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10/12/2007
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The New Media Ecosystem: Resistance Is Futile (And Could Even Be Fatal)

Gamers, YouTubers, and MySpace cadets are sitting in the next cubicles. Stop fighting them and, instead, welcome them into your corporate network.

The U.S. Department of Defense earlier this year banned access to 13 music, message, photo, and video-sharing Web sites on NIPRNet, the unclassified network used by soldiers stationed abroad to access the Internet and keep in touch with family and friends. It was a decisive move to get control of bandwidth usage on the department's network and rid it of "a significant operational security challenge," said Gen. B.B. Bell, commander of U.S. Forces Korea, in announcing the ban.

The Defense Department's decision to cut access to YouTube, MySpace, Photobucket, StupidVideos, MTV, and other entertainment and social networking sites is something that most IT managers can identify with: 65% of U.S. businesses block access to Web sites they consider inappropriate, according to the American Management Association.

Controlling access to content in the workplace isn't a new idea, and it isn't necessarily a bad one. But while site blocking solves immediate problems, ultimately it's a Band-Aid for a phenomenon that eventually will require radical surgery.

Today's social networking and digital content sites are shaping IT users' expectations and experiences for years to come. Rich media applications are becoming an essential part of the Internet experience, not just for entertainment but also for legitimate business reasons. Similarly, online communities and networking sites are becoming increasingly important for communication and interaction.

Businesses must take a longer-term view of these emerging applications and recognize that they're being driven by forces that are more likely to gain momentum than die out. Rather than fight the inevitable, business technology managers must start exploring ways to leverage the new digital content ecosystem to meet their companies' objectives.

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