Sharing has become a common phenomenon that has long surpassed the “nerd” stage.
Web content is shared in a way and with a volume we have never seen before. Our grandparents watch YouTube or Vimeo videos as much as we do. We share photographs on Flickr, important news items on Digg, and interesting websites on Diigo. With just a few mouse clicks, we place our stuff in an endless display.
As said, this sharing is being done on an enormous scale: more than 1 billion unique users visit YouTube each month, and daily, close to 1.5 million photographs are uploaded to Flickr. Do you think that is a lot? Instagram claims they have over 40 million photo uploads per day!
Blog sites – hundreds of millions of them – tell personal stories, share experiences, or express opinions of their bloggers. Corporate blogs, weblogs where companies post their stories, have become an indispensable element in the branding of a company or organization.
“Word of mouth is now a public conversation carried in blog comments and customer reviews…”
– Chris Anderson
We also have become very busy in exchanging experiences. Review sites for customers invite the “hands-on” experts; they review a wide range of products, services, and the organizations that provide them. In the travel sector, Tripadvisor is one of the larger ones. With over 100 million reviews, you can safely say there is no touristic destination, hotel, or attraction in the world that has not yet been reviewed. In this way, the range of holidays offered is incredibly transparent. In fact, you can have a customized travel guide made for your holiday, containing tips from like-minded travelers about interesting locations, exhibitions, and other events. The sales brochure of a hotel is no longer decisive for making a booking, but the experiences of previous guests are – especially if those travelers are a little bit like yourself: peers.
These review sites, along with the so-called comparison sites, will ensure that every product, service, company, organization, or independent professional will have an essential review. We learned that sharing experiences is good for a thorough decision-making process.
On the next level of cooperation, we construct new knowledge and information. We share this, often for free, with the rest of the world. Wikipedia is a prime example of this: a huge source of knowledge on millions of topics. To date, the quality is quite good, because usually, a group of diverse users conscientiously enrich the wiki pages. There are people who are writing Twitter novels together. And, think of software like Google Docs, which enables people to create documents, spreadsheets, or presentations together. Organizations are building their own wikis. In this way, their own knowledge is literally “up in the air,” and can be used by colleagues wherever they are. This is how organizations can become increasingly self-developed.
When knowledge and information are shared, there arises a new sort of “power to the people.”
On sites like the Chinese Teambuy.com, or myfab.com in Europe, you can order goods collectively. The group has so much buying power that they make deals with manufacturers directly, thus ignoring the entire intermediate layer of the old value chain. In the US, there is 1bog.org for the purchasing of solar panels. Sites like this offer discounts of up to 70%. Groupon.com works slightly differently. In its network, Groupon has so many members in a city or region that they can almost guarantee sales to a manufacturer or retailer, if said manufacturer or store makes a great offer. In 2011, Groupon turned down a $6 billion acquisition bid by Google, because the company simply believes it is worth a lot more. Well, in the new world, lifecycles are short, and a valuation like this disappeared quickly, as the concept was easily copied.
Connecting with other people is always the first step for sharing, collective buying, and collaboration. Connectivity creates a collective intelligence, according to professor Henri Jenkins. And, connected we are! In the fall of 2013, Facebook had over 1.1 billion registered users. In other countries, you will find Orkut (in Brazil) or RenRen (in China). Who doesn’t know LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+? These major properties have taken over many “smaller” and more specialized social network services, like YouTube (for video sharing) or Flickr (for photo sharing).
People are sharing their lives with each other by posting photographs, movies, stories, and all their personal preferences. And, in the process, they find new friends with similar tastes. These friends become small networks, and networks become constellations.
By using the Web these groups are starting to share their abundance (of physical goods, time, spaces) in order to create new economic value; we see the emergence of the interdependent economy, also called the “sharing” or “collaborative” economy, as the base of the economic order in Society30.
So, now that we know how it all started, let’s see where it will lead us.
Henry Jenkins, MIT Professor and author of "Convergence Culture" talks about the new media landscape. Highest Common Denominator