Patrick Byrne, IT Systems Manager at Siren Interactive, contributes this essay:
Remember what the Internet was like before 1993? Textbased e-mail, news groups, Unix-to-Unix file copies, and cryptic FTP file transfer strings. Lots of words, and not a lot of pictures. If you do remember, you were either in a computer program in college, a science researcher, or, like me, a geek that thought that talking via computer to someone on the other side of the planet was pretty cool.
In 1993 the Internet had reached a tipping point. A research group at NCSA (National Center for Supercomputer Applications), which included an employee named Marc Andreessen, created a graphical browser called Mosaic. It connected to the one web server that Tim Berners-Lee had set up at CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research)…and the World Wide Web began. Today, according to a January 2009 Netcraft survey, there are 185,474,466 sites being served. Such explosive growth has led some people to call it the World Wild West.
Enough with the history. Today there are websites, FaceBook sites, YouTube sites–many more ways to get your message out to the Web. There are lots of people who can tell you why you want to be on all these different sites, how to get your message across, and how to build a community of users. Below are a few principles that can make the WWW easier–and safer–to use.
- Watch it. Once you have decided what type of presence you will have on the Web, monitor it. Check in to see if something has changed without your knowledge. Regular check-ins prevent a bad change from lasting too long. Remember: once you put something out on the Web, it is there for a long time.
- Verify it. Get a release from people that you are going to use on your website or any of the other Social Media sites. Informed consent is the best way to prevent someone from being surprised that they are in a YouTube video.
- Understand it. Understand what your message is. There is less likelihood that a clear message can be tampered with.
Today’s WWW isn’t that different from many of the advertising mediums that came before it. There’s still a message that you want to get across. You still get to decide how users are going to interact with your presence. And there are still many people who can see it. The big difference is the size of that audience: comScore has reported that the global Internet audience has exceeded one billion.
Security is the same (or better) on social media sites as it is on individual websites. I have been on the Internet for many years (I remember it in 1993), and have found that you can protect both yourself and your users by putting the above into practice.