The pace of technological change on the World Wide Web has been absolutely breathtaking over the past few years. Our new ability to share art, design and ideas through all kinds of media also has the potential to let consumers the world over break free of mass produced sameness.
We’re living in an age where average computer users can create just about anything from their own jeans to cars, mugs to movies. Writing in The Business Times, Dr. Sivam Krish said this week that for the first time since our grandparents’ generation we can again have personalized and unique products en masse. He should know. As the founder of Genometri, his company is offering customers the chance to design and produce their own t-shirts, picture frames and other keepsakes.
I agree with him. In the last few months, snoo.ws has written about a large number of companies that are latching on to the ease of new technologies and our basic human desire to express our own uniqueness (or at least feel as though we are).
Toyota is letting its customers influence the design of its Scion models; CafePress lets us design t-shirts, mugs and just about everything else; RYZ is generating buzz in fashion circles with its UGC shoes; and we have all seen countless options for customizing avatars, the epitome of online self-expression.
Left to themselves, these user-generated content companies may have been able to carve out small niches somewhere in the great Web cloud. But they’re not alone. Thanks to the proliferation of social networks, many of these companies are expanding quickly as word of them is passed from friend to friend.
This week’s announcement of a partnership between CafePress and Sellit is an example of how the technology is spreading. Using embeddable widgets, the companies are offering users the opportunity to set up virtual ‘franchise’ locations across social networks. A lot of what’s on offer may only be trinkets and t-shirts today, but I believe it won’t be long before the trend spreads far and wide into new industries, irrevocably changing each business model as it does.
For the last few generations, only the very rich could afford such personalization in what they purchased, wore drove or sat on. Soon, I expect we’ll all be able to get that [fill in your choice of product here] in just the right colour, size and shape delivered right to our doors… just the way we designed it ourselves.