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Page last updated at 17:17 GMT, Friday, 10 October 2008 18:17 UK

Seeking the next net generation

Graham Steele
Graham Steele travelled to New York to talk to Web 2.0 experts

With an increasing number of businesses embracing Web 2.0 technologies, Ian Hardy met a webmaster hoping to turn his website idea into a revenue stream.

Graham Steele travelled from Australia to the Web 2.0 Expo in New York to find out about changing trends on the net.

His motivation was getting help to update the site he runs, itineraryshare.com, so it matches the new generation of websites in terms of design, applications and interactivity.

"I want to learn about advertising, chatrooms on my site, video integration, all of these things that I have no idea about," said Mr Steele.

The concept behind his site is to to create a social networking space where travellers share their itineraries and locals can post tips for tourists.

Widgets and plug-ins

Mr Steele hoped that incorporating existing Web 2.0 elements into his basic HTML homepage would help turn it into a destination for millions of users.

Jim Louderback from web TV firm Revision3 recommended Mr Steele plug resources into his site rather than re-write it from the ground up.

"Look at the ability to plug into Facebook, MySpace, and other social networks," he said. "But also technology that allows users to upload things.

"If I'm sharing my itinerary, I probably also want to share my photos, my videos, I might want to write about my experiences," said Mr Louderback.

itineraryshare.com website
Mr Steele looked into the options to make a living out of his site

It is also possible to update and develop a site by using web publishers that offer a one-stop shop for add-on elements such as widgets, user interfaces, chatrooms and online video players.

"Widget Studio is the fastest way for you to make a video player widget or a 3D slideshow, any type of widget you would want," claims Nick Gross from widget-maker Kickapps.

Community test

It is not just the big name social networking sites that have gone Web 2.0, many smaller destinations use those community elements too.

Bryan Person, from Liveworld.com, said it was important to allow users to talk about the content, interact and add comments to brew a rich community and get conversations going.

"Livebar is a tool which allows you to put community and conversations right on the pages of your own website," said Mr Person.

Ready-made web plug-ins have made page design much easier, but Mr Steele was concerned that his website would end up looking generic.

Christopher Fahey, from Behaviordesign.com, said sites were now being built in a "mash-up" fashion that brought in brands such as YouTube and Google Maps, so it was fine to adopt the same look as others.

"I wouldn't worry about that undermining the design look because we're used to that in real life," said Mr Fahey. "We're used to people walking around with the same several brands on their sneakers or cell phones."

Revenue slice

Mr Steele was also keen to find out how to turn itineraryshare.com into a profitable net business.

Users mingling in chatroom
Makers of free applications get a slice of the advertising revenue

One solution offered by Smeet.com enables webmasters to build customised chatrooms where visitors can mingle surrounded by advertising billboards and video screens.

Mr Steele said this might make his site resemble virtual online world Second Life.

Not so, said Mr Matthias.

"First of all, no downloads. On Second Life you have about 100MB to download, it's a big hurdle," he said. "So if you have it on your website, your users don't have to download 100MB, they just click on the link and it opens.

"Another thing is that you can integrate it on your website, which you can't do with Second Life. It's your chatroom for your website," explained Mr Matthias.

What Mr Mr Steele did discover at the convention was that the applications are not as free as they appear at first glance. Most of the firms making them want a cut of ad revenue from any site that signs up.

Committing to add the Web 2.0 elements would also mean having to refresh his site more often so it did not fall behind the curve.

SEE ALSO
Web 2.0 is set for spending boom
22 Apr 08 |  Technology

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