The news about Julian Assange being arrested two days ago reminded me of a blog post I wrote eleven years ago. I went back to read it today as I couldn’t remember what I said about Wikileaks that long ago. Prior to blogging at Lucky7, I used to blog quite a bit at Bazaarvoice. I felt a real sense of us creating history there, as I do today at data.world, with a power of Archimedes lever of working alongside some of the largest brands in the world. It is important to recall when you read this that at the beginning of Bazaarvoice in 2005 only three retailers in the United States offered customer reviews on their products, Facebook was closed to the public, the iPhone hadn’t come out yet (that was 2007) or Android (that was the next year), and there was no such thing as Snapchat, Twitter, and many of the other mediums, including Medium, that have moved more and more of social interactions - and in some cases transparency (certainly in the case of customer reviews) - online. I’m archiving the post here and will discuss it below, for now here it is as I wrote it on March 2, 2008 (note that I couldn’t recreate all of the links referenced as some have gone offline):
User-generated content is radically transforming retail. Wal-Mart launching walmart.com/ratings as the new method of shopping, and promoting it via their in-store receipts and shelf fact tags is radically customer-centric. Best Buy launching bestbuy.com/topratedcameras as the new call to action in their circulars, along with featured customer review excerpts, is just as radical. Why "radical"? Because if you are a supplier to Best Buy or Wal-Mart, you have to be accessible within these new shopping paths. If you aren't? You will be studying customer reviews to craft more top-rated products. What Best Buy and Wal-Mart are doing will, undoubtedly, be the most popular methods of shopping in the future.
My co-founder, Brant Barton, told me about Wikileaks.org a year ago. At the time, we discussed that it could be the new user-generated "Watergate". I didn't write about it then because, frankly, I wanted to see if it had staying power. And then I read an article today, one year later, about how they were shut down by a federal judge, only to quickly reopen under massive protest. If you haven't checked out this NY Times article, or their site yet, it is worth doing so. User-generated content, via a connected global experience (i.e., the Internet/Web), will radically transform governments, corporations, and journalists m, just like it is already doing for retail and travel. There is no way it won't. Information can't be confined to small geographic spaces anymore. And accountability will be enforced throughout the system. Operating with ethics and integrity is the only way. And don't get me started with what happens when all voting in elections is truly done via the Internet, instead of today's outdated and cumbersome method. The cat is already out of the bag.
We live in such an exciting period in history. Humanity is being unleashed online, and it will only accelerate from here via word-of-mouth.
Additional materials: Look at this NY Times blog entry for the background on where Wikileaks.org originated from. A globally-connected experience, indeed.
So that was the post as I wrote it eleven years ago. How do I see it today, in the wake of Assange’s arrest news? Well, this Fast Company article explains what I never saw coming - that Wikileaks would be weaponized by political actors and States. That doesn’t mean that Wikileaks was only used for ill, and this article in The Telegraph details eleven of their greatest stories (note that you can register to read it for free without signing up for a paid subscription). One thing is for sure - Wikileaks certainly did change the world, as I predicted it would in my Bazaarblog post. Much more so than I actually could have imagined back then when it was only a year old.
What are your thoughts on all of this? Are you positive or negative overall on the impact that Wikileaks has had on the world? I would love to hear from you, and so would other readers.