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Building a Whole New World: The Disney Online Community and Web 2.0

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Ever heard this Web 2.0 term being tossed around?  Do you know what it means?  Did you know that you’re involved in it right now?  Web 2.0 is an interesting concept that has changed the way we think about the Internet – even though the technology used to create the content hasn’t changed all that much.

Yet it has revolutionized our online communities – including this Disney Online Community that we’re a part of.  In this feature article, we’re going to take a look at our community and how Web 2.0 has made it what it is today.

Ready?  Here we go!

What Is This Web 2.0 Stuff?

Well, without getting too thick into Internet language, Web 2.0 is a term used to describe new methods of using the Internet for sharing information and building communities.  Remember the old web sites that were static?  You would load a page and the page wouldn’t change until you clicked the little reload button or clicked a link that took you to another page.  It wasn’t very real-time.

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That’s where Web 2.0 is different.  The things we can do on the Internet now are practically real-time.  Are you on Facebook?  (If you are, friend me here!)  This is a great example of Web 2.0 in action.  Facebook is known as a social networking site, or a site that allows us to build an online community.  You can get real-time updates from your friends or let your friends know what’s going on in your life.

Another popular Web 2.0 site is something called Twitter.  Heard of it?  This little phenomenon is somewhat newer than Facebook, and it lets you do the news feed also.  Once again, you can build your own source of news updates from friends, but you can also get up to the minute information from global news sources.  You can practically cut out the big news corporations and get news directly from the source.  Even companies (like Comcast) are using Twitter to help solve customer issues.

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What else is considered Web 2.0?  You’re reading something right now that’s Web 2.0 (hopefully you can get some more people to read this as well!).  Blogs (short for “weblogs” – or a log that’s stored on the web) are a Web 2.0 “application.”  Wikis are also Web 2.0, the most common of which is probably Wikipedia.  A wiki allows its users to update and change the information stored there.  Even video sites like YouTube are Web 2.0 sites.

If you want to read more about Web 2.0, I’d suggest the Wikipedia article on Web 2.0.

How Does Disney Figure Into This?

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Let’s start with the official stuff.  In February 2007, Disney launched the new version of its website, Disney.com.  According to the Disney Online Fact Sheet, the new site used “the latest technologies, bringing together community, self-expression, personalization, and a vast array of compelling content to create a truly unique experience online.”  Sounds a lot like what we’ve been talking about with other Web 2.0 sites, right?  Also launching with the new site was something called Disney 😄 which is basically online entertainment (games, shows, etc.) and online community.

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Disney has also gotten into the business of creating communities based around games.  The Virtual Magic Kingdom was a very popular online game that allowed players to build a community of friends, play minigames, attend special events, and much more.  The game was so well-liked that many fans signed petitions to keep the game open when Disney announced it would close in April 2008.  But the VMK wasn’t the only Internet community game Disney released.  Pirates of the Caribbean Online is another great way to have some Disney-style fun online with friends.  The good news is that Pirates Online is still going strong, so give it a try!

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The Wonderful World of Unofficial Communities!

But the Disney online community goes far beyond the official offerings of Disney.  Countless fans have started their own unofficial Disney online communities, many of which are extremely passionate about all things Disney.  (I’m not going to single out any particular communities, simply because I don’t want to represent one community as being “better” than any other community.  You should search for communities that match your interests and build your web experience from there.)

Some great Disney online communities are built around podcasts.  Podcasts are basically like a radio show that’s previously recorded and then downloaded to your computer.  Apple’s iTunes Store is a great place to find Disney related podcasts.  All you have to do is download iTunes, click on the “iTunes Store” button, and search for Disney podcasts.  The Disney Podcast Directory is also a great way to find Disney podcasts directly from your browser.  These shows are free and are usually a ton of fun!

You can also find a great Disney community on some of the Web 2.0 sites I talked about earlier.  Facebook and Twitter are great places to meet new Disney friends and get updates about the parks and the company in general.  You could sit at your computer for days pouring through all of the Disney groups and fans you find on sites like these (but I don’t recommend doing that – so don’t call off of work just to start your Disney Twittering).

You’ll also find a ton of web sites devoted to Disney and its fans.  Usually you can find forum pages on these sites, too – and these are a great way to find friends that are just as obsessed as you are.  You’ll find lots of fun stuff in these forums, including games, downloads, polls, discussions, etc.

Disney online communities usually don’t stay web-based (though they can if you so desire).  Many communities hold meets and gatherings so you can actually meet your online friends in real life.  Some of these community meetings happen in Disney environments (like the parks or resorts at Walt Disney World) while some happen at local restaurants and other meeting places.  If you don’t see much happening in your area, maybe you could start your own Disney gathering.  You’ll be surprised how many people would love to meet up with you if possible.

Go Discover!

No matter how you choose to get involved, get out there and explore some of the options you have.  You’ll probably find that once you get going, you’ll start broadening your horizons very quickly.  These communities are a really fun, and generally very welcoming.  It’s never too late to join up, you don’t need FastPasses, ticket prices never increase, 3D glasses not required, and there are no height requirements.  Hope to see you on the web soon!

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