article : Tagging 'takes off for web users'

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Tagging or labelling online content is becoming the new search tool of
choice among web users, shows research.
As more and more people put their own content online, they are also
being invited to tag it with descriptive keywords to help organise
their data.

According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, the trend in
tagging is growing among US web users.

It found that over a quarter of online Americans - 28% - had tagged
content such as a photo, news story or blog.

The business of intelligently tagging content is seen as a crucial
element for a next-stage, so-called "semantic web".

But for users of social networking sites it is just an obvious tool to
navigate around the sites they visit.

Social networking

Tagging is the process of creating labels for online content. Somebody
creating an account on a site such as Flickr is invited to upload
photos and then apply labels to the pictures that make sense to them -
for instance, labelling a picture of the sun going down as "sunset".

Once the labels are applied, anyone entering the term "sunset" into
Flickr's search will find the photo and any other pictures with the

In this way, tagging makes it easier to organise information for all
the users of a site and this social dimension means tagging is
becoming a hallmark of the so-called web 2.0 - the social networking
element to the net that encourages sharing and collaboration.

New hierarchy

Tagging comes in many forms. Google's tagging feature is called
"bookmark", while other sites offer the ability to label content so
effortlessly that people may not be aware they are doing it.

David Weinberger, a fellow at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet
and Society and a prominent blogger, told Pew that tagging was
becoming increasingly important for the web.

Mr Weinberger makes the case for tagging in his book Everything is
Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder.

This new way of organising information in the digital age, he argues,
is a classic example of how the web is enabling the bottom-up building
of categories rather than having such things imposed on users.


"Tagging lets us organise the vastness of the web, and even our
e-mail, as Gmail has shown, using the categories that matter to us as
individuals," he said.

Some have criticised tagging as being too imprecise or ambiguous but
Mr Weinberger is not concerned that one person may tag, say, a Stephen
King story as "horror" while someone else calls it "ghost story".

"Tagging allows social groups to form around similarities of interests
and points of view. If you're using the same tags as I do, we probably
share some deep commonalities," he told Pew Internet.

Data from web-tracking firm Hitwise shows that tagging sites such as
Flickr and - a bookmarking site that lets users tag
websites with descriptive terms - are gaining popularity as people
become more aware of them.


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