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What YouTube's 'Charlie bit my finger' tells us about Web 2.0

Our hunger to create, share, and talk is fueling a media revolution.

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Have you seen "Charlie bit my finger – again!"? Well, about 53 million people have, and it hasn't been on a big screen anywhere.

This movie has had no marketing, no trailer, no production expenses, and certainly no highly paid actors. Instead it followed a simple formula: Toddlers + Laughter + YouTube = Huge Traffic.

But here's the really interesting part: Tens of thousands of people who saw this clip did more than just smile and surf on.

They "mashed" it up with other media ("Charlie Bit Sarah Palin"), created a song about it ("Charlie bit my finger – The Musical"), created their own versions ("Shoshi bit my finger … again!"), posted their own comments, shared it with friends, or otherwise interacted with the original clip.

This is the world of Web 2.0. It is the evolution of Web platforms that are supporting millions of simultaneously connected global conversations. And it promotes the idea that a community is more powerful than an individual.

The point of this new media landscape is to create something and share it with the world. When we post anything to the Web, we are begging for a conversation. We want to be ridiculed, called out, accepted, talked about, linked to, and, most important, not ignored.

It's easy to criticize the rise of participatory social media as a giant waste of time. And it's true that a fair amount of what's being created is adolescent. But that criticism misses the point: This trend is setting the stage for greater long-term engagement. It's an indicator that people are working to find new ways to collaborate and to be part of something larger than they are individually. The sheer immensity of the participation is the story.

Think about where the Internet was just a decade ago. Getting online was a chore. News sites were updated just once or twice a day. That was the static world of Web 1.0. Ironically, that platform emerged from the government's desire to promote collaboration among researchers and scientists, yet at the outset, it seemed best suited for e-commerce.

Today the Web landscape is dominated by blogs, wikis, and social networks. It is finally fulfilling its original promise of interaction, engagement, collaboration, and conversation. We are living through a media revolution that is set to explode this political season.

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