Are Sharing Platforms the Next Revolution in Social Technology?

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If Web 2.0 meant the flourishing of social media, Web 3.0 will consist of the use of social platforms to support individuals sharing goods and services with one another: That’s the main argument of a report from the industry research firm Altimeter Group in the lead-up to the LeWeb conference this week that focuses on the so-called collaborative economy.

“Customers are not just using social technologies to share their activities, opinions, and media, but also to share goods and services,” write report authors Jeremiah Owyang and Chris Silva, analysts with Altimeter Group.

Companies such as SideCar, RelayRide, Airbnb and TaskRabbit use social networks to build trust between users. They also capitalize on mobile computing and the growing technical support for person-to-person payments.

Venture investors have shown great interest in this type of businesses, showering collaborative economy startups with more than $2 billion in funding, according to the Altimeter report. An average startup brings in $29 million.

The new form of consumption has the potential to dramatically affect the economy. For instance, high-price items that get only periodic use, such as cars, electronics and travel services, may shrink their sales numbers, affecting everything from auto parts makers and electronics manufacturers to software providers and hotels. Some companies may be lose their market niche altogether, if their primary role is to connect supply and demand for a fee.

On the other hand, collaborative consumption creates a wide new playing field for marketers to reach more consumers by generating word-of-mouth marketing.

Of course, how it all shakes out will also depend on how regulators handle the new sharing-focused business models, how the overall economy fares, and how the winds blow for venture investments.

SocialTimes will be reporting from the LeWeb conference on the collaborate economy, so stay tuned.

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