"Talkies" and the Web

I saw the film “The Artist” yesterday, an excellent retro-silent film that traces the clash of culture in Hollywood around the time of the stock market crash at the end of the era of silent film and the beginning of “talkies.” It’s amazing that they made a distinction between movies that had sound and those that did not by giving them different names. But not for long: Almost as soon the technology arrived, the silent film era was history.

It occurs to me that the same think is happening now on the web now. The first round of content sites on the web were silent – writers published, and people read. But then came Facebook and the era of social media. (That’s not entirely true, as in the 1990’s there was Geocities and hometown AOL, and AOL message boards and chat rooms but with Facebook suddenly it caught on). This year even the venerable The New York Times has relented and is about to allow its readers to comment much more freely.

Today, almost all new sites are “social,” in some way, which means they enable a free-flowing two-way dialog. The notion of “social web” is transforming what it is to be a publisher. And in business the “social enterprise” is transforming what it means to enable your customers to talk back, and your staff to communicate with each other.

Looking back at the similarities, we’ve had our own stock market crash, and now I wonder how much longer the notion of “the social web” will be a distinction.

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