I think we should all take a moment to consider the passing of Web 2.0, and the dream of a democratized internet.
What’s that? You didn’t realize we were done with that whole thing just yet? Well, clearly you’ve not talked to AOL CEO Tim Armstrong recently. He’s seen the future of the internet, you see, and he’s ready to tell you all about it:
The first phase of the Internet was about access, and I believe AOL was the biggest player in that phase. Then the next phase has really been about the platform, so you’ve seen Apple, Google and Facebook there. But the phase after this is going to be more of the Hollywood phase, where it’s about content, creativity and really putting a human face on the Internet.
Well, a human face that happens to be famous, that is. Armstrong was talking to the Hollywood Reporter about AOL’s multi-million dollar deals with celebrities including the Jonas Brothers, Ellen DeGeneres, Kevin Smith, Heidi Klum and Queen Latifiah. Of course, it’s not the only web giant who’s doing that kind of thing; YouTube is doing the same thing, offering celebrities up to $5 million to curate their own channels fileld with original content on the video site. Whereas the internet used to be make celebrities of the people who used it, now it seems that the future of the internet will be reinforcing the celebrities that we already have.
There’s some evidence to suggest that perhaps this is what internet users really want, beyond the hopes of executives at AOL and YouTube. Hewlett Packard’s recent study of social media use demonstrated that internet users still tend to focus on mainstream media as sources of information, instead of user-generated content, something that the 2010 GlobalWebIndex report backs up, noting that “professionals are back in the driving seat when it comes to content” and “we as consumers are going back to traditional needs and demands and seeking a more passive experience.” But even if the majority of web users are just looking to sit back and be entertained (and, occasionally, educated) instead of participating in the ongoing dialogue that is the internet, does that really mean that celebrities are the best people to give them that?
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