products available through our homepage - aren't stupid. You trust Amazon reviews more than those from a company's PR puff site, because they're written by real people. Web users can spot an Astroturf site a mile off, and once they're found out, Google never lies. Unless you're in China. All you, noble TFT reader, need to do is cut through the noise and link to the quality stuff. Like us, for example.

So, by reading this, you've successfully installed Web 2.0. Well done. There is no need to reboot your machine.

We're off to write our blog now.

Mood: Depressed.

Listening to: Linkin Park.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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