Over the last two decades of extremely rapid, silently revolutionary development of the user-touser networking platform that is collectively referred to as the internet, or “Web 2.0,” productivity and even a nation’s economy is dependent1 on how its users and contributors continue to develop it.
Businesses like Behance LLC, for example, who offers three main services: a networking platform, a think tank, and a task management application.2 The latter, called Behance Network, is the one of the first portfolio platforms online for creative professionals; in fact, it is more far more popular than similar internet platforms3 and covers more ground than other sites like personal galleries (single user), LinkedIn (resumes), or deviantART (less professional).
Whereas digital media is rapidly overtaking print media and print media is remediated as digital versions, the moleskines and accordion portfolios that print and graphic professionals have traditionally used had not yet made its way online in a professional capacity before sites like Behance. In order to accommodate for this shift, a platform like Behance Networks is necessary and succeeds in taking advantage of the prime medium internet to host this work.
Most importantly to Behance’s mission and design is taking advantage of the constant updates to markup, access, and interactivity abilities that can further improve how an employer or contractor could view a professional’s work. Therein, its design compares to Ted Nelson’s Xanadu where a single entity manages the output and image of the users who depend on its service to find work and network with others. Indeed, Nelson also saw sharing one’s work as demonstrating professionalism and his idea of fantics is evident in Behance’s well-designed interface. In the spirit of the world wide web, too, Behance is strongly partnered with and frequently links to sites like LinkedIn and deviantART.
In the real world, a corporation is motivated by shareholder theory to satisfy its investors by acting in the best interest of the company. For technology companies this, in practice, has developed into integrating more services and products into one company, like Google, and to swallow up similar services to become a one-stop-shop in the company’s view. However, the business model of Behance LLC is to act as a medium for communication. It is a fantic system that quite strongly promotes the users’ products with its smooth functionality and special services, such as offering a user a website-building platform, called ProSite, that implements the Behance Network’s structure and interface. Behance is therefore a framework and management provider, as well as a promotional platform, and its users are responsible for its content. In this way, Behance also embodies O’Reilly’s user-driven activity as the basis for the shift to the Web 2.0 era.
Behance certainly benefits from these properties. Instead of buying out or integrating similar services like LinkedIn, they share a strong bond with those other companies instead. This also allows it to focus on a single area of specialization to reinforce itself as the vehicle rather than the passengers. Its think tank, The 99%, is also in spirit more of a medium than a generator. The professionals that the Behance Network is for are also the source of material for articles, or profiles of them, that cover winning ideation and action-oriented creation process.
While the cultural integration is not quite the same level as LinkedIn (the average career fair attendee probably wouldn’t drop Behance’s name, in favor of LinkedIn) in the general professional world. Even its most popular project, “Your Beautiful Eyes” does not show up as a top Google hit without specifically indicating Behance. It has, however, integrated itself well into the web-based creative professional world, as well as top interdisciplinary design programs like Georgia Tech.4 While Its social context is quite minimal compared to Facebook’s one-year rise to stardom, its goal is not to be an overarching everyday application like a social or general networking site. Although it may compete with LinkedIn in the future, it can only compete this way for particular users in particular fields. If it does decide to move in the non-graphic areas such as writing or programming, it may lose its niche and thus its loyal group. Similarly, it would not likely respond quite as well to competition as Facebook has been able to maintain its current supremacy. Facebook achieves this by selling what its users generate, information, as well as advertisement revenue. Networks such as Behance Network, LinkedIn, GitHub, and deviantART rely on its largely unchallenged popularity and subsequent traffic.
Considering the rate of web evolution, other iterations of the same service will almost certainly come along to challenge the old even sooner than Web 2.0 overtook 1.0. If Behance and other graphics networks are to survive, they may need to find a stronger revenue generation stream. That is, they expand into other services.
As a new media platform, Behance is a forerunner in the digital version of a field that, in the analog world, started with Toulouse-Lautrec’s publicity posters and continues with Coca-Cola’s building-sized marketing department. Scaling is an issue that may not be immediately evident as analog design education is still prevalent; however, as more educational programs switch to digital media as the basis of design education, the majority of output will therefore require a computer to best convey it. Consequently, there will be a greater demand on the web as the current ideal infrastructure to base one’s professional output for a commercial context. If current and future networks and systems like Behance do not scale accordingly, whatever triggers a Web n.0 shift in internet technology will leave it behind for the Internet Archive. References: 1 http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/nec/StrategyforAmericanInnovation/ 2 http://www.behance.com/ 3 http://www.behance.com/teamblog/the-creative-world-powered-by-behance-infographic/4065 4 http://www.behance.net/?content=projects&search=georgia+tech