Books: The wacky world of Wiki

Web 2.0 is spawning viable business models in unexpected corners. Roger Parry welcomes a book that describes how people power is conquering the internet.

As the frenzy of the early internet has matured into the relative stability of Web 2.0, robust and viable business models have emerged: in retailing, Amazon; auctions, eBay; search, Google; and collective writing, Wikipedia.

Wikipedia is the wildly successful online encyclopaedia that allows anyone to write and edit an entry using a bit of software called a 'wiki' - the Hawaiian word for 'quick'. But Wikinomics is not about Wikipedia so much as the whole phenomenon of internet-enabled mass participation. To quote the authors: 'A wiki is more than software for enabling multiple people to edit websites. It is a metaphor for a new era of collaboration.'

The book itself is an Anglo-Canadian team effort, pairing Don Tapscott of the University of Toronto with Anthony Williams from the LSE. These transatlantic roots give Wikinomics depth and interest, with numerous case studies from both sides of the Atlantic. The authors work for the same consulting firm, New Paradigm, which marks the book out as a client-development project - but it is none the worse for that. Indeed, the commercial resources mean it is well researched, written and edited with an eye to its sales role.

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