The World Wide Web was initially developed as a way of publishing information. Information providers would set up websites which users could visit in order to view the supplied information. In recent years there has been a trend towards the publication of user-generated content. Rather than acting simply as consumers of content users can now produce and publish their own content on blogs, video sharing sites, social networking sites and wikis.
A blog or weblog is a discussion or informational website made up of discrete posts. These are normally displayed in reverse chronological order with the most recent post first. The earliest blogs were usually the work of one person and focused on a single topic. Nowadays blogs often have multiple authors and are published professionally, sometimes by large organisations such as media companies or universities.
Blogs arose due to the development of simple web-publishing tools which removed many of the technical difficulties involved in creating websites. Two of the most popular blogging tools are WordPress and Blogger, both of which make it easy to set up your own blog.
Some blogs provide commentary on a specific topic while others are more like personal diaries or showcase particular organisations. Blogs generally combine text, images and links to other related blogs or web pages. Most blogs allow readers to leave their own comments.
Video-sharing websites allow users to upload and display a wide variety of user-generated content, including movie clips, TV clips, and music videos, as well as amateur content such as video blogging and short original videos. The most popular video-sharing website is YouTube, a subsidiary of Google.
Most of the content on YouTube has been uploaded by individuals, although some has been uploaded by media corporations including the BBC, CBS and other organisations. Unregistered users can only watch videos. Registered users can also upload them.
Social software is the term used to describe a wide range of web-based programs, services and tools that support collaborative activities. It includes blogs, wikis and podcasts, photo-, video- and music-sharing sites, instant messaging, virtual worlds and social networking sites. Social networking services make use of social software tools to create online places for people to meet, share photos and videos, send messages, play games and carry out other activities.
The most popular social networking site is Facebook, created in 2004 by Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg as an online version of the University’s printed Facebook, a directory of new students. A basic Facebook profile includes a profile picture, an About You space and a Wall, where where friends can publicly post comments for you.
Facebook allows you to update your status to let your friends know how you are or what you are doing and view a News Feed giving regularly updated information about your friends, for example, groups they have joined, applications or friends they have added and changes to their profiles. Facebook is highly customisable, so additional tools, applications and games can be added to your account. It supports an extensive range of security features allowing users to control access to their personal information.