The Advent of Web 2.0

In David Beer’s response article, we start seeing somewhat of an inverted pyramid in terms of defining social networks. Whereas Boyd and Ellison attempted to create a broad definition that could encompass the range of social network sites that existed at the time of their published article, Beer suggests that there is a “need to classify” (Beer 1). The predominance of Facebook has forced many other social network sites to become niche or purposeless. According to Beer, we should be moving more towards a  “differentiated classifications of online cultures and not away from them” (Beer 1). Beer goes into more detail as he explores how social networks are giving advertisers more knowledge about users and using that to their advantage. This is a big aspect of the paradigm shift to Web 2.0.Many individuals have deferring opinions on “Web 2.0” being the official term to describe the Internet today. It was coined in 2004 because of the O’Reilly Media web conference to describe the shift that the internet was experiencing from information centric to user-centric and collaboration. No where is this more relevant than through Social Media. Information is created or shared, consumed and collaborated on by networks of people. These networks differentiate from one another, however, and the information shared will not be the same. I should not share the same information on Linkedin (for business) as I would on Pininterest (for entertainment). So I agree with Beer when he says we need a more clear cut definition that satisfies that cultural shift.

There is another fascinating point that Beer brings up. He writes that “we might even want to think if there is such a thing as online and offline in the context of social Network Site (SNS)” (Beer 1). In this day and age, social networks have permeated society and integrated themselves in the mundane ways people live and interact with each other. “Facebook me” has become accepted vernacular and “tweets” are having increasing importance in our news. For many people, Facebook is the internet and they spend hours on it interacting with others, sharing photos, statuses, and views, as is evident in the online article, “Why I have Facebook Fatigue.” This interaction can happen in both social and professional contexts.

Let us also not forget about how the mobile industry is now restructuring social media. Many people are now accessing social networks on their smartphones, many having their own native apps like Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. What’s really interesting is that mobile is responsible for the rise of many more SNS that actually solely operate on smartphones and do not have a web presence such as Instagram (photosharing), Viddy (video sharing) and Path (web journaling). We can now take our SNS with us where ever we go. The line between offline life and online life is becoming increasingly blurred.

Mobile is one aspect of Beer’s article that I would add, given that the majority of Americans will have either a smartphone or a tablet in the next few years. About 65% will have a smart device by the year 2015 according to research firm In-Stat (cnet 1). Given that statistic, mobile is also an aspect that scholars should study and observe because it may very well represent another paradigm shift in how people communicate with and through technology and the web. Especially since Facebook alone as over 800 million active users and more than 50% of those active users log on to Facebook in any given day, especially through their smartphones (digital stats). Facebook as well as smartphones apps, has become part of life for many people, so integrated into our daily routine that it almost seems natural. What does this mean for the average person?

Even though Beer’s article was a critique of Boyd and Ellison’s writing, I tend to want to agree with both parties. Boyd and Ellison tried to explain that when individuals go on SNS, it is to primarily to keep up to date with family and friends that they already know. It is not for meeting new people, which is what “networking” entails. But Beer says that we have progressed since our Friendster days and moved into a world where networking can be the reality and purpose for many social networks, including Facebook and Twitter. People are meeting new people on SNS all the time and oftentimes, those people become offline friendships and relationships. Pre-existing notions of SNS do not become outdated, they evolve.