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Analysis: the future of user-generated content

What can you do for the internet?

User-generated content is dramatically changing the way people consume the media. Rather than being fed content by traditional broadcasters, computer users are getting in on the act by producing their own videos and making them freely available online.

65,000 videos are being posted on YouTube every day. And for those that think their magnum opus may get lost in the YouTube crowd, other sites have sprung up to allow you to share you videos with the world.

Blogs covering anything you can possibly think of continue to thrive. More than 52 million are posted every day and, now the web's ability to give everyone a voice has been realised, we expect yet more avenues to be explored in ever more innovative ways.

However, over the next few years the crossover of traditional journalism and blogging will become more formalised, according to Jay Rosen, an associate professor of journalism at New York University. He says amateur and professional journalists will work together to produce something greater than either could produce separately. 'Bloggers are good at filtering and organising information," he says. 'Sometimes they get involved in [reporting on] things, but often it's accidental. They're collating what's out there."

In April, he will launch a site called NewAssignment.net, which will combine the efforts of amateurs and professionals. Members will suggest, debate and research stories that professional reporters will complete.

MySpace grows up

But blogs and videos aren't the only things that will encourage people to establish a presence online. Social-networking sites are already providing the means for people to exchange opinions. You can expect the importance of these tools to grow.

The motivation to create content and express opinions on public forums is central to the next-generation internet. Even websites targeted at middle-aged business professionals are keeping an eye on this trend. Some publishers believe that those that grow up using sites such as MySpace will expect that functionality to be integrated into the sites they use when they become business leaders themselves in 10 or 20 years time. But where now most people express opinions from their home PC, some services plan to go mobile. YouTube is already doing this in the US, with subscribers to Verizon's VCast service able to upload videos to YouTube from their handsets. Moblr launched a service for UK users in December.

'It's the immediacy of the service that our users like," says Jérome Leger, commercial director and co-founder of Moblr. 'They can be walking down the street one minute, see a celebrity or a funny scene, film it and within seconds publish it online for others to view."

But the potential for mobile Web 2.0 goes much further than quirky clips. Some analysts are talking about integrating social-networking tools and GPS in the next generation of handsets.

Imagine going to town on a Saturday afternoon and being notified by your handset that a friend with a GPS-enabled handset is nearby. Like many aspects of the next-generation internet, it seems far fetched. But so did ubiquitous broadband access and online office suites 10 years ago.

Analysis: the future of the internet


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