Like so many people, I've used Friendster and found it an intriguing idea from both a technical and business standpoint. It is a revolutionary concept, although by no means is it original. Social networking is a subject taught in business schools around the globe. The 'entrepreneurial model' of social networks in particular is an extremely valuable concept to learn and practice and many people do. But why should we embrace a technology based on this?
I personally believe social software has little future primarily because of this. Just like Friendster, I was intrigued at first but after awhile I realized that this was simply another technology solution looking for a problem.
This is what I like to call missing the point.
If you really think that Friendster, Tribe, LinkedIn, or any of those other sites are going to survive doing what they're doing today, you're really smoking something. However, if you think that also means the technology isn't worthwhile--that the notion of modeling social networks in software is a pointless exercise, well then you're really smoking something good. You couldn't be more wrong.
Think about how things work in the real world. So many of my decisions are already influenced by people I know and people they know. Job decisions, buying decisions, business deals, what movie to see decisions, dating, etc. The list goes on and on.
Get yourself out of the mind set of social network software for the sake of social network software and start thinking about how adding a social networking component to existing systems could improve them.
That's an important point, so I'm going to say it again with emphasis:
That's where the future of systems like Friendster, LinkedIn, Tribe and all those other systems lie. Right now they're just figuring out the platform. The metadata to capture. The basic functionality on the back-end. The current search and browse interfaces suck, but it doesn't matter. The real value of this stuff comes from integrating it with services like Amazon.com or Google or your favorite on-line movie tickets site. Like many things on-line, it will move from novelty to utility.
If you really think that Friendster scored over $10 million in VC funding on the premise of being nothing more than a "browse your friends" site, get real.
Or maybe I'm the one smoking crack. But I'd bet you $1,000 I'm not.
UPDATE: An excellent response. That was fast. Damn.
Posted by jzawodn at January 03, 2004 07:35 PM