Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The network is just the beginning

Bill Burnham has an excellent post on the problems with a lot of social networking tools:
    Social networking companies face several inherent challenges. The first is ... "input-output asymmetry" ... that in order to get utility out of a social networks, users must first invest significant amounts of time setting up and maintaining their networks .... They are neither autonomous nor self-healing.

    Social networking is inherently an intermittent and dynamic activity. Without some kind of application to force the regular use and maintenance of such networks, pure play online social networks are destined to become as stale and appealing as two week old bread.
Bill's argument is against networking just for networking. For example, on Friendster and Orkut, there is no goal. You go there, list your friends, and then... what? Once you have your network built, what do you do with it?

Instead, Bill says, focus on an application. A social network should be a tool that helps accomplish some other goal. Building a network should be a means to an end, not the end itself.

See also my earlier post, "What has become of Orkut?" and another post by Bill, "Earth to Friendster: We have a problem".

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