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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 September 2006, 12:33 GMT 13:33 UK
The evolution of the web
Jon Leleu
Producer, BBC Breakfast

User looking at MySpace homepage (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)
MySpace is the world's most popular social network
Web 2.0: that's the catch-all phrase used to describe the growth in websites where the content is generated by end users rather than by the site owner.

Some of the best examples such as social-networking sites like MySpace, picture and video-sharing sites like Flickr and YouTube, and information-sharing sites like Wikipedia.

MySpace has been credited with aiding the success of several recent chart toppers including the Arctic Monkeys, Sandy Thom and Lily Allen.

The idea is that by adding just a few friends, your music will automatically be accessible by their friends, and their friends' friends and so on. Word of your talent spreads, and suddenly you're seen as an overnight success and snapped up by a record company.

It's no surprise then that hundreds of as yet unsigned acts are trying to use the site to help their own bid for fame. You now only need to be registered on MySpace for a few days before your inbox starts to fill with messages from bands hoping to gain access to your network of friends.

Fantasy world

At BBC breakfast we have devoted a week to the web 2.0 phenomenon and its knock-on effects. One film in our series looks at what effect social networking sites are having for the young hopefuls of the music industry.

We caught up with Shimura Curves, an unsigned all-girl group from East London. Their Myspace page has photos of the band - some taken at gigs, some professionally shot - four downloadable songs, reviews, comments and of course the inevitable network of 700 plus friends.

Second Life screengrab
In Second Life you can be who you want to be

Their lead singer, Anne-Marie, says giving fans free access to some of their songs is worthwhile as it means they're then more likely to buy an album or turn up for a gig.

She also says it's providing a much needed kick up the backside to both the record companies and the popular music press.

Web 2.0 also underpins the phenomenal rise of online virtual worlds. To many these may look like a computer game, but for participants there's no tasks or end goal. Particpants are keen to point out they are not a game.

One such world is Second Life - a virtual universe accessed through your home computer. It's the ultimate fantasy - you can be who you want to be and do what you want to do.

Players are represented in the virtual world by a character, or avatar, who you can personalize to the same degree, if not more, than Myspace.

It's not just about being tall or short, fat or thin, the level of detail you can achieve when designing your avatar is incredible. You can even have an animals head.

Cash reality

Once you've got your shape sorted, it's time for dressing up. You can start with the basics, design your own outfit, or buy someone else's creation. Then it's time to walk, run, fly or teleport off to explore the virtual world around you.

Duran Duran
Bands like Duran Duran are hopping on the web 2.0 bandwagon

And that world, in much the same way as other Web 2.0 sites, is largely created from the bottom up - by the players, rather than Linden Labs, the developers.

Players can manipulate, combine and texture 'prims' (primitive shapes) to make shoes, trees, even houses.

You can then add "scripts" to them to make them interactive so that you can drive the car or fly the plane you have created.

This all sounds very time consuming, and it is. But it's not all about hard work.

When you're not building a house or designing your own clothes, you can explore the virtual world already out there, making friends whilst buying and selling things along the way.

And there's nothing virtual about the money that's changing hands. The Linden Dollars traded in the game are directly exchangeable for hard cash. Many people are starting to make a living in the real world by building, buying and trading within Second Life.

Now big businesses, and big pop acts like Duran Duran, are looking to take part and cash in.

The possibilities are virtually endless.

BBC Breakfast's Web 2.0 series is broadcast on BBC 1 every morning this week

Where for the web?
12 Sep 06 |  Breakfast
Tech guru O'Reilly on Web 2.0
09 Nov 05 |  Technology
Learning to love Web 2.0
27 Mar 06 |  Technology
MySpace set to sell music online
05 Sep 06 |  Entertainment
Time lists 50 'coolest websites'
15 Aug 06 |  Technology
Duran Duran to give virtual gigs
08 Aug 06 |  Technology
Do avatars dream of electric racoons?
05 Jan 06 |  Newsnight Home


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