In addition to the excellent Social Media Wave 3 Research, Universal McCann also offers a fascinating report on Free Internet Services.
Libraries have benefited enormously from the growth in free platforms [Blogger], search engines [Google], web mail [gmail], web based software [Google Docs], and content [Google Scholar and Google Books]. As an aside, in case your wondering I have deliberately only mentioned Google offerings. See Google takes over the world for the reason why.
Indeed the emergence of Web 2.0 / social media, and therefore Library 2.0, would not have been possible without the advent of these types of free services. As a result, we have become dependent on (and possibly addicted to) free stuff. To quote the Universal McCann report:
"Over the last decade we've become increasingly used to getting something for nothing. Massive advances in the technologies that underpin the Internet, in particular processing power, digital storage and broadband have provided the means to develop and distribute rich content and complex services to anyone for virtually zero cost."
While the Universal McCann report focuses on the business and marketing opportunities of the free web, this is still an important topic for libraries. I suspect that along with the many obvious benefits the free web has given us there are also dangers and risks. Within the higher education sector, the recent Ithaka Studies of Key Stakeholders in the Digital Transformation in Higher Education report suggests that there is a "growing ambivalence about the campus library among faculty members as more and more knowledge goes digital".
Unsettling though this is, why should we be surprised? After all, if people can get what they want quickly and freely from the web why would they stay loyal to libraries? As librarians we like to think we provide a better service than what is freely available on the Web, and indeed we often do, but this will not help us if we can't communicate and demonstrate this in a tangible way to clients. And don't forget Ross Dawson has us down for extinction by 2019, for details see http://www.rossdawsonblog.com/weblog/archives/2007/10/extinction_time.html.
It is time to get cracking. There is more and more free web stuff out there, so there are even more opportunities as well as more dangers and threats for libraries to consider.