The media love buzzwords, and one that’s been tossed around a lot lately is “Web 2.0.” The term, which was originally coined by the O’Reilly Media Group, refers to the latest step in the internet’s evolution. Today’s most popular websites – such as MySpace, YouTube, Skype, and Craigslist – are driven by user created content. These new applications don’t just allow users to interact with the site, but also with each other. In fact, the survival of these websites depends on user interactivity.
I got to thinking about Web 2.0 today while I was loading my dirty laundry into the washing machine. While the two may appear at first glance to have very little in common, they are actually connected by my favorite Web 2.0 site, Threadless.com.
Threadless is a t-shirt company that allows everyone from graphic designers to bored kids to submit their shirt designs. After the designs are screened by the Threadless staff, they are left to the discretion of the site’s members, who can vote for their favorites and leave scathing comments on their not-so-favorites. Every Monday, at least six designs are printed in a variety of sizes (including, thank god, “girly sizes”), and users can buy the shirts for around $15. Users can also interact on the site by posting pictures of themselve in the shirts for $1.50 off their next purchase or just by posting on the forum.
The shirts range from dark and emo to bright and cartoony. Some are funny, some political, and some don’t make any sense at all. The designs are as strange and as varied as their user base. Right now, I’m checking my order status on a shirt that proclaims “Vegetarians are destroying the rain forest,” while wearing my “Pandamonium” shirt (it depicts in a giant panda confronting an army attack. Get it? Ha Ha. Punny). Call me a little obsessed, but democratized fashion that fits great? What more could you ask for?
The thing about Threadless that makes it even more interesting to me than other Web 2.0 sites is that it is its own advertising. While sites like MySpace must rely on word-of-mouth, Threadless puts something tangible out into the world. When people ask where I got my shirt, I can direct them to the site. (And, of course, tell them to buy through this link http://www.threadless.com/?streetteam=AlienLifeForm so I can get points towards discounts on t-shirts. A shameless plug? Of course not!)
Web 2.0 has the potential to greatly increase the free flow of information by connecting users to each other at an unprecedented level. It also, in the case of Threadless, has the potential to run up my credit card bill, but at least I am “Nude No More.”
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