Why social-network companies will dissapear
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
I started writing this entry on July 28, 2007, but stopped short of publishing it, as I got tied up with academic work.
Today I read an article on Technology Review that reminded me of my musings: "Build Your Own Social Network
." I see it fitting with what I was thinking at the time.
This is my original entry.
I have been thinking about the success of sites like digg.com and facebook.com. I think usage-evolution will put these babies out of business. The way I see it is that social networks will just spurt up with no need to have a central location. And then they'll die down when nothing interesting is happening anymore. Say, when there are too many pictures of cute cats in the top pages (a la digg.com).
As a user, does it matter if you have an affiliation to these social network sites? I don't think so. When they are cool, probably. But once everyone and their dog join them, it kind becomes a drag and probably uncool.
What we need is the concept of virtual flash mobs. In the same sense that regular flash mobs just gather to do something crazy (or stupid), these social virtual networks should just come up and disappear in a similar manner.
Social web mobs will revolve around themes and special interests. In other words, they won't be meta-social networks where gaming the system to bring stories to the top of the heap is actually a business. No, these flash web mobs will be driven by real content and real contributors.
Personally, I don't like giving too much power to these free applications providers. I use them, and from time to time contribute to them, but as they say: "garbage in, garbage out." And what I've found lately is that the garbage that was popular in 2000 is now making it back into these news-aggregation sites. I know why this happens (demographic changes), but what is the point of re-reading old stories? I can't wait until the dancing baby makes a come back.
Furthermore, what's the point of giving all the power and information to only one company? This is one of the reasons I don't join facebook or myspace. Also, the value I would get from using these sites doesn't justify my time investment. I'm not saying that these sites should not exist; on the contrary, without them many people would not have endeavored into the habitat that the web is. I'm also not saying that there is no value in the social-graph. Of course, there is great value. What I'm saying is that centrally controlled meta-social networks are not self sustainable, and will eventually give way to a social-network-building utility.
Of course, these social-network-building utilities will only be available until the majority of web users learn how to set up their own domain name and hosting application. Then, what's the point of a social network? For example, I have created my own social network: my website. The comments posted for each entry are spontaneous social networks. Albeit my networks are small, but they are networks nonetheless. And they disappear quite rapidly. For example, if you leave a message in this entry, it is likely you will not come back. You may comeback for some other entry and leave your message then, but that will be it for that flash-network.
(For now, I will ignore the argument of having spontaneous content provided in the form of comments. They do add value, for sure, but just read through digg's or youtube's comments and perhaps the value proposition will be rethought.)
I think we are doing the social networking thing OK for now, but creative destruction will take its course: digg, facebook, or whatever other company likely to pop-up will either transform or disappear. The "social graph" will grow on the fly from using a social-network utility. The actual destination will be the flash web mob, for the brand name is likely to be irrelevant.
So, I think VCs will start looking at this model I'm proposing: a spontaneous social networking utility. No need for facebook, or digg, or reddit, or slashdot. If something is interesting, it will have a social network around it.
After reading about the work ning
is doing, I have found validation of my view of the future. There will likely be more nings popping up, as the lifespan of centrally controlled social networks is probably reaching its limits. Probably not today, but sometime...
BTW, pointing out that "I don't get the Web 2.0 thingy" is not a valid argument. True enough, our youth like to share everything on these sites, but that will likely stop at some point, thus decreasing the value of the centrally controlled brand. The question will not be "are you on myspace or facebook." The question will likely be "are you on MY (self created) web spaces."