Tuesday, June 23

More tech in a new kind of revolution

In the last couple posts I have singled out Twitter for the role it is playing in the conflict going on in Iran. Recently, the murder of a young Iranian woman forced another technology to the forefront, YouTube.

The YouTube example is a bit different. First, it's penetration is far deeper than Twitter. It's technological challenges are much more evident than those of Twitter. And they actually did something new. Before YouTube, streaming video on the web was sketchy at best. Still, for all it's popularity, YouTube has been utilized mostly by video bloggers, teens with webcams, and America's Funniest Videos on the web. Sure, there's the "9-11 truth" and "free energy" videos, but they are a very small minority in a sea of skateboarding dogs and toddlers performing their own version of the "Eensy, Weensy Spider".

However, last Friday, the battered opposition in Iran, as well as the rest of the world, found someone a rallying cry via YouTube and spread over social networks including Facebook and Twitter. A gruesome video of a young, relatively westernized woman in Iran who was shot and killed as she talked to a friend on her mobile phone.

The video was uploaded to YouTube and in less than 10 minutes it was world news. It could not have spread faster if the CNN cameras were sitting right there, broadcasting live. In less than an hour, "Neda" had become the new face of the opposition.

So, in the last two weeks, we've seen Twitter go from relative obscurity to a battlefield that governments of the world provide support to in order to keep it up. Some have even called for a Nobel Prize for the founders of Twitter because of it. We've seen YouTube go from hosting videos of bored kids talking to their webcams to hosting the type of video a cameraman of a major news network could go a whole career and never capture. It took conflict to force these technologies to the forefront. The real question is, what will be next?

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