Real Data on Web2.0 Use

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Amid the enthusiastic talking up of Web2.0 (which I confess I’ve contributed to from time to time) I’m aware that we’re very much in the formative stage of Web2.0 development, and that much of what we’re told is based on personal anecdote or inferences based on the large numbers of people using these sites and applications.

It was of interest then that I came across a survey of Web 2.0 use by 1369 students, academics and others from this JISC funded SPIRE project.

The survey was carried out in October and November last year, and published just a few days ago. It’s a veritable smorgasbord of graphs and diagrams that illustrate just how these tools and applications are being used. Among the findings that I found interesting were:

  • The dominance of Wikipedia across all forms of Web2.0 applications, way ahead of MySpace, YouTube etc. This illustrates for me how Wikipedia is now regarded the world???s most important source of knowledge – in the online environment at least.

  • Blogs also feature large – their use is analysed in a little more detail, with the results indicating that they really must be taken seriously in terms of how they are used to share knowledge.
  • Surprising to me was the way in which calendaring came out as a key technology. Several calendaring applications were surveyed, and the use of each was very high, suggesting to me that, like my calendar, a lot of activity hangs off what is scheduled here. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised really.
  • Communication tools also came out as high use across all age groups – the dominant player in this group being MSN Messenger – some way ahead of Skype and Google Talk. Interestingly, the Web2.0 technology that I’ve come to rely on – RSS – came out very low.
  • In the institutional data category, institutional email, and institutional VLEs emerged as the dominant technologies (along with Wikipedia) Of interest to me was another favourite of mine, Flickr, which scored very low!

The results of the survey distinguish between users in seven age bands. Overall the use of these technologies tends to be pretty similar for each age band, except in the case of the under 18s who consistently come out ahead in most areas (except file sharing) – and, not surprisingly, are very dominant in the area of social games and spaces (eg World of Warcraft, Second Life etc.)

Well done David White and his team on the SPIRE project. These sorts of insights provide a very useful stake in the ground against which we can measure the sorts of tales that we hear from the enthusiasts and spin doctors. Of course, another survey in six months may tell a totally different story in the world of Web2.0!

A PDF version of the 10 page report summary can be downloaded here

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