Snippets From SXSW Interactive 2003

Trends in How the Internet Connects People

Sunday, March 9, 10-11am
If two is company and three is a crowd, then things are going well for three popular social Internet sites. According to site developers James Hong of HotorNot.com, Brad Fitzpatrick of LiveJournal.com, and Scott Heiferman of Meetup.com, not only can the Internet connect people to people and people to information, but now the trend is to provide a means to mobilize like-minded people, individually or in groups.

"People are the killer application," says Hong. HotorNot.com, started on a whim, invited users to post their photographs online and cast votes on other users' hotness. Plain and simple -- until write-ups in Salon.com and People magazine spread news of the site. Hong and his pals then added a matching component to HotorNot.com. What happens when a match is made? That's in the users' hands.

"Meeting online has now become mainstream," Wong said. The proliferation and acceptance of online dating services is evidence of that.

"I'm always getting wedding invitations from people who met at LiveJournal," said Fitzpatrick, creator of the popular online journal site. But hooking up is only one piece of the social-software pie. Social sites can now connect and mobilize people around their interests, according to Heiferman of Meetup.com, whose site specializes in congregating the like-minded online, but also helps to arrange face-to-face interaction. Heiferman pointed to presidential candidate Howard Dean, who is using Meetup.com to organize grassroots support. It's too early to tell how successful Dean will be, but the potential for Dean or anyone else to create a viable campaign independent from traditional media sources could pave the way for other shifts in how communication can and should be achieved. In other words, now that the Internet is no longer a novelty, users are actively creating their own points of departure, instead of just surfing and enjoying the view.

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