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BBC series explores the internet

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Biography of the internet

Online marketing professionals will be glued to their TV screens tonight as a major new documentary tells the story of the internet.

The Virtual Revolution, a four-part series coinciding with the 20th anniversary of the internet, starts on BBC2 at 830pm. Tonight’s episode is called The Great Levelling? and focuses on the trend towards user-generated content aided by interviews with Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales, YouTube CEO Chad Hurley and celebrity Twitter fan Stephen Fry. The series also features contributions from Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, former US vice president Al Gore and father of the internet Vint Cerf.

User-generated content shapes the series

User-generated content played a central role in The Virtual Revolution. Visitors to the accompanying website were encouraged to submit questions for future interviews, blog about the issues raised and edit unmastered footage. Even the name of the programme was chosen by fans after Stephen Fry helped launch a namestorm via Twitter. As online marketing professionals will doubtless be aware, involving the audience is an increasingly important element of building digital brands.

Dan Gluckerman, multi-platform content producer at The Virtual Revolution, told the Guardian Tech Weekly podcast that the process raised many interesting points. “People want to get involved in communal storytelling,” he said. “The other thing that we were trying to address with the interactive storytelling is looking at some of the ways that people might be able to follow their curiosity. I think what online documentary offers is the ability to really explore stories that you are interested in.”

British web pioneer Sir Tim Berners-Lee was also interviewed for the programme. Earlier this month, he helped launch a new website that provides access to government datasets concerning schools, crime rates, local councils and so on. Modelled on an American initiative, data.gov.uk is expected to foster innovation as third-party developers manipulate the free statistics into consumer-friendly sites and apps.

Written by Richard Frost

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