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By Robert D. Hof
As Web advertising hits the doldrums and even a once high-flying sector such as search ads slows, entrepreneurs and investors are looking for the next big thing on the Internet. Many of them think they've found it: the real-time Web. That's the term they're using to describe the many new kinds of live social activities occurring online, from tweets on Twitter and status updates on Facebook to sharing of news, videos, and Web links on many other sites.
Some of them, such as Facebook, are social networks, of course. Indeed, the "real-time Web" is a somewhat misleading moniker. These companies' main value lies in the social connections they enable as much as the immediacy of the services. When entrepreneurs and investors get excited about what they're calling the real-time Web, they're talking about services that combine immediacy and social connections in a way that makes them easy and even addictive.
Real-time Web startups are providing everything from basic utilities and business applications to search and e-commerce. Here's a look at this new generation: