TYPES OF USER-CREATED CONTENT AND DISTRIBUTION PLATFORMS
A significant amount of user-created content relies on hosting services to provide an online space
where one can access the content. The following gives an overview of the more common types of UCC and
their distribution platforms (see Tables 3 and 4).
Often UCC types are intricately linked to specific UCC distribution platforms, i.e. comments being
diffused on blogs, videos being diffused on online sharing platforms. As evidenced by both tables, UCC
types and their distribution platforms are thus difficult to dissociate. Certain UCC distribution platforms
such as podcasting can be used for music and video with various different purposes (entertainment,
educational, etc.). Also, certain UCC distribution platforms such as social networking sites can be used to
post music, videos, to blog, etc.
Moreover, it needs to be kept in mind that participative web technologies often originally used for
UCC can also be used to listen to traditional media, other commercial or even educational content (e.g.
podcasts of well-known news magazines, games or social networking site used for the diffusion of
commercial or educational content). Companies, for instance, make use of weblogs in order to keep
employees informed about new products and strategies or on the progress of projects. This is outside the
scope of this study.
Table 3. Types of user-created content
Type of Content
Text, novel and
Original writings or expanding on other texts, novels, poems Fanfiction.net, Quizilla.com, Writely
Digital photographs taken by users and posted online; Photos
or images created or modified by users
Photos posted on sites such as Ofoto and
Flickr; Photo blogging; Remixed images
Music and Audio
Recording and/or editing one's own audio content and
publishing, syndicating, and/or distributing it in digital format
Audio mash-ups, remixes, home-recorded
music on bands websites or MySpace
Video and Film
Recording and/or editing video content and posting it.
Includes remixes of existing content, homemade content, and
a combination of the two.
Movie trailer remixes; Lip synching videos;
Video blogs and videocasting; Posting home
videos; Hosting sites include YouTube and
Google Video; Current TV
Journalistic reporting on current events done by ordinary
citizens. Such citizens write news stories, blog posts, and
take photos or videos of current events and post them online.
Sites such as OhmyNews, GlobalVoices and
NowPublic; Photos and videos of
newsworthy events; Blog posts reporting
from the site of an event; Cooperative efforts
such as CNN Exchange
Educational content Content created in schools, universities, or with the purpose
of educational use
Syllabus-sharing sites such as H20;
Wikibooks, MIT's OpenCourseWare
Content that is created on mobile phones or other wireless
devices such as text messaging, photos and videos.
Generally sent to other users via MMS (Media Messaging
Service), emailed, or uploaded to the Internet.
Videos and photos of public events,
environments such as natural catastrophes
that the traditional media may not be able to
access; Text messages used for political
Content created within the context of an online virtual
environment or integrated into it. Some virtual worlds allow
content to be sold. User-created games are also on the rise.
Variety of virtual goods that can be
developed and sold on Second Life including
clothes, houses, artwork
The following sections first describe a selection of UCC types and distribution platforms. Some UCC
types such as video are so intricately linked to UCC platforms that they are described only once.
Table 4. Distribution platforms for user-created content
Type of Platform
Web pages containing user-created entries
updated at regular intervals and/or user-submitted
content that was investigated outside of traditional
Popular blogs such as BoingBoing and
Engadget; Blogs on sites such as
LiveJournal; MSN Spaces; CyWorld;
Wikis and Other Text-
A wiki is a website that allows users to add,
remove, or otherwise edit and change content
collectively. Other sites allow users to log in and
cooperate on the editing of particular documents.
Wikipedia; Sites providing wikis such as
PBWiki, JotSpot, SocialText; Writing
collaboration sites such as Writely
feedback on written
Sites which allow writers and readers with a place
to post and read stories, review stories and to
communicate with other authors and readers
through forums and chat rooms
Collecting links of online content and rating,
tagging, and otherwise aggregating them
Sites where users contribute links and
rate them such as Digg; Sites where
users post tagged bookmarks such as
A podcast is a multimedia file distributed over the
Internet using syndication feeds, for playback on
mobile devices and personal computers
iTunes, FeedBruner, iPodderX,
Social Network Sites
Sites allowing the creation of personal profiles
MySpace, Facebook, Friendster, Bebo,
Online virtual environment.
Second Life, Active Worlds, Entropia
Universe, and Dotsoul Cyberpark
Legitimate sites that help share content between
users and artists
Digital Media Project
Note: Podcasting, blogs and related technologies are also increasingly used in the professional context (OECD, 2006b).
Users create texts, poems, novels, quizzes, jokes and share them with a like-minded community. This
allows for spreading of works of amateur authors and feedback from the community. Fan fiction is a term
that describes creative writing (often short stories) that uses pre-existing characters from television, movies
or other fiction. Fanfiction.net is such a fan site with thousands of stories, for instance, expanding on the
tales of J. K. Rowlings characters in Harry Potter books. Quizilla.com is an online, user-creative
community of original teen authors who create and share quizzes, fiction, non-fiction, poetry, etc. Writing
collaboration sites such as Writely support collaborative work on texts.
Photo and Images
User-created photos are generally taken with digital cameras. Photos may or may not be manipulated
with photo editing software. Advances in the aggregation and search functionalities via tagging, user-
implemented indicators, and recognition software have changed the landscape of digital photos. Content on
certain sites is largely published under a Creative Commons licence, building an attractive resource for
web designers, publishers, journalists. There are numerous services that have evolved around the hosting of
photos, including Flickr, Ofoto,
and Snapfish. Flickr, the popular photo sharing service, currently hosts
200 million photos taken by 4 million users, 80% of which are made available publicly for others to access.
Music and Audio
User-created audio content on the Internet varies widely, ranging from the combination of two or
more songs into a single track to the posting of self-created music by amateur musicians to creating a
radio-like broadcast show that users can subscribe to (i.e. podcasts). Audio content may be hosted on sites
dedicated to remixing, on sites that provide podcasting services, traded on peer-to-peer networks, posted on
social networking sites, and on personal homepages and websites. At this day, user-created music is rarely
encompassed by digital music stores. While there is a significant amount of user-produced or –recorded
music posted on the Internet, remixes have gained a certain level of notoriety. Remixing is quite common
in various genres of music, including hip hop and electronic, and occurs within a professional context as
Artists such as David Bowie have encouraged users to mash-up their music (OECD, 2005b).
Video and Film
User-produced or –edited video content has taken three primary forms on the web: homemade
content, such as home videos or short documentaries, remixes of pre-existing works, such as film trailer
remixes, and hybrid forms that combine some form of self-produced video with pre-existing content.
Examples include Chinese teenagers lip synching (see Figure 3). Another type of user-created video
consists of splicing up portions of videos or movies and creating new versions, often perceived as mock
“trailers” for one or more of the movies involved. An example includes the various mash-up “spoofs”
(e.g. parody by imitation) surrounding the film Brokeback Mountain.
Popular videos may also spur on a
wave of remixes. Creators may use this form of remixing as a kind of social, political, and cultural parody.
Video content may be hosted on a user’s website, traded on peer-to-peer networks, private webpages
or hosted by video sharing platforms such as YouTube, Google video, AOL Uncut, Guba, Grouper and
vPod in Europe, Dailymotion in France, MyVideo and Sevenload in Germany and, in Italy, Libero Video
(see Annex Box 7 on China). Increasingly these sites are also enabled for access (upload and download)
from mobile phones and devices. Stickam.com (live broadcasts from Web cameras) and LiveLeak (reality-
based footage) are among the new forms of increasingly, unfiltered video services.
Table 5. Example of famous lip-synching video
User-created content posted to advise on purchases, travel and other knowledge areas
A rather big but heterogeneous category of UCC enabled by the participative web is when users and
consumers post opinions and advice (called “word-of-mouth” sites in MIC, 2006), also referred to as
information and knowledge commons. These take the form of Internet-based bulletin boards where
contributors can submit opinions and critiques, e.g. product reviews based on their experience. Other users,
in turn, are able to use this information to make informed purchase decisions.
Companies can more easily
find out what the consumers feel about their products.
Ideas for new products or modifications can be
gathered (c.f. the concept of user-led innovation in van Hippel, 2005).
But the topics discussed are not limited to product reviews. Overall, users use Internet platforms
(e.g. blogs) to exchange or present knowledge or information concerning subject areas or day-to-day life,
ranging from questions related to housing, health issues, computer problems, financial investing
travel advice to hobbies.
Some sites also allow for questions to be asked which are then potentially
answered by other Internet users (e.g. the Yahoo “Ask a question” service). Many users find the Internet
and such community sites a very useful source with highly targeted information/knowledge and significant
A blog is defined as a type of webpage usually displaying date-stamped entries in reverse
chronological order (Gill, 2004; OECD, 2006b). It is updated at regular intervals and may consist of text,
images, audio, video, or a combination. Blogs serve several purposes: an important one is delivering and/or
sharing information. Installing blogging software – e.g. Movable Type, WordPress and Nucleus CMS – on
a server is necessary to blog. However, blog hosting services (e.g. Blogger) make it easier by removing the
technical burden of maintaining a hosting account and a software application. Often blogs are a launch pad
for sharing of other UCC types, i.e. blogs typically refer to other blogs, music or discuss user-created
videos. In 2007, video blogging is expected to grow very significantly.
Some sources estimate that there were up to 200 million blogs in existence in 2006 (Blog Herald); the
blog tracking site Technorati tracked 55 million blogs in December 2006 and estimates that number of
blogs has doubled approximately every 6 months over the last two years.
An approximation of the
language distribution shows that nearly 75% of all blogs are written in English, Japanese or Korean.
Blogging is also very popular in countries such as China, India, and Iran. The popularity of blogs in Asia is
also buttressed by a recent Microsoft survey which shows that nearly half of all Asian Internet users have a
blog, that young users are most prevalent (56% of all bloggers are under 25, while 35% are 25 to 34 years
old, and 9% are 35 years old and over) and that women are very active (55% of bloggers in Asia were
found to be female). Blogging is considered a form of expression and as a means to maintain and build
social connections (74% find blogs by friends and family to be most interesting).
Wikis and Other Text-Based Collaboration Formats
A wiki is a website that allows users to add, remove, and otherwise edit and change content (usually
text) collectively. Users can instantly change the content of the pages and format them with a very simple
tagging language. Initial authors of articles allow other users to edit “their” content. The fundamental idea
behind wikis is that a vast number of users read and edit the content, thus potentially correcting mistakes.
Various sites provide wiki hosting. Sometimes termed “wiki farms”, these sites enable users and
communities to create their own wiki for various purposes. In addition, forms of collaborative writing have
developed alongside wiki technology (e.g. Writely, owned by Google, and Writeboard).
cited example is the freely accessible online encyclopaedia Wikipedia. It comprises 4.6 million articles in
over 200 languages (Wikipedia, 2006). Fifteen of these languages had over 50000 articles, with the highest
being 1.3 million articles in English. The vast majority of edits emerge from a small percentage of users
(Annex Table 14).
Group-Based Aggregation and social bookmarking
This category of content is relatively new and consists primarily of group-based collection of links to
articles and media and/or group based rating of such links, also referred to as new social content
aggregators which build on opinions and knowledge of all web users. Users generally collect these links,
tag them, rate them, and often times comment on the associated article or media. Sites such as Digg
specialise in the use of this model, whereby users post news links to the site, and other users rate them by
adding their vote to it.
Del.icio.us, a social bookmarking website, allows users to post links to their
favourite articles, blogs, music, recipes, and more, and access them from any computer on the web.
Podcasting is a phenomenon that has emerged out of the combination of the ease of audio production
with technologies that allow for subscription and syndication. The publish/subscribe model of podcasting
is a version of push technology, in that the information provider chooses which files to offer in a feed and
the subscriber chooses among available feed channels. A consumer uses a type of software known as an
aggregator, sometimes called a podcatcher or podcast receiver, to subscribe to and manage feeds. Well-
known podcast softwares are FeedBurner, iPodderX, WinAmp and @Podder. Mobilcasting, i.e. receiving
video and audio podcasts on mobile phones, is expected to develop rapidly.
Podcasting technology is also used for content which does not come directly from users. Some
surveys estimate that 6 million Americans have listened to podcasts (Raine and Madden, 2005). Popular
download sites such as Apple iTunes hosted almost 83 000 podcasts in March 2006 (up from 8000 one
year ago – see Annex Table 15 for the top categories).
Social Networking Sites
Social networking sites (SNS) enable users to connect to friends and colleagues, to send mails and
instant messages, to blog, to meet new people and to post personal profiles with information about them.
Profiles can include photos, video, images, audio, and blogs. In 2006, MySpace had over 100 million users
(although not all are active) and is now the most popular website in the United Sates according to Hitwise.
Other popular SNS include Friendster, Orkut and Bebo. Facebook is a popular SNS on US college
campuses with over 9 million users. Korean Cyworld is reported to have 18 million users in the country, or
40 percent of the population and 90% of Internet users in their twenties (Jung-a, 2006). Mixi, a SNS in
Japan, has more than 4 million users.
Some video sharing sites such as Grouper are allowing users to
share videos privately, furthering the social network dimension of video sharing sites.
Certain SNS sites are dedicated to particular topics, the sharing of knowledge, or even purchases of
products and services. For instance, user-created content on the Internet is transforming how users
research, search and decide on their travel plans. Yahoo’s Trip Planner, Google’s Co-Op, TripAdvisor’s
Inside, VirtualTourist’s Trip Planner and others are online tools that lets vacationers share travel journals,
itineraries and photos. Similar social networking tools are used for real estate purchases.
Virtual World Content
Virtual world content is created in the context of an online game-like 3D digital environment to which
users subscribe. Not all online multiplayer games allow for users to create their own content. Yet virtual
environments such as those in Second Life, Active Worlds, Entropia Universe, and Dotsoul Cyberpark
provide users with a scripting language and integrated development environment which enables them to
build new objects (Mayer-Schoenberger and Crowley, 2005), often permitting them to keep the associated
intellectual property rights (see Figure 4 for an exhibition in Second Life)
Figure 3. Library of Congress exhibit in Second Life
In January 2007, Second Life claimed over 880 000 users in more than 90 countries who logged on in
the last 60 days (and 2.5 million total residents).
Owning land in Second Life allows users to build,
display, and store virtual creations, as well as host events and businesses or real university courses.
Further, it has an economy based on so-called Linden Dollars where more than USD 130 million per year
is contracted between players. Users make money while selling items created and land purchased earlier
(e.g. clothes for avatars).
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