Wednesday Jan 13 '10

15 years ago, the majority of websites were collections of static pages curated by people who didn't have commercial goals for whatever they published.  'Content' back then was pretty simple - usually copy with imagery comprised of posts - the Web's infrastructure was limited such that the rich media applications we take for granted today (eg. on-demand video streaming) couldn't exist due to phenomena such as bandwidth limitations and even the youthful innocence of html itself.

Through the boom-days of the mid-late 1990s however, 'content' became something salable (either itself holding perceived monetary value or otherwise by driving 'traffic' that could be sold through advertising) and the whole Web took on a more impersonal aesthetic.  The birth of 'portals' and establishment of ubiquitous banner advertising space imbibed the Web with uninspired/unrealistic commercial purpose and through the early 00s it was difficult for people to regain pre-boom enthusiasm for using web-space as room for un-justified self-expression.

Something changed in the middle of this decade however; the Web had grown-up infra-structurally; for most parts of the world, access speeds to the Internet sufficed delivery of rich media and access points were more numerous than ever before - these coupled with people en masse feeling familiar with the Web through using it to acquire common and specialized knowledge [from reading news sites to wikipedia to finding anything query-able through Google] plus do common tasks (such as banking), allowed the Web to take on a new social significance.  Since the beginning of the Web, there had always been potential for social interaction on it, but until this simple concept became popularized by mainstream [news] media outlets, middling academics, the marketing establishment grasping at new media straws, and others as the 'new Web' or 'Web 2.0,' there wasn't much gusto for new platforms and services to be developed which could stitch social interactions on the web together.

As spaces and platforms emerged through the 00s - all flying the flag of Web 2.0, it seems that people had become used to socializing online and this familiarity begged a feeling of corpus to relate conversations to.  Whether that corpus means a central space on the web to express oneself better-than-elsewhere or simply tie together one's multitude of identities/accounts, easy-to-update websites typically featuring a list of reverse-chronologically-ordered posts, known as 'blogs' seem to have become de facto - in being cheap, accessible and visible [re: Google and being part of a host network etc...].

By the end of the 00s the Web was more universal than ever before and had gone through its second major commercial experience; not in providing platform for commercial activity as in the 90s but this time by being rebranded.  'Web 2.0' is somewhat of a misnomer in propagating the myth of online social interaction being a *new* phenomena.  Right now Facebook, say, has over 350,000,000 users from around the planet all sharing media and confabulation with each other often, but because it is a closed space (registration is required to play children!), with an internal culture developing [framed by its functional tool-set and native user interface], its members are hindered in believing that the interaction they experience can exist simply by virtue of them being on the Web.

The nature of the web though is Open - its developed spaces may be vast and exclusive, as with Facebook, but in attempts to reach the largest audience [and convert them somehow into customers?], the companies and individuals acting as developers must address the issue of common space; in so far as interfacing with each other. The truth in this has been witnessed recently with networks trying to become platforms by opening up Application Programming Interfaces [APIs] which allow information interchange across their virtual borders.  Blogs should not require duplicate manual posting in order to maintain one's identity between semi-closed networks but instead act more organically as repositories of one's actions online - with media detailing one's online interests and activities.  The development of these repositories should be somewhat effortless [ideally even doing away with cut'n'paste?] in order for their truth in being reflections of one's identity to be more accurate.

Moving into the teens of this new millennium, 'content' will become more fluid through multi-media socializing and online spaces will become more accessible allowing for dialogues to exist cross-platform.  Posterous is the best example available for demonstrating how a blog can become a more social corpus which is automated to yield the effect of organic development.  After signing up for a [free] Posterous account, you can setup a blog in seconds; choosing a theme for it or even jumping into custom creating your own aesthetic [with a single-file html/css template editable through their web-based administration area].  Then the fun begins - Posterous is uniquely innovative in allowing you to 'autopost' your Posterous content to many other 'Web 2.0' spaces/networks/platforms - among other things, your blog posts can now automagically:

  • Tweet links to themselves,
  • Post (per-tag etc...) to another website - such as your company's Wordpress or Drupal-powered website,
  • Upload photos to your flickr photostream,
  • Update your status on Facebook,
  • Upload videos to Youtube,
  • Podcast audio recordings.

This new decade promises continued adoption of 'smart-phones' worldwide as well as increased bandwidth; allowing more people to easily create/capture multi-media and get it online with little noticeable delay - we've already seen this with the rise of citizen journalism [re: Iran's political turmoil through 2009...].  Of course, no matter how much trend-spotters may say that mobile devices will be using fewer Operating Systems [due to larger adoption or Android my handset manufacturers and Apple's continued sales of the iPhone], the vast majority of mobile devices on data connections to Edge/3g/HSPDA/4g networks all offer email.

Posterous has taken a brilliant stance in upholding email as the primary means for its users to get their content online.  Once you have an account, simply email your content and it will automatically appear on your blog in seconds, and be autoposted to the applicable external accounts you hold (with platforms like Twitter or sites like Flickr).  They have a bevy of options for flagging content to just be autoposted to specific accounts, and offer you multiple Posterous blogs to which you can as well flag email posts to be directed very easily.

Of course, you aren't limited to posting via email; as with most conventional CMS/blogging systems you can login via the web to type up posts or use their amazingly simple Bookmarklet - which loads through your browser and can retrieve multimedia content from nearly any [non-flash] website for you to comment on and instantly publish to your Posterous blog.

The implications of using email to feed a Posterous blog and, by-extension, one's other online accounts, are tremendous.  Think beyond urban locations in North American or European countries - think beyond the policing that limits the Web's visibility in places like Iran or China; the world uses email and if a computer or mobile (or any other) device can connect to the Internet, irrespective of the Web, individuals and organizations can now post to their blog(s) easier than ever before, *and* to a multitude of other spaces/networks/platforms that collectively make up the most true and lag-less online corpus they've ever been able to have.

For many people around the world just now adopting the Web, Posterous [and the virtues it upholds + copycat service providers + innovators to follow] may offer the ability to exist online more sociably and effectively than ever before - participating actively in previously closed-door or otherwise inaccessible conversations, with conceptual freedom that is a core facet of the Web, and technical ease.

(Written by Qasim - Principal/Founder @ Design Guru)