Much digital ink has been spent trying to explain the likes of Twitter and Twine. Often, they are characterized as the poster children of the Web 2.0 trend. Pundits wonder if they represent a new, democratized broadcast platform. Others imagine that they serve as the next-generation CRM tool. And skeptics believe we'll quickly dispense with these tech toys once the novelty is over.
Sure, there's an almost irrational exuberance in media's descriptions of these technologies -- either the media is very easily seduced when it comes to new technology (not a hard argument to make) or it senses these technologies represent an important trend taking shape beyond the current web 2.0 craze.
I come down on the side of the latter opinion. These technologies do represent something different but I couldn't articulate what that was until I had a recent conversation with some colleagues about Twine.
I explained I like Twine, which is like a version of Stumbleupon but with a big difference: The "results" are generated by people who you can identify and interact with. Twine is strengthened, enhanced and expanded by real people, creating a "search community" that becomes more relevant and trusted over time. The name says it all.
Twitter matters for the same reason. You can follow people whose opinion you trust. Or, you can share with your "followers" (aka your trusted community) what you think is useful, important, trusted. I attribute Twitter's popularity to the media friendly way reporters can get bite-sized updates from their "trusted sources," which is probably one reason why the Twitter scent carried so far and wide. Don't let the hype around Twitter obscure the value of this technology -- it is a means to receive or broadcast personal, relevant and, yes, trusted information.
And that's the "something different" I detect in these technologies: They revolve around trust. In today's Web 2.0 world, if "trust" comes up at all, it is usually thought of as a risk-mitigation factor, as in: "I need to be sure I can trust this person trying to friend me because I don't want to get scammed." But for this new web to materialize, trust will have to be transformed from a risk-mitigation attribute to a key driver for optimizing our personal, web experience. In essence, the next-gen web hinges on the next-gen kind of trust -- one that is a proactive, positive part of the web experience.
When thought of in this light, it becomes clear that the likes of Twitter, Twine and the many other forms of communities (from forums to bloggers to chat rooms) lies at the heart of how the next-gen web will accomplish its charter. Communities are attractive because they create trust through relevancy. Twitter and Twine provide a community-based filter to help sort through the deluge of data (after all, there are only so many "OMG, check this URL out" e-mails we can sort through). Forums provide a different kind of trust by letting users share experiences. And the sharp rise of bloggers' influence in the social-media celeb heap is proof of their power to create trusted communities.
As more and more people become more dependent on the internet, the community creation groundswell is one indication of how people are imaginatively and proactively filling the "trust gaps" (a phrase I gratefully attribute to Melih Abdulhayoglu, CEO of Comodo). Twitter and Twine are variations of trusted communities and represent people's desire to create a personal, relevant web that will, increasingly, be a function of how people are able to create trust in their ever widening web world. They are the building blocks of the next-gen web -- the Trusted Web.
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Judy Shapiro is senior VP at Paltalk and has held senior marketing positions at Comodo, Computer Associates, Lucent Technologies, AT&T and Bell Labs. Her blog, Trench Wars, provides insights on how to create business value on the internet.