Internet is no longer static; it is a dynamic environment where thousands of people communicate, work, search for information, play, date and to a certain extent live. The era of pure html-based web pages with static information and pure design has already passed; nowadays, the era of Web 2.0 with dynamic content, embedded multimedia sources, user-adjusted appearance of sites has come. However, Web 2.0 shows a tendency to transform from isolated networks and websites into a totally interconnected community where social networking, sharing information and advertising it with the means of networks acts as its main motive force. Such communities often contain user generated content, in contrast with the precompiled and checked content of ordinary Web 2.0 sites. The aim of this essay is to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of websites with user generated content.
The term “user-generated content”ť appeared in 2005, when web publishing and content distribution have implemented appropriate technologies. User-generated content, also known as consumer-generated media or user-created content refers to various kinds of media content, publicly available, that are produced by end-users.
Sometimes, the user-generated content may constitute only part of the site. In general, this term includes all digital media technologies such as problem processing, new, research, social networking, sharing video, audio and other multimedia content. Blogging, podcasting and wikis are also regarded as user-generated content project.
User-generated content gives lots of advantages. First of all, users may choose what information they want to see and whom they consider to be experts. Compared to predefined flow of information from radio and TV, this advantage is impressive. Secondly, user-generated content sites give the chance for everyone to vote and to express opinion. For example, results of Iranian election 2009 were to a large extent defined by protests of local community in social networks.
Thirdly, sites with user-generated content reflect the tastes and interests of people, have wider range of information available, offer best and newest sources. There people who needs some problem to be solved can meet adequate experts and receive help. And finally, internet community transforms from passive spectators and readers into an actively participating environment.
Famous examples of sites with user generated content that now count millions of fans are Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Wikipedia, Answers.com etc. There any person may find information for every taste and every group of interests.
However, there also are negative aspects of user generated content. At such sites, there is a lot of content duplication, and therefore, servers can be overloaded. Moreover, the quality of content can be different, and without proper moderation, such resources may turn into a collection of not valuable and outdated information. Biased or questionable content may be easily posted at such resources, and the presence of children at sites with user generated content is questionable. Finally, there are obvious problems with ownership and intellectual property. It is difficult to find out who is the actual owner of the information at such site; also, it is easy to post data violating the intellectual property laws. There is no clear and appropriate law regulation, but in future sites with user generated content are likely to experience problems concerning intellectual property questions.
As every phenomenon, sites with user generated content have its positive and negative sides. Though sites with user generated content give more freedom, offer new and appropriate content, and can be adjusted to users’ needs, they also have less credibility, have lots of repeating content and have to be strictly moderated in order to be convenient for users.