In a recent podcast of the Economist magazine on online social networks, US technology correspondent Martin Giles said that in Silicon Valley the acronym URL stands for "Ubiquity First Revenue Later".
For those in the commercial and non-profit sector seeking to generate and capture value from sustainable products and services, the ubiquity offered by the internet is a magic box waiting to be opened.
The net is a potential treasure-trove of social sustainability, offering easy-to-reach educational facilities, employment, inclusion of traditionally marginalized or under-represented groups and a public place that generates new identity and opportunity for social interaction.
What's exciting for urban regeneration, urban renewal and real estate is that the internet brings a massive new dimension to the meaning of 'place' and the way in which websites work and how we interact with them starts to make cities feel like platforms for the delivery of services and government like a form of applications service provider, like Yahoo.
What's even more exciting - but also challenging - is that the personalization of products and services intrinsic to use of the internet might make physical 'place-making' more important than ever but also it starts to make some conventional answers to a timeless question feel a bit limp.
There are countless developments in new media just now that are starting to engage with this issue and you need look no further than the current edition of Next American City - a brilliant Philadelphia-based magazine that's also profiled in an article in this month's Monocle.
Reporting on a conference last October called "Open Cities: New Media's Role in Shaping Urban Policy", Next American City serves up a great directory of people, tools and widgets that seek to take new media technologies and apply them to enhance urban sustainability and quality of life.
- DIY City - a website that seeks to apply open software to solve urban problems
- Hub2 - which uses tech tools to engage the public in urban planning
- the Open Planning Project - an organization advocating for open government and "civic empowerment" software
- PublicStuff - an online platform that allows residents to access service requests and local government information
- The Collaboration Project - a forum of leaders committed to leveraging the interactive web and the benefits of collaborative technology to solve government's complex problems
- Smarter Cities - a project of the Natural Resources Defense Council that, among many things, encourages citizen journalists to talk about their perception of the city
- EveryBlock - a "microlocal" website for several American cities, by neighborhood
- SeeClickFix - a service that allows local people to log non-emergency complaints and so alert one another to shared concerns
There is a full account of the conference proceedings on the Next American City website - and many of these tools or initiatives have their cousins or clones here in the U.K.
New communications systems should provide members of a community with the means to coordinate their interactions within the same virtual universe of knowledge.
In urban regeneration projects in Cardiff, Moscow, Glasgow and elsewhere, my project design and delivery company is bleeding these systems in to the process of delivering urban development or seeking to create conditions in which they can thrive.
Hope the links are of use.