Adding value with Web 2.0 at National Geographic

by Karen Huffman and Jean Graef

January, 2008

The National Geographic Society (NGS) is fundamentally about the physical world and how humans interact with it. Its success in using new technologies – from photography to undersea robots and cable TV – has helped it create one of the most respected brands and one of the largest non-profit scientific and educational institutions in the world. Technology is the driver for developing new products (e.g. projects), creating new services (e.g. Map Machine), and reaching new audiences (e.g. tourists and kids).

It’s no surprise, then, that NGS has been an enthusiastic adopter of second generation Web features such as blogs, wikis, RSS news feeds, and applications that “mashup” data in different formats (e.g. databases, street maps, and satellite images). Its experience offers some useful insights to other organizations looking to add value with Web 2.0. But the back-story is even more interesting – how an entrepreneurial librarian spearheads this effort using her initiative, boundary spanning skills, and an every-growing toolkit of mix-and-match technology gadgets.

In this article we provide an introduction to second generation Web features, an overview of current NGS Web 2.0 projects, a Q&A between the two authors with background on how and why they were developed, Karen's tips on on how to succeed with Web 2.0, and a glossary of terms.

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Created on December 8, 2008 l Updated on August 30, 2012