Exhibitionism drives the power of Web 2.0

The power of Web 2.0 is driven by mass participation. High-value outcomes emerge from tapping our collective use of the web. Clicks, links, ratings, tags, and social connections are all used as fodder to “teach the machine” how to give us relevant and personalized information, entertainment, interaction, and applications. Without that rich input from all of us, there would be no way for the whole new wonderful world of the web to be created by the “power of us”. I often use the example of del.icio.us. We all used to bookmark what interested us on our web browser, so only we could use that information. As soon as we start bookmarking publicly, it is not just other individuals who can gain value from what we find interesting, but far more importantly, collectively the millions of bookmarks compiled allow the most compelling information on the web to become visible to the people who find it most relevant.

It is important to understand that this power is only unleashed when people choose to publicly disclose, in this case, their bookmarks. If everyone preferred to keep their bookmarks to themselves, there would be no value. One of the most interesting insights of the last few years is how open people have proved to have been, in disclosing bookmarks, profiles, preferences, thoughts, behaviors, and far more. Twitter, a “micro-blogging” service, allows tens of thousands of people to disclose the minutiae of their lives. Justin.tv seems to have been the catalyst for many more who are opening out their lives on video for all to see. We are finding ourselves to be exhibitionists. And that is a wonderful thing, because without it, we would not be able to create collective value in the information economy.

Into this world Cluztr has launched a new service that allows you to share your clickstream (everything you do on the web) with your friends. In their words:

Cluztr lets you share your web-browsing with your friends and discover new sites and people relevant to you and your interests.

• See who’s on the same web page as you.

• Find out what sites your friends are visiting and follow them around the web.

• Chat and leave messages on any website you visit.

This is a pretty high level of exhibitionism – it’s like having all of your friends (or everyone in the world if you so choose) looking over your shoulder as your browse the web. Yet there are also solid privacy provisions in place, allowing full control over disclosure of web browsing behaviors. Cluztr can use aggregated data to create valuable insights into what’s hot on the web for any particular individual, without disclosing individual clickstreams. There is real value in social bookmarking, as it shows an explicit opinion about value, but tracking clickstreams arguably has the potential to gain richer insights into behaviors and interests, and thus greater value to all of us.

Mark Evans suggests that Facebook should consider acquiring or copying Cluztr. I suspect that this kind of service will do better initially as a stand-alone, as long as it has sufficient perceived trust. After that, certainly it will be a target.

Duncan Riley at Techcrunch calls Cluztr “social bookmarking meets Big Brother. It’s the Del.icio.us Homer Simpson would use… I should be horrified by a service that tracks and publicly exposes every site you visit, and yet for some reason this one stands out. Perhaps like much of society as a whole I’ve become engulfed by a wave of voyeurism, and Cluztr wets my appetite.” However voyeurism – individual and collective – requires exhibitionism. Fortunately, many of us are proving to exhibitionists.