Friday, October 24, 2008

It’s A Web 2.0 Evolution

In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed. – Charles Darwin

Is it my imagination, or are a lot of my favorite Web 2.0 websites are coming out of beta, unveiling a new version or just getting a face lift? In the past few months there have been loads of changes to the sites where I have accounts. As long as my free accounts still offer me the same features as before, I usually don’t mind these changes too much and accept them as the evolution of Web 2.0.

In July, delicious, my favorite social bookmarking site, got a facelift. Overall, I like the new look and enhanced features of the site. I think delicious looks like a site that will be around for awhile and that makes me feel good about publishing my bookmarks on delicious. The main inconvenience for me was changing to delicious on my wiki and making new screenshots for my (mostly for backup) PowerPoint presentations.

In August, Jott notified me that they were coming out of beta, offering a new set of paid plans and giving me time, as a beta user, to choose to a new plan. I could keep my free ad-filled account, too. Now that many of the free features I liked about Jott now require payment, I really haven’t used my Jott account since the change. By the way, I do not like the Jott for iPhone!

On August 26, Animoto announced it was coming out of beta with several additions to its platform. The user-interface looks the same and the free version still allows you to make unlimited short video and you can pay as you go for longer videos. The ability to download, watch on your iPhone and upgrade to DVD quality videos are great additions.

In September, I was notified by Cellfish that their new site would be unveiled soon and I should download all of my personal files before the unveiling or I would lose everything in my locker. And Read The Words sent me an e-mail that they were going in for some major changes in their website and I had the option to preserve up to 5 recordings of my choice, but the rest would be deleted. Of course, I could download all the files I wanted as mp3 files. Neither of these distressed me too much. I got plenty of notice that the change was coming and I acted accordingly. Neither of the new sites seem to have any cosmetic changes and look exactly the same as they did before the upgrades.

Also, in September, VoiceThread updated and upgraded to a new fresh site. This change really didn’t cause me too much difficulty. And the new site looks great without looking too different. Again, a change in some screenshots just in case the Internet was acting up during a presentation was really my only hiccup in using VoiceThread.

On October 16, Flickr welcomed its members to a new homepage. This change was so upsetting to some that groups were formed in protest and in response to the utter outrage people felt about the changes. Some users even changed their user names with additions like “hates the new Flickr.” As I have stated before, overall, I like the tweaks. I just had to invest some time to learn where everything is and how it has changed. At this point, I feel pretty comfortable on my new Flickr home.

As this trend continues, I think there will be more negativity on the part of those who find change unsettling. I give them credit for using the applications in the first place, when so many do not. They are part of the global conversation and they collaborate. It’s okay to express you dissatisfaction and participate in the discussion about how the changes have impacted your life online. Personally, I feel it’s a good thing when a 2.0 website finishes its beta testing and is still around to modify and update its website. It’s easier to adapt to a few changes than to find out your favorite website or a really cool tool no longer exists. Of course there may be an alternative, but finding that, and learning how it works will definitely require a greater adjustment and investment in time. Change is hard. Change can be unnerving. But change online is inevitable. If you are using a Web 2.0 tool before it comes out of beta, you define early adopter. If you can still find as much use after beta has concluded, you’re an early adapter. Good luck in your evolution!

A moral being is one who is capable of reflecting on his past actions and their motives - of approving of some and disapproving of others. -Charles Darwin

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Karen Montgomery is the author of Gomeric Hill. The opinions expressed herein are mine and not necessarily those of my employer.