Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Long Slow Death of Web 2.0

OK, so the title is a little over the deep end - more provocative than anything else.

But perhaps it is partially justified. Reuters reported today that participation on Web 2.0 sites is weak. For media conglomerates that are heavily invested and can pay for a long, slow ascendancy for Web 2.0, there is no news here. However, for museums, this news is earth-shattering.

Take for instance, a recent presentation from Museums and the web. Mike Ellis and Brian Kelly make a great case for museums to leverage new tools and services online. Their presentation, entitled "Web 2.0: How to Stop Thinking and Start Doing: Addressing Organizational Barriers." In their slides, the list of barrier that the presenters highlight includes the following:


  1. “Simply, Why Should We Bother?”
  2. Cultural and Political: “It’s My Content…”
  3. Technical
  4. Resource and Cost
  5. Content: Legality, Privacy, Liability
  6. Measuring It


Yet, ironically, the barrier to Web 2.0 might have more to do with user and market barriers than with the organizational variety. Agreeing with the presentation, the fact is that yes, museums do have great content, do already syndicate that content and have audiences that are interested. However, the scale of that audience is debatable.

According to the Reuters story, participation on Web 2.0 sites like Flickr and YouTube is measured in the tenths of one percent of visitors. Granted, this is a large number of participants, but it does bring into question how widely adopted and feasible (and replicable) Web 2.0 services are.

So while there may be great potential for Web 2.0 services and sites, I would be careful about advocating for capital funding or donor-sponsored projects just yet. Though in time this projects may make sense, right now there is just a very real question about how viable these truly are in serving as education and outreach mechanism for museums and other cultural institutions.

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