Web 2.0 and social media – what’s the difference?
Dave Briggs posted some thoughts over the weekend trying to explain what the terms web 2.0 and social media actually mean, and how they complement each other. He also published a neat little diagram supporting his ideas:
I must confess I’ve been using that diagram for quite a few months, and without attribution because I forgot where I’d picked it up from. Meeting up with Dave last week I quickly realised my mistake! In the meantime I’ve found it really useful giving presentations and in conversation as it rather neatly delineates the technology developments driving changes online, and the user-generated content that together drive ‘social media’.
My take is that social media, web 2.0 and related labels are just well devised media inventions created to generate momentum for an industry that was reeling from the dot com meltdown of the early millennium. The underlying programming languages and technology, functionality, aspirations etc haven’t really changed.
Sure, they’ve matured and developed, but that would be expected in any industry – especially a tech industry. What the the basket of things that come under the umbrella of ‘social media’ do do though is bring us closer to the original vision of the web as described by Tim Berners-Lee in the early 90’s – a ‘read-write’ web where it is as easy for users to contribute and participate as it was to consume.
Its becoming progressively easier for users to create, publish and or share content. That is one of the two key defining characteristics and in Dave’s diagram that is the social media bit.
So creating and sharing content are crucial – that’s the essence of social media. But something equally important is the methods that allow that content to be published, shared, and consumed. These are the enablers that Dave describes as web 2.0.
These definitions are really for me what it is about – the development of technologies that allow people to share and be active online, allowing them to be creators and collaborators as well as consumers.
But there are some developments in the market that have hastened the adoption of social media. Here are the four that spring to mind:
- The technology in our homes, on our desktops, on our laps and now in our hands has improved dramatically. This makes it much easier for users to crop photos, edit video, mix music etc.
- Improved speed of connection – we’ve gone from slow dial-up, through ISDN and early fixed broadband, to the point where wifi is so ubiquitous that not only is it installed in many homes but increasingly in a large number of towns and cities(sometimes at a cost, sometimes free). Free municipal public wifi is probably not that far ahead.
- The scale of connectivity in the home and the workplace – many businesses and public spaces like libraries have broadband connectivity. In the UK, latest figures show almost 15 million households in the country had a home internet connection – that’s 61% of households. Of those 84% have a broadband connection. Although overall home connections are slowing, the percentage that are broadband is increasing fast.
- Generational change – the rise of the so-called digital native. These people have grown up around the internet, its for them they are growing up and will have expectations about interacting with business and the public sector based on their experience.
So, to recap, I don’t think the underlying technologies of the internet have really changed, merely matured. What is different is the ease in which users can participate and collaborate, as well as the developments in creation and delivery technology.
And why are these distinctions important? In my day to day dealings with people, there is still a mystique about all this ‘social media’ stuff. Dave’s diagram brings some clarity to explaining how technology + users (content creators) = community and collaboration.