It’s finally time for a roundup of the social networks that marked the evolution to Web 2.0 and radically shaped the Internet with new services and applications.
According to latest news, Twitter is reported to have overrun MySpace by gaining the 3rd position in the ranking of the most popular social network sites, leaded by Facebook and Windows Live in undisputed 2nd place.
This is not simply competition in a rapidly moving market, but the result of a more general trend in the transformation of the Internet.
The overcome of Web 2.0 has been the crucial point of a progressive expansion of the world wide web: as long as networks and bandwith kept growing, other services such as Usenet newsgroups and IRC chat (based on specific technologies and protocols) were cannibalized.
On the other hand, this undoubtedly encouraged a huge mass of new users to sign in: even the Facebook’s secret recipe relied after all on standardization, as this factor already constituted the formula for success of blogging.
The Facebook user model provides above all an online ID, in a common and almost fixed framework, at least visually, so tight to retain the range of individual variations within a strong reference to context.
Goal reached? The spirit of e-books, that has been animating fairs, debates, fantasies and assumptions since several years, is now taking shape in concrete objects, with a serious chance to enter into common usage.
We are already witnessing a primitive, almost ideological, “standards war” between the iPad and Amazon’s Kindle, about which will likely become the reference device.
Without dwelling too much on the technical differences, it appears however at first sight that the recent Apple product is designed to perform several functions, where the reading has certainly taken on primary importance, but on the other hand it results to be towed by the other multiple uses.
As emphasized by Gino Roncaglia, author of an essay on the electronic book, the iPad found its killer application in reading; on the opposite, when considering dedicated and exclusive use patterns, each accessory is a potentially added value. In this sense, the iPad can be defined as a “bridge product”, in a prospect much broader than the limited distinction between tablet and laptop, smartphone and e-reader, and so on.
Any difficulties concerning construction details, stability of applications and even usability issues, which draw attention on magazines and websites, may be overshadowed.
The real limits are somewhere else: first, there is still no effective yield on the physical characteristics of the object-book, despite the rapid development of touch screens and the electronic ink, that are expected to match the resolutions of press soon.
I’m not referring to eyestrain, or some nostalgia of the page flip, to the weight and the smell of paper, or the pleasure of collections: I mean the surplus outline frame that expand and complete the text. The development of these elements, called “paratext” by experts, does not go hand in hand with the progress of formats: the tools designed to mark and highlight, note and comment the pages, can be further enhanced and made more agreeable, whereas attention for the standard is still only marginal.
Since July 2010, the Bibliotheque Nationale de France has been delivering more than 1,400 book scans in the huge Wikimedia Commons archive.
Even without an official partnership, the Studio Harcourt, widely known for celebrities portraits and recognized by Roland Barthes among his Mythologies, has started to upload its material.
These are only the latest institutions that have chosen to distribute its assets without the restrictions of copyright.
The priceless collections of Bundesarchiv, the German Federal Archive, the Deutsche Fotothek and Tropenmuseum, further demonstrate a full understanding of the free sharing of knowledge.
Similarly, the Flickr Commons project no longer includes only North American universities and libraries.
Such initiatives not only offer a valuable contribution to the documentation of a global memory through some of the world’s most important websites, but also a free and immediate access to a boundless repository available to anyone engaging in media production.