Web 2.0 is less participatory than assumed

Web 2.0, a catchphrase for the latest generation of websites where users contribute their own text, pictures and video content, is far less participatory than commonly assumed, a study showed on Tuesday.

A tiny 0.16 percent of visits to Google's top video-sharing site, YouTube, are by users seeking to upload video for others to watch, according to a study of online surfing data by Bill Tancer, an analyst with web audience measurement firm Hitwise.

Similarly, only two-tenths of one percent of visits to Flickr, a popular photo-editing site owned by Yahoo Inc., are to upload new photos, the Hitwise study found.

The vast majority of visitors are the Internet equivalent of the television generation's couch potatoes -- voyeurs who like to watch rather than create, Tancer's statistics show.

Wikipedia, the anyone-can-edit online encyclopedia, is the one exception cited in the Hitwise study: 4.6 percent of all visits to Wikipedia pages are to edit entries on the site.

But despite relatively low-user involvement, visits to Web 2.0-style sites have spiked 668 percent in two years, Tancer said.

"Web 2.0 and participatory sites (are) really gaining traction," he told an audience of roughly 3,000 Internet entrepreneurs, developers and financiers attending the Web 2.0 Expo industry conference in San Francisco this week.

Web 2.0, a phrase popularised by conference organizer Tim O'Reilly, refers to the current generation of websites that seek to turn viewers into contributors by giving them tools to write, post, comment and upload their own creative work.

Besides Wikipedia, other well-known Web 2.0 destinations are social network sites like News Corp.'s MySpace and Facebook and photo-sharing site Photobucket.

Visits by web users to the category of participatory Web 2.0 sites account for 12 percent of U.S. Web activity, up from only 2 percent two years ago, the study showed.

Web 2.0 photo-sharing sites now account for 56 percent of visits to all online photo sites. Of that, Photobucket alone accounts for 41 percent of the traffic, Hitwise data shows.

An older, first generation of sites, now in the minority, are photo-finishing sites that give users the ability to store, share and print photos.

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