_____denial and I were lamenting the fact that Facebook and the current generation of social networking websites aren’t fun anymore. To rectify this issue, we began brainstorming the “perfect” social network service. Ostensibly, our imaginary service would reinvigorate our interest into publicly exposing personal details about ourselves. Really - we were bored and it was late.
But, a comment my Dad made in passing has stuck with me. “Isn’t the SN world a reprise of the IM world? that is, each has their own little world, disconnected from the others?”
Well, yeah. The IM world is fragmented. But, why? What is intrinsically different about instant messaging from e-mail that caused the former to fragment and the later to settle on a single protocol?
The best theory I’ve heard is anthropological. E-mail is more formal. It scales from individuals to the largest human organizations. Therefore, it’s unsurprising there would be formalization in the guise of standards. Meanwhile, instant messaging is definitely interpersonal. Even when used in a business setting, it’s rarely between more than two participants.
Friends enjoy activities together. The certain level of hassle becomes a shared experience and facilitates bonding. Let’s go biking, watch a show, or play video games together.
Have you ever been on a company-wide outing? A school field trip? A World of Warcraft raid? Suddenly the growth factor of that hassle is painful. As an organizer, you have two choices:
- Force everyone together for DISASTER.
- Allow smaller groups to “naturally” arise for GREAT FUN.
Similar to IM, social networking isn’t a fad. But, unlike IM and more akin to World of Warcraft, the interpersonal interaction is mediated. Facebook, MySpace and their kin are video games. And just like video games, we’re sure to see teams with track records for creating successful social networking services. They’ll keep making releases and we’ll keep buying them and playing them.
I mean, everyone’s doing it.