The creative contribution of users who post their own content online in the form of text, artwork, audio, video, music, even comments and social networking profiles. Because the net is interactive, blogs and social networking sites are popular places for users to post their own content.
User-generated content (UGC) has been a staple of the peer-to-peer (P2P) experience since the dawn of the digital revolution. The earliest forms arrived in 1980 with Usenet, a global discussion board that allowed users to share comments and experiences of a given topic. Early versions of Prodigy, a computer network launched in 1988, also facilitated user discussions and comments, as did early versions of AOL.
The late 1990s saw the rise of "ratings sites," which allowed users to rate subjects based on any number of criteria (from physical appearance to professional competence). These spread quickly across the Internet, and brought with them controversy over the impact they could have on the lives of private people often unwittingly exposed to public scrutiny. Such controversies increased as UGC sites have become more common and influential.
Another early form of UGC are forums; areas within content Web sites that allow readers to communicate with each other around topics related to the content. Even in this era dominated by social media sites,
forums continue to be robust, controlled areas of user content. One of the more relevant types of UGC sites for consumer brands is review sites, but it was the advent of blogs that was considered the tipping point for UGC. It was the moment when UGC went from a small but significant component of the Internet experience to a predominant source of entertainment,information, and debate. Finally, in its most basic sense a wiki is collaboration, a Web site built through the contributions of many individuals.
Though not all wikis are open to everyone, they are in many ways the most democratic manifestation of UGC.