2006: Expanding Ways to Communicate and Have Fun on the Net

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Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.

I'm Bob Doughty. Two thousand six is almost over.  On this special show, Shirley Griffith and I look back at some trends from the past year.

The dictionary says a trend is a kind of movement or direction. People around the world used their computers to buy goods, communicate with others, listen to music, see pictures and learn about different places and ideas.

In two thousand six, more people around the world used new ways to communicate and connect with each other through the Internet.  We take a look at some kinds of technology that became more popular this year.

The blog is one form of communication that increased in popularity. Blog is a short way of saying Web log. Through these personal Web sites, people can share their lives, ideas and opinions with anyone on the Internet. Millions of people throughout the world are creating and reading blogs. There are reportedly thirteen million blogs in the United States alone.

People of all ages have their own blogs. For young people, they are a way to show their writings and other forms of self-expression.  Blogs also connect people with other people who have the same interests.  For example, teachers use blogs to share ideas, experiences and concerns about their work with other teachers.

Many Web sites offer free services to create personal Web pages and fill them with writings and pictures.  These sites include MySpace, used mainly by teenagers and young adults.  MySpace is an online community that lets people share messages and pictures with an increasing number of friends.  About one hundred twenty million people use MySpace.  It is the most popular social networking site on the Web.

YouTube is another Internet site that became more popular this year. This Web site lets anyone create, share and watch short videos.  People can watch almost anything on YouTube: news, sports and entertainment events. Music videos. And videos made by people in their own homes. These include videos of people singing or dancing, or animals doing funny things.

YouTube says that people watch at least one hundred million videos on the site every day. Three young men created YouTube almost two years ago as a personal video sharing service. They recently sold it to Google for more than one and one half billion dollars.

Games and entertainment also became a larger part of the Internet this year. One Internet social site is called Second Life.  It is an online world in which computer users create a new self and live a different life.  They get married, build homes, operate businesses, buy and sell goods, work, play and attend school. About two million people take part in Second Life.

People also take part in fantasy sports leagues with the help of the Internet.  A fantasy sport is a game in which each member of a group acts as the owner of a team.  Each owner creates a team of real-life professional players to compete against other teams in the league.

Fantasy players get a chance to make the same decisions professional owners and managers do.  The fantasy teams compete against each other using points earned by the real players of the professional sport.

More than fifteen million American adults play fantasy sports.  The industry earns more than one billion dollars each year on publications, memberships and other costs.

There were also some new trends in music this year.  Many singers expressed a serious side with performances and songs that had a clear political message.

For example, during her international concert tour, Madonna showed her support for helping poor people in Africa. The country music group the Dixie Chicks wrote songs about standing strong for their political beliefs in their album "Taking the Long Way." Some fans praised the album while others rejected it.

Another example is this song from Bruce Springsteen, "How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live."  He recorded it in honor of the people of New Orleans and their struggle after hurricane Katrina.

Music groups that are part of the "independent" or "indie" rock style remained very popular this year. These groups are called indie because they often choose smaller record companies over major ones in order to protect their artistic independence. Death Cab for Cutie and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs are two bands that received great praise this year.

Another is My Morning Jacket.  Here the band performs their song " It Beats 4 U."

Many bands were created this year as a result of new musical projects. For example, Jack White sings with the rock band called the White Stripes. He recently formed another band called the Raconteurs, which has become very popular.

Another new group called Gnarls Barkley was formed by the producer Danger Mouse and the singer Cee-Lo Green. Their song "Crazy" has become one of the biggest hits of the year.

Finally, some sad music news this year. James Brown, one of the most influential American singers during the past fifty years, died Monday at the age of seventy-three.

James Brown was known as the "Godfather of Soul" and "the hardest working man in show business."  Experts say he turned rhythm and blues music into soul music. And he turned soul music into the music known as funk in the late nineteen sixties and early nineteen seventies.  Brown also influenced the development of disco and rap music. He sold millions of records. And he was known for his electrifying performances on stage.

James Brown was among the first group of musicians welcomed into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in nineteen eighty-six.  In nineteen ninety-two, he received a Grammy Award for his lifetime work.  One of his most popular songs is "Say it Loud (I'm Black and I'm Proud.)"  It was a statement of racial pride in nineteen sixty-eight.  We leave you with the James Brown song "I Got You (I Feel Good.)"

I'm Bob Doughty.  I hope you enjoyed our program today. It was written by Brianna Blake, Dana Demange and Nancy Steinbach. Caty Weaver was our producer. To read the text of this program and download audio, go to our Web site, voaspecialenglish.com.

Send your questions about American life to [email protected]  Please include your full name and mailing address.  Or write to AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA Special English, Washington, D.C., two-zero-two-three-seven, U.S.A.

Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA's radio magazine in Special English.  And Happy New Year from all of us in Special English!