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Your website is not a brochure – it’s a place where people gather and connect with you and with each other. No? Well, it should be.

The internet is in phase two of its existence. The old version was about documents, and the way that we talked about it was in terms of transporting ourselves from place to place: we’d visit a webpage, use Netscape Navigator go on the information superhighway and the activity it most resembled was surfing. Advertisements would ask us where we want to go today.

When we got there, we would read the website, or look at it. Sometimes we’d even listen to it or watch it — maybe even buy something — but we had travelled to another place, and what we did there was inspect the document that awaited us. And then we’d go somewhere else.

Web 1.0 was a land of signposts, and very few destinations.

Web 2.0 brings a new model, and it’s one that has no use for navigation metaphors or the inspection of documents.

These new websites are environments within which we do something. They are not the document, they are the tool with which to create our own documents, organise them according to our own preferences, and connect with other people over them.

Examples with which you may (or should) be familiar include:

  • MySpace – social network, teeming with bands
  • Flickr – photo sharing
  • Wikipedia – all of human knowledge in editable form
  • Google Docs – spreadsheets and wordprocessing
  • Del.icio.us – social bookmarking
  • YouTube – video sharing
  • Bloglines – RSS feed aggregator
  • Writeboard – collaborative document creation
  • Netvibes – personalised homepage
  • Last.FM – customised music consumption
  • Odeo – create and share audio & podcasts
  • Streampad – Internet audio player
  • MP3Tunes – backup and archive your music online
  • Clipmarks – collaborative web clippings
  • Dropcash – make your own fundraiser
  • 43Things – share your goals and ambitions
  • Ta-Da Lists – to-do lists
  • Twitter – microblogging what you’re up to right now
  • Backpack – collaborative working
  • Feedburner – customise and enhance your feed
  • YouSendIt – send big files without clogging email
  • Amie Street – price-per-popularity music community
  • WordPress – blogging platform
  • Omnidrive – free online storage
  • Vimeo – video sharing and management
  • Imeem – music playlist, video and photo sharing
  • Jumpcut – online video editing and remixing
  • Reddit – popular links shared and commented
  • PBWiki – make your own wiki
  • Gmail – webmail that’s better than webmail
  • Feed43 – make an RSS feed out of any site
  • Cambrian House – Crowdsourcing community
  • Dropload – send big files
  • RunFatBoy – make your own exercise programme
  • Diigo – social bookmarking and annotation
  • Slideshare – Youtube for Powerpoint presentations
  • Vox – social networking through blogging
  • Workhack – whiteboard to-do list
  • Mog – music sharing through blogging
  • These websites, and others like them, do a wide variety of things — but here’s what they tend to have in common:

    1) They are more like software than like documents;
    2) They are social, rather than solitary;
    3) They are environments within which you do something;
    4) They involve user-generated content;
    5) They allow users to organise and tag content;
    6) They are different every time you turn up;
    7) They make use of RSS feeds (this will get its own ‘Thing’ – don’t worry).

    This is how the web is now. These are some of the things that will make your website better. Allow the users of your website to interact with you and each other. Let them provide some of the content — make it their own space.

    The analogy I like to use is the record shop that is also a cafe. It’s the centre of my community. I go there to socialise, to work, to listen to music, to talk about music and to connect with people I like. Sometimes I also buy records.

    People like to spend time, hang out, find their space, form groups, discuss common interests and contribute. Your website can provide those things for people. A Web 2.0 approach to your site means it’s not just a brochure with a cash register attached. It’s a place where people come and spend time. Chat to other music fans. Write their own reviews. Maybe remix your music.

    But Web 2.0 can also provide you with a range of tools with which to connect your music business to the world. Building a web page that has web 2.0 elements is one thing — but you can also join, use and adapt the existing web 2.0 tools mentioned above to help you connect with a community, engage in the conversation, and make and organise media.

    You can incorporate Flickr slideshows and badges into your site. You can connect using social networks. You can embed Youtube videos. You can upload your music to Last.FM so people can discover it, connect with it and integrate it into their own maps of music-they-like. You can use Backpack to collaborate on projects.

    Web 2.0 isn’t the answer to all of the music industry’s little online problems — but it does give us an ever-growing range of tools and a much broader set of concepts around using the web that surpass the simple Web 1.0-style static webpage.