From the Arab Spring through the OECD year of discontent, the web 2.0 generation is using social media to agitate against the status quo. We see parallels between the economic and political changes that are erupting. As the internet has gone social, discontent has gone viral. Clearly, new technologies of communication are not the cause of discontent. They are giving voice to millions and allowing a new disorganized coming together. New movements, like the platforms and apps that are helping them form, are distributed, loose and struggling to find solid foundation.
As younger citizens demand opportunities, freedoms and change, they are using the definitional new means of communication that we follow at GreenCrest Capital. Our offices are poised on the edge of the protests on Wall Street. At least twice a day I walk through throngs of tourists and protesters. The easiest way to tell them apart is by looking at their personal electronics. The protesters are videotaping and using smart phones and tablets. Blog posts, tweets and Facebook posting brought loose groupings of folks -- from great distances -- to Liberty Park to protest. Tourists are older, cleaner and more likely to be armed with digital cameras. Drawing a line between the crowds has proven difficult for the police and even protesters. The ranks of the protesters are full of Apple products and citizen journalists.
As this goes to press, leading web 2.0 companies are sponsoring presidential debates, increasing their lobbying and growing their market share in the billions being spent in the lead-up to Decision 2012. On the corporate side, these businesses are emerging as disruptive and transformative. Facebook is ushering a new era of social advertising and issuing its own currency -- Facebook credits. This currency may soon be in widespread use by the 800 million and growing "webizens" of the social network. Twitter is emerging as the preferred, personal wire service of journalists and citizen newsmakers. Protesters check into locations on Four Square and use Google Mobile mapping.
Loosely connected, always connected, low cost solutions are sought by citizens, consumers and business. Everyone is trying to do more for less. It is an age of austere opportunity and internet mediated interaction. It is an age of web 2.0. The rapidity and virality of new technology adaptation is being matched by demands for change and growing dissatisfaction. In business and in politics, older structures are yielding to the new. This appears to be true for some dictatorships, inequalities and business models. Brittle business models and high up-front costs are pressured. The democratic process appears to stiff and slow for some.
As deep distress continues to define the material lives of tens of millions in the west, they will search for the new, cool and free. As the middle class emerges in the developing world, they will seek out and adopt the new, cool, liberating technologies that are now affordable and increasingly made at home. This appears to be creating a sweet spot for new platforms, applications and hardware for communications and commerce.