Web History-Making

Tsunami - the Asian tidal wave disaster of a year ago - has been named by the Webby Awards as one of its 10 web moments that changed the world. It marked the coming of age of citizen media, when "ordinary people armed only with digital cameras and internet access" provided firsthand accounts of the disaster that couldn't be matched by the mainstream media in terms of their immediacy or impact.

The TsunamiHelp blog turned on its head the stereotype that all web innovations trickle down from the US to the rest of the world. Although the team of volunteers who staffed the blog were from everywhere you can think of, its three founders were all based in India. As journalist Ashok Malik put it, the traditional pattern was reversed: "An Indian media product, if that be the word, was the prototype for an American one".

Perhaps most importantly of all, the TsunamiHelp blog has left a lasting legacy. The model of communication it forged has set the standard for web coverage of subsequent disasters, including Hurricane Katrina and the Pakistan earthquake, and many of the TsunamiHelp bloggers have used their expertise to launch similar projects on other disasters. And NGOs and academics are interested in using the TsunamiHelp model as a template for communication during future disasters.