The beating heart of the internet? Social connections

I’ve long been a big fan of the Pew Internet & American Life Project, if “fan” is the right word to use for an independent, non-profit research organization. I’m always eager to see a new Pew report or presentation released.

Last week they published “Riding the Waves of ‘Web 2.0’” which “provides a short history of the phrase, along with new traffic data . . . to help frame the discussion.”

This is the kind of data the Pew/Internet project has been collecting:

Pew Chart

Really helps to step back and see an emerging phenomenon not yet dominant. They also go on to analyze some of the usage data (Wikipedia users) from a demographic perspective, noting (surprised, anyone?) that younger users dominate “Web 2.0” applications (even more so than other Internet usage).
Highlights from the report, which is well worth reading in its entirety, include:

  • the point that while the wikipedia entry on Web 2.0 is “one of the richest sources of information on the term,” the Encarta online version “doesn’t yet have a Web 2.0 entry”
  • This phrase: “This is the nature of the conceptual beast in the digital age, and one of the most telling examples of what Web 2.0 applications do: They replace the authoritative heft of traditional institutions with the surging wisdom of crowds”
  • And this one: “Despite all the commotion over collaboration, participation and emancipation from static information, remnants of the linoleum-like Web 1.0 user experience still lie beneath the colorful rug of web redux”
  • And finally, my favorite: “Whatever language we use to describe it, the beating heart of the internet has always been its ability to leverage our social connections”

Indeed, this is what the Internet has always been about, for me – increasing my ability to connect with people all over the world, share (and contest) ideas, and interact.