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The Rising Subjective Web

December 26, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Web 2.0 has been characterized as a period in which a more social utilization of the internet became popular. Unlike Web 1.0 when websites were geared to individual experiences this new period is illustrated by the various forms of social networks which seek to connect individuals on the basis of varied common bonds. A major selling point of Web 2.0 is the commercial implications that this new level of socialization brings about. Unlike Web 1.o where an individual in the market utilized the internet for access to objective data (Government testing results) or subjective data from media figures (Consumer review journalists), the consumer of Web 2.0 utilizes the net to see what product a friend purchased or to gather feedback on a product on the basis of the social network. The new era of internet use is largely defined by this adjustment to use: transitioning into a paradigm where the network of the web functions less as a gateway to information and more as a network breaking down the physical distances of other networks and largely eliminating factors that otherwise kept these individuals separated.

The rise of a subjective web in which the opinions of members of a social network are more influential than expert opinion or “objective” data has many economic and cultural implications. Previous iterations of technology have indirectly fragmented consumers by taking them away from the social networks that defined previous generations. As Tim Wu’s The Master Switch illustrates, cable television was largely designed to appeal to niche markets. Similarly the telephone was a technology utilized by an individual to connect to another individual- group calling existed but this network ability was expensive and more exclusionary to participants. The internet is unique in many ways but perhaps the largest dynamic is this ability to create a strong social bond between individuals on so many levels.

If the subjective web continues to expand we will see a new form of consumer whose paradigm in the market place is radically different from previous forms. The new consumer will enter the market with the opinions of the social network as the major driving force. In a sense, a Web 2.0 consumer enters the market place with an invisible sphere or influences who will instruct and assist the individual’s motives. No longer will a sales person function as the major guide to a product. Web 2.0 shifts market place expertise from those who own and run the market and delivers it into the consumer hands. A smarter customer can be more critical and careful and base decisions of factors disparate from the issues of quality. In a subjective web there are new forms of expertise- less focused on quality and more on a product’s ability to gain traction in a social network. Herein lies a danger and potential for disaster.

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