Will 2008 be the year that the Web 2.0 bubble finally bursts? As more and more Web start-ups try to swim with the tide, by creating “cool” sites with double oo’s (Orgoo, Qoop, Faroo, etc.) or dropping vowels (flickr, locr, streakr, pluggd, etc.) the users grow increasingly tired of too much social networking.
Gary Marshall calls Second Life “a computer game with all the game bits taken out, a pretend place where pretend people with pretend names use pretend money to buy pretend clothes in pretend shops while dodging pretend penises”. The population consist largely of vain “been there – done that” users, ready to move on to the next cool thing. And this is true for many Web 2.0 sites.
So, let’s look back at Web 2.0. What did it give to us and to education in particular? What were the emerging flaws?
The most positive and lasting effect of social connectivity on the Web was in my view blogging. Blogging enriched the information spectrum dramatically. A revolution in Web publishing. It allowed ordinary users with no HTML knowledge to express themselves online to a world-wide audience. This has had excellent implications on online education, enabling learners to keep diaries and share opinions. Blogs also became an integral part of e-portfolios, where learners document and reflect their progress. In the wider context, blogging had an equally revolutionary impact on online journalism with the effect that news publishers had to rebuild their business models almost from scratch.
Increased online collaboration like Google docs and photo sharing are another positive effect which I presume to last for a long time. There is still potential to grow in the area of online applications. Photo editing (e.g. Fotoflexer, Pixenate) or video cutting (VirtualCuttingMachine, YouTube-Remixer, Flektor) are realistic competitors to expensive client software.
Now to the critical flaws of Web 2.0: Social Networking did not deliver on most of its promisses and remains an illusion. Getting to know new people on the Web proved to be a fake experience, because it got increasingly frustrating (and sometimes even dangerous) to communicate with strangers who were not what they pretended to be, or were bougth by some company to sell you stuff you didn’t want. The good intentions by developers to enable open and free communication the likes of “skype me” or being contacted by anyone on MS Messenger, quickly turned into a nuisance and needed to be switched off for good. The odd success story that someone found the partner for life on Facebook I see as equally fake, cause when you are trying to date 57 million people, there’s bound to be someone to match. If you are that desperate why not use the online dating agencies and marriage bureaus, who would probably have an even higher success rate to show off. The downside of intrusiveness and fishing for identities which got even worse with the convenience to upload your entire address book did do social networking more harm than good.
So where’s the benefit of social networking when you’re left with a bunch of “friends” in your contacts list who you’re in touch with by e-mail or blog anyhow? I’ve linked to the same people in about fifteen different social sites. I’ve certainly reached my limit and am not accepting more invitations to new sites. I am also not terribly interested in adding another dozen of dead connections just to show how popular I am. Long term this is a dead end!