The State of Social Networking

Posted by: Rea Maor In: Internet and SEO - Monday, June 4th, 2007

In a way, Slashdot was the first social network site. User-driven, membership is required to get all the good features, and you are always peer-reviewed. All of them hallmarks of the “social web” before it became a buzzword in corporate offices.

Then the “portal” genre caught up. Yahoo leads the pack, but it’s losing ground. Sure, much of the content is user-generated, with all of its groups and message systems, but it’s hardly a social site. More of a social community, but an air-tight one.

The classic “web 2.0” social web has of course exploded in recent years, with the mighty Digg.com leading the pack. But now the social bubble is near bursting, and not a month goes by without dozens of new social sites popping up. Furl, Reddit, Del.icio.us, Newsvine, Facebook, Tailrank, Metafilter, Netscape… they’re a dime a dozen, now, all following the formula of Digg.com and maybe throwing out a new idea once in a while.

One thing they forgot to take into account, which is something that will let the air out of the social web’s tires very soon, is that when half the sites on the web are user-generated content, that leaves the majority of users with no option but to scrape the same content from one site to another. It turns out that the users don’t generate content so much as they scour the web for it, and post links. The same story that showed up on Netscape yesterday gets passed on to Reddit and Magnolia and Metafilter today, and is tomorrow’s reheated leftovers on Stumble-Upon and Wink. Remember when every single news site on the web reported the exact same story about Anna Nicole Smith at the same time?

So who says we *need* 500 social web sites? In a way, this could lead to social burnout; people sometimes stop voting and feeding back because they just stop caring. The audience will, eventually, get tired of being part of the show. Like with the never-ending “reality” shows on TV, after a while we are going to get tired of looking at nothing but ourselves in this media-generated hall of mirrors. When it’s all left up to the audience, the talent will be spread pretty thin.


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