The open source content model

Ever since the Web was spun users have been taking what they were given, adding to it, enhancing it, and creating value.

The blogosphere is being tickled today by a New York Times feature from John Markoff (right, from his Stanford faculty page) on what might best be called the open source content model.

I always find such articles fascinating, not so much for themselves as for what they say concerning mainstream attitudes about what technology is about.

In reviewing game sites like Will Wright's Spore, rating sites like Technorati, photoblog sites like Flickr and the latest enhancements at Yahoo and Google, what comes across is the idea that what people are doing with sites is becoming more important than what the site designers created, and that some smart designers are waking up to this fact. Markoff delivers this as though he has suddenly discovered a new truth.

But this is not a new truth at all. Ever since the Web was spun users have been taking what they were given, adding to it, enhancing it, and creating value. Amazon is all about that, eBay is all about that, and I like to think that your threads make these ZDNet blogs a more robust cloth. From the "personal Web sites" of GeoCities to the online tools of Blogger, many of the best sites have used this model for a decade.

I have said here many times that open source means more than Linux. It's a business model, and I should have added, a content model as well. Some 10 years on with the Web, and journalism has barely begun getting its arms around this idea, that sites grow organically, through interaction among users, and not from the top down, content delivered to audience.

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