How would you define Web 2.0? Wikipedia does a pretty good job of explaining it, but why use words alone to explain such a complex idea, when you can show-and-tell? Try this: Flip open just about any North American newspaper to the comics page... then take a look at Dilbert.com.
The companion website to Dilbert, Scott Adams' widely syndicated cartoon chronicle of office politics, has just relaunched in Web 2.0 style. And this is not simply a cosmetic change or a new website design -- the site has embraced a whole new approach to the relationship between content creator and reader.
Early Internet looked a lot like the traditional Print Media...
Going online, back in 1995, took Dilbert from a commodity packaged in the morning newspaper to more or less the equivalent in a digital form. Like the rest of the "old style" Internet, the model for web publishing was the print tradition -- the publisher presented the content, and the reader absorbed it.
Although feedback features were soon added -- Evaluate Scott Adams' Latest Idea, for example -- the main benefit of a website in those early Internet days lay in reaching a wider audience. To put original content online, however, was to fling open the doors to copyright violation and intellectual property theft.
In the print world, readers who wanted to share a comic strip would clip it out and pin it to their cubicle wall, perhaps photocopying or faxing it to a fairly limited number of friends. Suddenly, it became a simple matter for people to copy Dilbert images for their own use, to distribute them widely by email, even to post the cartoons on their own websites.
The creator of the content got very little benefit from the illicit distribution of his work so it was necessary to restrict the amount of free content on the site -- only 30 days' worth of cartoon strips were available to readers through the site archives.
The Web 2.0 Makeover...
The just-launched Web 2.0 model moves Dilbert.com readers from passive consumers to active participants -- and that changes everything.
Mashups let readers take part in the creative process, adding their own text to Dilbert cartoons, showing off the results to the internet. Widgets make it one-click easy for readers to bookmark, share, and even re-publish the cartoons on their own sites or social profile pages. An integrated blog and membership area lets users connect directly with the cartoonist and each other, while a new RSS feed delivers Dilbert by email or to feedreaders.
One of the most significant signals of change, to me, is the expanded amount of content that's available. Already, with the new site still a beta work-in-progress, the searchable archive holds comic strips stretching back 7 years.
The fans get more of what they want. The cartoonist gets valuable, detailed, immediate feedback on his work far beyond what's possible with traditional print or web publishing. The cartoon reaches a wider audience, and the site actively engages that audience in a way that builds brand loyalty. And all of that raises the website's profile, earns new fans, enhances the market value of Dilbert as a commodity, and builds a strong market for as a springboard for the print anthlogies, calendars, games, animations, television programming, an endless array of spin-off products and other opportunities.
Instead of rationing the content, this Web 2.0 incarnation of
Dilbert.com is actively encouraging Adams' fans to use his cartoons as
they've been doing or wanting to do all along -- with one key
As Scott Adams told Webware's
Daniel Terdiman, "People already alter Dilbert strips and distribute
them. If we make it easy and legal to do so, and drive more traffic to
Dilbert.com in the process, everyone wins."
And that, I'd say, is the essence of a Web 2.0 outlook.
What do you think?
What says "Web 2.0" to you? What else have you seen happening around the Internet, for good or otherwise, as established websites get a user-centred facelift?
Feel free to wade in, in the comments below, and share a link if you've got an interesting example of Web 2.0 in action!