New media takes center stage
Blogs continued their assault on mainstream consciousness in 2005, as did another brash new-media technology: the wiki. And podcasting and tagging weren't far behind.
With the London terrorist bombings, Hurricane Katrina and the immediate aftermath of the Southeast Asian tsunami, this was the year blogs and wikis broke through as public service media.
Across the world, survivors, family members and Good Samaritans alike turned to the Web by the millions, desperate for information about what happened, what kind of help was needed and what aid organizations to contact.
Wikis--the collaborative Web sites that let any reader add or edit entries--came of age, with Jimmy Wales' Wikipedia growing to nearly 900,000 articles in English (and millions of articles in dozens of other languages). And SAP invested $4 million in Socialtext, a company specializing in wikis for business, signaling that the corporate world sees real value in the simple technology with the funny name.
As more and more news organizations jumped on the wikiwagon, even Esquire decided to get involved. Thanks to the ingenuity of one of its writers, the venerable magazine took a decidedly unconventional approach to writing about Wikipedia, offering the open-source encyclopedia's community an unedited version of an article about the service and letting Wikipedia readers fix it. The magazine then ran the corrected version.
The collaborative methodology of the wiki wasn't always a success, though. The Los Angeles Times was forced to scuttle what it was calling a "wikitorial" when it discovered that users were shamelessly vandalizing the open-source editorial pages. By year's end, serious doubts had emerged about the viability of Wikipedia's self-policing editorial process. The site was attacked in a USA Today op-ed piece about a wildly inaccurate entry that remained uncorrected for several months, and the concept of self-policing collided with the idea of self-interest when podcasting's so-called father, Adam Curry, was
accused of editing a Wikipedia article to play down the role of others in the genesis of podcasting.
For the blogosphere, the year started off with a bang when Apple Computer sued a series of bloggers who had leaked details of the company's MacWorld product release plans. The net result has been a yearlong discussion, both in the courts and in Congress, about whether bloggers should have the same kinds of protections as journalists.
That argument has addressed questions such as whether bloggers can be forced to name their sources--as Apple demanded--and whether politically oriented blogs should be subject to campaign finance laws. In the end, the courts have punted on deciding if bloggers are journalists, but Congress let political bloggers off the hook.
Blogs were also behind some high-profile and big money transactions in 2005. First, AOL ponied up about $25 million for the Weblogs Inc. blog network captained by digerati gadfly Jason Calacanis. The next day, Verisign forked over $2.3 million for Weblogs.com, a service that alerts users to blog update.
Meanwhile, with its purchase in March of the popular photo-sharing service Flickr, Yahoo loudly announced its support of tagging--the manual process in which people apply keywords to content in hopes of making it easier to search heaps of data for specific information.
Flickr wasn't the only tagging maven to bring in the bucks this year. Delicious, the social-bookmarking site, scored investments from Amazon.com and Mark Andreessen, among others, and the site was eventually acquired by Yahoo.
And podcasting got its share of headlines as well. Stanford became the first university to begin offering free lectures to anyone in the world, IBM decided it was time to jump into the podcasting pool, and the New Oxford American Dictionary awarded "podcast" the distinction of being the
word of the year.
But though legal and free podcasting content was everywhere, the question on many people's minds was whether there would soon be a rash of illegal content crossing the podcasting waves--and accompanying legal action from the Recording Industry Association of America. The answer, said Adam Curry, is no.
One Indian blog reports more than 1 million hits as readers look for information on victims and how to aid devastated areas.
Jimmy Wales, leader of Net volunteers behind Wikipedia, thinks a collaborative process is needed to keep journalism honest.
Move comes less than a week after the Internet giant launched a beta test of a new blogging tool.
Political bloggers and other online commentators narrowly avoid a sweeping set of Internet regulations.
Company sells minority stake to Union Square Ventures, Amazon, Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen, others.
After just three days, flood of "inappropriate material" prompts L.A. Times to close site where readers could rewrite editorials.
News.com's Declan McCullagh says individuals from ham radio operators to bloggers were more coordinated after Katrina than officials.
Magazine writer puts online encyclopedia's collaborative, open-source ethos to the test.
Wiki software developer receives $850,000 investment from SAP's venture arm as part of its second round of funding.
Net giant looks to tap into growing blogging community by scattering Weblog's sites throughout its network.
A proposed federal shield law could harm folks who use the Internet to do journalism, says News.com's Declan McCullagh.
Working hand-in-hand with Apple, the university is using iTunes to reach alumni. Everyone else can use it, too.
An oddly named piece of software is fast becoming one of the most powerful tools for individuals, groups and companies to share information.
Accuracy concerns spark debate over the role of an encyclopedia written by the online community.
World's largest Internet media site acquires Delicious, a popular Web site that helps users share links to their favorite sites.
Behind the headlines