Social Networks = the AOL’s of Web2.0

roach motelReading 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 …

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5 Comments

  1. Posted August 6, 2007 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    “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.”

    Very well said, Karl. The scary part of it though is that the digital agencies are still hung up on eyeballs and scale, rather than hearts and depth. They’re still pumping an inordinate amount of their budgets into Yahoo, AOL and MSN and continue to think of social networks as just another place to throw their banners. My how history repeats.

  2. Posted August 6, 2007 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    Touche “hung up on eyeballs and scale, rather than hearts and depth”

    Very well said yourself :-)

  3. Posted August 7, 2007 at 1:05 am | Permalink

    A big discussion at the moment is around portable social networks and be able to have a single ID that you can then sign in to a few places.

    Hopefully this is where social networks will be going in the not too distant future.

  4. Posted August 7, 2007 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    Thanks Uno. I agree that openID adoption has been slow, but i don’t that facebook will become the defacto “openID” though, for one thing it’s not open at all :-) I actually think gmail is a more likely candidate

  5. Posted August 10, 2007 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    Hey Karl. Found you via Jaffe Juice.

    I could not agree with you more. You’ve hit on two key themes of my blog: Your Brand Is Not My Friend™ (http://tangerinetoad.blogspot.com/2007/06/your-brand-is-not-my-friend-web-20.html) which is about the inappropriateness of inserting yourself in a place where people interact with their friends and Social Media Is Only Social If You’re Alone (http://tangerinetoad.blogspot.com/2007/07/social-media-isnt-social-unless-youre.html) which is about the limited appeal of social media sites beyond teenagers and young single professionals, and the inability of Facebook and MySpace to separate business and social connections. (Hence the popularity of LinkedIn with senior executives and people over 35)

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