Reading the Wired “Slap in the Facebook: It’s Time for Social Networks to Open Up” combined with my experience on various social networks makes me wonder if any of them can really be sustainable in the long run. Aren’t they just short cuts to the connectivity that the internet should allow given the right infrastructure and tools. Facebook has been called the “roach motel” of social networks, in other words it’s easy to get your information in there, but impossible to get it out, wasn’t that the AOL strategy?
I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently and I think the long term sustainability of a social network can easily be judged by asking the question “if everyone left tomorrow what value would remain?”. Asking that question of Flickr, youtube or Yelp yields a very different answer than facebook, myspace, or friendster.
I’m beginning think in the end it is how social networks engage their community in value creating activities that will determine their long term success. If your only value is the aggregation of eyeballs then you will get run over by the next wave just like AOL.
On a related note a look at Rohit’s latest post on “What Most Social Networks Do That People Hate …