Web Content by and for the Masses
When Caterina Fake arrives at the end of a plane flight, she snaps a photo of the baggage carousel with her camera phone to assure her mother, who views the photo on a Web page minutes later, that she has traveled safely.
And if every picture tells a story, that may be only the start. At Flickr, the popular Web photo-sharing service where Ms. Fake, a co-founder, posted the photo, it can be tagged with geographic coordinates for use in a photographic map, or become part of a communal database of images that can be searched for certain colors or characteristics.
Flickr, acquired this year by Yahoo, is just one example of a rapidly growing array of Web services all seeking to exploit the Internet's power to bring people together.
From photo- and calendar-sharing services to "citizen journalist" sites and annotated satellite images, the Internet is morphing yet again. A remarkable array of software systems makes it simple to share anything instantly, and sometimes enhance it along the way.
Inexpensive to create and worldwide in reach, the new Internet services are having an impact far beyond the file sharing at issue in the Supreme Court's decision on Monday, which focused on copyright violations using peer-to-peer software.
Indeed, the abundance of user-generated content - which includes online games, desktop video and citizen journalism sites - is reshaping the debate over file sharing. Many Internet industry executives think it poses a new kind of threat to Hollywood, the recording industry and other purveyors of proprietary content: not piracy of their work, but a compelling alternative.
The new services offer a bottom-up creative process that is shifting the flow of information away from a one-way broadcast or publishing model, giving rise to a wave of new business ventures and touching off a scramble by media and technology companies to respond.
"Sharing will be everywhere," said Jeff Weiner, a Yahoo senior vice president in charge of the company's search services. "It's the next chapter of the World Wide Web."