OK, so Barack Obama is not the first politician to 'get' the Internet, heck Al Gore invented it after all. However, sarcasm aside, what Obama has done is grasp the true power of the next generation Web: he has transformed political campaigning at a national level thanks to social networking and, perhaps above all else, YouTube.

Bear with me. Although I am not an American, I do follow the US political circus with considerable interest, and I am something of a geek for good measure. I have seen how both Howard Dean and John Kerry have embraced Internet campaigning in the past to mixed overall effect. But what Obama has done, it seems to me, is truly understand that you can raise a lot of money by asking for very little of large numbers of citizens. The Internet is the ideal conduit to reach out to that disparate electorate, and that's exactly what Obama has done to a quite extraordinary level. If the general consensus of opinion is correct, then more than 90 percent of the $55 million raised in February alone, for example, was comprised of donations under the $200 ceiling and the majority of it raised online. The campaign has tapped into the MySpace generation, young voters on low incomes who nonetheless are happy to throw a few bucks into something they believe in, to become a small part of a big movement - not unlike the social networking concept itself.

And it is social networking, Web 2.0, YouTube that has really made the difference for Obama. Just look at the 'Yes We Can' music videos which have flooded onto YouTube, one of which was seen some 8 million times. Or how about the fact that you can follow the campaign, day to day, through the thoughts of an Obama intern on Twitter? Obama has made the connection between technology and the electorate in a way that I suspect nobody has before. Hillary Clinton had a certain amount of success with her website, but this was a much more in your face affair with the web address seemingly mentioned in every speech and giving the impression of being more a begging bowl than communications tool with a big 'contribute' button being the first thing you saw when you visited. Obama relied less on the big sell and more on the meme, letting the Internet community push the message and ultimately I rather think that is what made the difference as far as this aspect of the Presidential nomination campaign was concerned at least: Obama simply 'got' how social networking works...

About the Author

I live and breathe technology news, it is what turns me on. Sad, but hey I am a news nerd, what can I say? I live and work in England, where I have been reporting IT news for far more years than I care to remember.

demagogues have always been good at "reaching out" to get their message across.
Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and now Obama are all examples of that.

Sits back with a large coffee and a fire-proof shield to watch the flames come in...

In my humble opinion, Obama's success has more to do with his soaring, populist rhetoric than his "grasp of the next-generation web." Sure, donors are drawn to his web site, and his face and theme songs are splattered all over YouTube, but it's his good looks and adeptness with a teleprompter that got them there.

People today vote based on "What's in it for me?" So the candidate that promises the most Government entitlements will most likely take the White House, regardless of how impossible and unrealistic those promises are. The sad reality is that Americans have very short memories. Maybe we need another Jimmy Carter to give us another Ronald Reagan.