While there is lot’s of enthusiasm and sometimes over hyped investors reactions to what now is commonly known as web 2.0, there is also serious warning that it is flawed. I have written some earlier posts on it (here, here). Rolf Skyberg wrote a very nice article in which he basically states that social networking platforms such as Facebook and MySpace are really crappy interaction platforms. A quote from Rolf: ““Social networks” are the crappy proto-versions of a coming integrated “online” communication system. The future is not in social networks, but in the type of communication they represent. Social networks are just one form of that communication.”
And this morning I saw an interesting article by Seth Porges, called “Will Human Laziness burst the web 2.0 bubble“. In this article he states that although initially everyone is enthusiastic about setting up profiles in social networking applications, this enthusiasm wears down due to laziness. In the end people will not put the effort into these platforms.
I agree with Seth up to a certain level. People are spending far more time on their profiles, than on what these networks should be about, communication. We all have experienced this laziness once the initial “coolness” factor wears down.
There is also an interesting sidestep to this. I was pointed to Andrew Keen by this article in Emerce (in Dutch). Andrew argues that “the Internet is killing our culture and assaulting our economy”. He basically objects to the enormous amount of anonymous additions to the content of the Internet (Wikipedia as an example). The sources are not verifiable and the crowd that fills Wikipedia, Digg and other sites is essentially very small.
But,I don’t think that is the only reason why web 2.0 is flawed. A much more important reason why most web 2.0 platforms will not be sustainable in the end is that they were essentially not build to provide true value to its users, but instead they were build to create en leverage the value of a large network! The larger the network, the more value it creates to the platform owner in terms of advertisement revenues and of course the possible take over by one of the larger companies which have too much money to spend anyway. Nothing wrong with that, but it doesn’t really help the user. Users are putting much more energy and creativity into the networks than they get out of it. Be honest, have you really gotten as much value from other (often unknown) “friends” on Facebook, Myspace etc than the amount of effort you have put into this?
So, what to do about it? Well, for starters, creating services that are truly centred around the user, instead of the network itself. Easy to say, very difficult to do. I don’t really believe in the yet another social network start-up in all kinds of niches. The efforts of service creators and the user should be focused on interaction, communication, not on profile building. Your profile is your communication and interaction with others.
I believe that next generation services will provide the user easy ways to do just that. Be in touch with their friends whenever they want, in which way is convenient to them. With open interfaces to all services (check out this article on developments here). No walled gardens on social networks, which basically enforce the seeking value in the network, instead of providing value to its users. Communication with true friends should be private, interaction with larger groups may be public (but only if the user chooses too). Sharing emotions, stories, pictures, real-life events will remain the main driver of such platforms. But not necessarily public, more e-mail like (but better). Social networks are not the main issue, Social interaction should be. It is this social interaction that creates value for the user, and in the end will also create value for the service provider and advertiser!
What do you think, what will next generations services be like? Do you agree that the current services will not survive once the dust clears, or am I missing the point?